God’s Sovereignty & Our Choices

Well, what are the implications of our choices with regards to God’s sovereignty? That’s a question that we want to consider here. Not a light question either at all. But we talked about in the beginning of our sermon series from the Book of Job that we looked at this last Sunday. If you missed the message, you can easily go back.

I encourage you to do so. We talked about God’s sovereignty. That’s a kind of a heady idea, but it’s the idea that Scripture reinforces for us that God is 100% sovereign. And I defined it as God being powerful and authoritative to the extent of being able to override all other powers and authorities that exist. That simply means that God is in control, that nothing happens on the earth.

That is luck or chance, that God either directly causes it or intentionally permits it to happen. Everything that happens moves through God’s fingers. And so then the question becomes, so what do our choices have to do with anything? Because if we have choices, then is God really totally in control and sovereign? And if God is totally sovereign and in control at all times, then do our choices really matter?

Now, this is not going to settle this question once and for all, because it’s a question that people for centuries have been asking about big questions about free will. But I do just want to talk about this and then circle back to what we talked about on Sunday with regards to God’s sovereignty in the midst of our suffering. So in terms of thinking about how our choices interact with God’s sovereignty, one crude but effective way for me to think about this was shared with me years ago. But it’s the idea, let’s say, for instance, that there is a plane that’s going to fly from San Francisco to, say, New York City, and you’re going to want to be on this plane. Now, so much about this flight has been predetermined, most likely by governing authorities and all these groups that determine when and where and halt the route that the pilots are going to take.

Those kinds of things, you and me and our choices have nothing really to do with that. But within that predetermining, there are also some freedoms and choices. For instance, you most likely would have the choice, I assume, to be able to decide what day you’d like to leave or what airline you’d like to use. And depending upon the airline, you might get to pick where you sit. And depending upon how the flight goes, you may have some freedom within the confines of the plane itself.

As you’re en route to your predetermined journey, you may get to decide to just sort of stay on your seat. If you want, you can perhaps have some water, you can read a book, you can perhaps take a nap. All of those things are there. So we have two dynamics happening at the exact same time, and neither of them contradict one another. There is sovereignty and a predetermining and there’s also freedom.

They don’t contradict each other. So God is sovereign again in the way that he controls all things. But the Christian understanding of God’s sovereignty is that, yes, God governs every single aspect of history 100% of the time, but the earth is also filled with people who 100% of the time have choices that have real consequences. So another way that people sometimes thought about it is in terms of, okay, let’s say that this event is 80% God and 20% our choices. Or maybe it’s 50 50, or you determine whatever the percentage is.

But again, the Christian understanding of sovereignty is that both things are interacting at the same time and that God in his sovereignty will arrive at the predetermined location. But he has countless ways of getting us there. And he works through our choices. Sometimes he works around us, sometimes he works over us, sometimes he works through us. Our choices don’t determine ultimately God’s sovereign will, but it may have a say in terms of how God gets us to his predetermined will.

So God is 100% sovereign and we are 100% responsible for our choices. Going back to the story of Job and again, our suffering, god’s sovereignty and suffering. I just want to remind us of what I closed with this notion that simply not knowing the answer of why you and I may be going through suffering, that could be something that we would resign ourselves to and just going, well, my choices don’t really have any say in all of this because God is causing all of these things to happen. And so we ask these questions of God and some of which we may get answers to, and some of which, as we’ve seen in the Book of Job, or we’ll see some of our questions aren’t going to get answered. So do we just resign ourselves to never knowing the answer?

Instead, I suggested that we need to learn to and choose to embrace that not knowing, to embrace and trust that God in his sovereignty is only ever good and only ever wise and in control, even not just of the good stuff, but even of our sufferings and our challenges. I know that that’s not easy, but it’s a way that God is using our circumstances to draw us closer to Himself and to learn to trust in his sovereignty. Well, I hope that that’s helpful in some way. Again, as I said, that’s not going to answer the question once and for all. And I hope that you’ll chew on us as we continue to make our way through the Book of Job.