You can watch the video of this message here.
On September 29, 2019 I preached a message at Bethel Church in a series I called; “Knowing God by Heart” This message was on the sovereignty of God and providence. I have included it here in a manuscript for to be a help to you. I trust it will be a blessing for you as it was for me when I discovered the wonderful doctrines of the sovereignty and the providence of God.
God’s Sovereignty and Providence
September 29, 2019
Introduction: About 35 years ago just across town I was browsing in the church library and came across a little biography of the great English Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon. The biography was entitled: Spurgeon, Heir of the Puritans. There was a movement to reform and to revive the church of England and some of the richest devotional literature in Christian history came out of that movement. Spurgeon’s grandfather was a pastor with a large library of Puritan writings. The Puritians loved the doctrine of God and they especially loved the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and God’s providence. Spurgeon was converted as a teen and was providentially hindered from any formal training for ministry but he was well-read and richly gifted. He was called to pastor the church that became the Metropolitan Tabernacle at 18 years old. His messages were transcribed and sent around the world by telegraph and printed in American papers and widely read. In his very first message young Spurgeon spoke of the importance of knowing God:
Spurgeon on Knowing God. “Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued, investigation of the great subject of the Deity. The most excellent study for expanding the soul is the science of Christ and Him crucified and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. The proper study of the Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the doings, and the existence of the great God which he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can comprehend and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go on our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumbline cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought “I am but of yesterday and know nothing.”
What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the ‘eternal life’ that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent’ (John 17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God. ‘Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me’ (Jer. 9:23f.). What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives Him most pleasure? Knowledge of Himself. ‘I desire . . . the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,’ says God (Hos. 6:6) . . . Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord . . . What makes life worth while is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance; and this the Christian has, in a way that no other man has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?
One of the great doctrines of God that the puritins loved and explined from Scripture was the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty and the related doctrine of his providence. …and no Christian should think he or she knows God until they have an understanding of what God’s Word says about his sovereignty and His providence. The Bible teaches the God is the supreme power in the universe and that he is intimately involved in the tiniest details of human life for the good of those who trust Him. Spurgeon understood this deeply, loved it profoundly, and taught it with passionate conviction.
A Dove in the Tabernacle. Spurgeon was conscious of the providence of God even in the flight of every bird. Once a dove flew into the sanctuary and made some of the congregants nervous. Spurgeon’s spontaneous reply was an example of his understanding that the sovereignty of God and the providence of God include the flight or the fall of a single bird: “Our friends need not be troubled by the flying of a dove. It will soon go out of the window, no doubt. Let us believe that it has come as a messenger of good. Oh, that the blessed Dove would his own self would come from heaven and bring salvation in his wings!”
What is Systematic Theology? A study of the attributes of God is a part of what is considered Theology proper or the doctrine of God in systematic theology. A simple way to describe systematic theology is to read the Bible with an imaginary highlighter and highlight all the passages on a give subject and gather and categorize or systematize what we discover. If you were to do this with the doctrine of sovereignty and providence here are three examples of the biblical material among thousands:
“I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:13–16, ESV)
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” (Ephesians 1:11, ESV)
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…. (Hebrews 1:3, ESV)
Definition: “Divine providence in the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. He can exercise his providence because he is sovereign.” God is Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him. So His own Word expressly declares: ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’ (Isa. 46:10); ‘He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand’ (Dan. 4:34). Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that He is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things ‘after the counsel of His own will’(Eph. 1:11).”
God is in charge and he is involved. The sovereignty of God is the truth that God is in charge and in control supremely in the universe over any other power or force or influence. The providence of God means that he is involved in a benevolent way toward those who are His. The truths of the sovereignty and the providence God are beloved by wise Bible-believing Christians. These doctrines are a great comfort to believers. They are a great beacon of light in the darkness the often falls around us. To say that God is sovereign and exercising his providence is to say that He is in absolute control and he is engaged making all the affairs and decisions of men–even their darkest sins to serve his holy and ultimate purposes.
He is the Blessed Controller of all Things. A sweet and simple way of expressing these truths was used by J. B. Phillips in his paraphrase of 1 Tim. 6:13-16
I charge you in the sight of God who gives us life, and Jesus Christ who fearlessly witnessed to the truth before Pontius Pilate, to keep your commission clean and above reproach until the final coming of Christ. This will be, in his own time, the final dnouement of God, who is the blessed controller of all things, the king over all kings and the master of all masters, the only source of immortality, the one who lives in unapproachable light, the one whom no mortal eye has ever seen or ever can see. To him be acknowledged all honour and power for ever, amen!
The Sovereignty of God and the Providence of God are the clear teaching of the Bible repeated over and over again in every imaginable context and genre of literature.
Let me give you some examples from the Psalms: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:19, ESV) “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3, ESV) “For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:5–6, ESV) “The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land.” (Psalm 10:16, ESV) “The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 146:10, ESV)
There is no part of human life that is untouched by his sovereign power the the exercise of His providence.
—He is sovereign over the universe as a whole “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:19, ESV)
—the physical world (Matthew 5:45) 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
—the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7) 7He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations; Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves.
