Lesson 2: God's Sovereignty
“God’s sovereignty is always to his people in wisdom and in love. This is the difference between sovereignty in God and sovereignty in man. We dread the sovereignty of man, because we have no security of its being exercised in mercy, or even justice: we rejoice in the sovereignty of God, because we are sure it is always exercised for the good of his people.” - Alexander Carson
As we continue to develop our spiritual foundation in understanding money management, we need a proper understanding of the One we serve. Of course, it’s impossible for our finite human minds to fully comprehend the vastness of an infinite God, but we know what God has revealed to us through the absolute truth of His Word.1
Critical Truths to Understand
There are three critical truths about God that we need to understand in order for us to fully trust in Him.
- God is sovereign.
God is always orchestrating the events of this world to fulfill His plans. There is nothing outside of His control. That includes the hearts and actions of men. This was never more evident than when He used the evil intentions of Herod, Pilate, the Jews and the Gentiles to fulfill His plan of salvation,2 displaying the truth of Joseph’s words to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
God is always in control and His plans are never frustrated. “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”3 Because God is all-powerful and sovereign over His creation, we can be sure “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion”.4
- God is infinitely wise.
Hindsight is 20/20. It’s the things we don’t know that make planning so difficult. But God is outside of the limitations of man. He knows the “end from the beginning” which makes it easy for Him to fulfill His plans in the perfect way. This is why he’s able to say, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose”.5 Our limited knowledge often keeps us from understanding how God is working. Thankfully, God has no limitations. We can trust He is orchestrating all the events of the universe in the best possible way for the best possible outcome.
- God is perfect in love.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” -Romans 8:28
A ruler could be a thing to fear if he used his powers for selfish or evil purposes. Fortunately, God is good. He has consistently proven His love through the fulfillment of His promises to those that love and fear Him. He could have left us to die or struck us out of existence after the fall and in His perfect justice, would have been right to do so. Instead, He emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, in the likeness of men, to die on a cross so that those who have faith in Him could be saved by grace.
With these three truths firmly implanted in our hearts, we can trust God to deliver and grow us through even the most difficult circumstances. Scripture tells us that He directs all things for both His glory and our good. Our peace is found in knowing the ultimate victory belongs to the Lord.
The Good and the Bad
It’s easy for us to question the sovereignty or the goodness of God because as finite human beings, we don’t understand what He is doing and why. When He doesn’t act as we think He should, we quickly jump to the conclusion that either He isn’t in control or He isn’t good. In reality, God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts6 and we’re simply unable to fully comprehend how He’s working and what He is accomplishing.
While God promises that He’s working all things for the good of His people, that doesn’t mean that our lives will be free of adversity. In fact, scripture makes it clear that the life of a Christian will be full of challenges.7 Despite our hardships, we can take comfort in knowing that no circumstance of our life is an accident and outside of God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and love.
“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other...” -Ecclesiastes 7:14
When everything in life seems to be going our way, we must guard against the pride that would have us saying “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth”. Instead, “remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth”.8 The same holds true when we go through adversity. While we may not know why God is allowing these difficult trials in our lives, we can trust in Him, knowing that He is in control and in His love, He is ultimately using that situation for both His glory and our good. It’s only by planting this truth deep in our hearts during good times that we can be prepared to “give thanks in all circumstances”9 when adversity comes.
We may not always understand how God is working, but we can trust that He will somehow bring good from every circumstance. For children of God, that ultimate good is being conformed into the image of His Son.10
While we don’t like to hear it, there are some lessons that can only be learned through adversity. You can repeatedly tell your child to not touch the hot stove, but they understand it on a much deeper level if they touch it and get burned. Isaiah came to this realization when he said, “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish”. 11 If we can trust God to bring His good work in us to completion,12 we’re also going to need to surrender the path He takes to get us there.
The journey God chooses can be a financial one as well. This is hard for our society to accept since we often pridefully assume money is the result of our personal success and hard work. This is why the poor are often looked down upon as second-class citizens in society or as those that need counsel inside our churches. When we jump to such conclusions, we’re failing to remember that “The rich and the poor have a common bond, the Lord is the Maker of them all”.13
Whether we’re going through prosperous or challenging financial times, we need to humbly remember that God, in His sovereignty, wisdom, and love, has us in the right place and will use those circumstances to mold us more into the image of Christ.
What is our response?
God’s sovereignty is not an excuse for passivity. It does not relieve us of our own personal responsibility. We need to be working hard to pursue God’s revealed will in scripture. That means striving to improve our situations through the application of biblical wisdom while relying on God to equip us to do what we can and trusting Him to accomplish for us what we can’t.
God has provided us with three key tools as we seek to be faithful and work toward His will.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work”.14 Through His Word, God has sufficiently provided us with everything we need to accomplish the work He has prepared for us to do. The better we know God and His Word, the better we will imitate His attributes in our works.
“Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy.” – John Piper, Desiring God
Those who realize their complete dependence on God will be more diligent in prayer. An understanding of God’s sovereignty makes it possible for His children to pray with confidence. Nehemiah and the Israelites were under constant threat as they rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem, but he said, “we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.” They not only took prudent action by setting guards but also prayed because they knew it was God who would fight for them.15 We should be as diligent in our prayers as we are in our other efforts because it is God who will bring the result.
The other tool that God has blessed us with is the Christian community. The church is a miraculous institution in itself and God uses those relationships to help guide us with wise biblical counsel from our fellow believers. As our society continues to move toward self-reliance and independence, we need to be careful to not make the mistake of trusting too much in our own abilities and ignoring the wisdom of others. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice”.16 Counsel from other believers is one of the means God sovereignly uses to impart his wisdom and share His love.
As we travel through life, we need to stop defining God by our circumstances and instead look at the circumstances of our life through the lens of His sovereignty, wisdom and love, as revealed in scripture. When we do, we learn that we are in the hands of a God who is fully in control of all events and working them for both His glory and our good as He labors to sanctify us and conform us into the glorious image of His Son. While we may not always understand the path, we can trust that God will bring His work in us to completion as He molds us to be “pure and blameless for the day of Christ”.17
- When we biblically understand God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and love, how are we humbled but also able to find great joy despite our circumstances?
- What can we do to gain true financial freedom?
Endnotes: Scripture References
1) 2 Peter 1:3-4 - His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
Psalm 19:7-14 - The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. 13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
2) Acts 4:27-28 - for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
3) Job 42:2 - "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted."
4) Philippians 1:6 - And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
5) Isaiah 46:10 - declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'
6) Isaiah 55:9 - For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
7) John 16:33 - I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
8) Deuteronomy 8:17-18 - Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.' 18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
9) 1 Thessalonians 5:18 - give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
10) Romans 8:29 - For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
11) Isaiah 38:17 - Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.
12) Philippians 1:6 - And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
13) Proverbs 22:2 - The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the Maker of them all.
14) 2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
15) Nehemiah 4:9, 20 - And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. ... 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us."
16) Proverbs 12:15 - The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
17) Philippians 1:10 - so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,