—human destiny (Galatians 1:15) …from my mother’s womb…
—human successes and failures (Luke 1:52) He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.
—and the protection of His people “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8, ESV)
—This includes plants and animals, even the humblest of birds… the sparrow…
—He is also sovereign exercising his benevolent influences over the greatest good and the darkest evil.
Paul taught this in Athens in these words: “So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”” (Acts 17:22–31, ESV)
It is a wonderful thing to know that God is at work in the smallest things for our good and his glory: [story] The Dog for the Strauss family—whose name just happened to be Levi
The truth of God’s sovereignty and providence is a great comfort to His people in apparent hardships. It is a quickening joy to think that God is at work all around us and draws us into his good purposes. [story] Last Sunday our daughter Holly was prompted to contact an old friend… who said that earlier in the week she had been thinking about contacting her. She was saved. God’s providence at work in thoughts and dreams.
Because God is sovereign we are not at the mercy of fate.
How to Help Someone: “A wise counselor is someone who can help another see the sovereign purposes of God in their life.” If you want to help people let me give you this helpful advice. Help people see and understand and yield to the truth of the sovereignty of God. There is great help and hope and comfort in that truth.
[story] Man who felt he was felt a bad hand. I assigned him to read the lives of Job, Joseph, Daniel, and Jesus… God was in the bad and he was in the good—for the good of those he loved. [story] He was saved and he was baptized with his family. His name was Jason. I told him: All Good Biographies Have Bad Chapters in the Middle. All the middle chapters of the biography and the hard chapters. They are what make the story worth reading. The bitterness of them ads great sweetness the the end chapters.
Because God is sovereign we are not ultimately victims of evil and injustice.
–when you are bad, remember God is sovereign
–when others are bad toward you, remember that God is sovereign.
[ill] This is my father’s world. Oh let me never forget, that though the wrong seems oft so strong Go is the ruler yet. Or if you prefer a modern hymn of equal beauty and power: No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand.
Things brings us naturally and logically to the question; “Since God is sovereign and since He is good, why does he allow evil and injustice?”
Because God is Sovereign Evil is Temporary
Because God is Sovereign Evil Will Be Judged.
Because God Is Sovereign Evil Can Be Transformed for Good Purposes.
-Why did God let it happen?
-What good can come from this?
-What quality of Christ-likeness is he forming in me. (Ro. 8:29)
-How can I help others with what I am learning?
-How can I glorify God in this?
-How does God want me to think about this?
-How does God want me to talk about this?
God’s Providence: A great catechism of the church stats of the importance of God’s providence: “That we may be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and for what is future have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love, since all creatures are so in his hand that without his will they can not so much as move.”
Because God is sovereign we are not untimely in charge of our own destiny.
God… God… or Sovereign God is the Blessed Controller of all things…
The Hand of God in the Glove of History. Pastor Tony Evans says, “Providence is the hand of God in the glove of history…it is God sitting behind the steering wheel of time. Providence refers to God’s governance of all events so as to direct them toward an end. It is God taking what you and I would call luck, chance, mistakes, happenstance and stitching them into achieving His program.” History is just His Story.
The Sovereignty of God displayed in his Providential Care is Better Than an Occasional Miracle. Pastor Kent Hughes says, “The God of Scripture is not simply a God of miracles who occasionally injects his power into our life. It is far greater because he arranges all of life to suit and affect his providence. This makes all of life a miracle.” What we see as tangled threads, God is weaving into beautiful tapestries.
This is true with the godly and the ungodly. This is true with all things good and evil. He is in sovereign control and by a million miracles of his providence he weaves everything together into his ultimate work of art.
(ill) Corrie TenBoom-Tapestry story and poem:
“Life is but a Weaving” (the Tapestry Poem)
“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”
We trust Him. We obey Him. He is in charge. His is in control and that is good.
“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17, ESV)
If you want to know God by heart, you need to think deeply about his sovereignty and his providence. Nothing happens by accident. God is in control of leaders and nations and involved in the smallest details of the lives of common people like you and I.
If you want to know God by heart and love God by heart and follow God by heart you need to be sure that the God of your heart is the God of the Bible and the God of the nations and the God of the planets and the God of the Universe… You need to be sure that your God is not too small. You need to think deeply and sweetly about the sovereignty and the mighty providence of God. This will be a great comfort to you when things around you seem difficult and confusing.
This Is My Father’s World
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
Blackfriar’s Bridge. Spurgeon had a remarkable experience of God’s providence in the life of a prostitute … “A poor harlot determined she would go and take her life on Blackfriars Bridge. Passing by these doors one Sunday night, she thought she would step in, and for the last time hear something that might prepare her to stand before her Maker. The text was, “Seest thou this woman?” (Luke 7:44). I dwelt on Mary Magdalene and her sins, her washing the Savior’s feet with her tears, and wiping them with the hair of her head. There stood the woman, melted away with the thought that she should thus hear herself described and her own life painted. Oh, to think of saving a poor harlot from death, and then, as God pleased, to save her soul from going down to hell!”
If you want to know God by heart think often and deeply about his sovereignty and his providence