His Wise, Loving, Sovereign Plan
He does according to his will…..and none can stay his hand! (Daniel 4:35)
God does as He pleases, only as He pleases; He works out every event to bring about the accomplishment of His will. Such a bare unqualified statement of the sovereignty of God would terrify us if that were all we knew about God. But God is not only sovereign, He is perfect in love and infinite in wisdom. God exercises His sovereignty for His glory and the good of His people.
But how is this any more than merely an abstract statement about God to be defined by the theologians, a statement that has little relevance to our day-to-day lives? The answer is that God does have a purpose and a plan for you, and He has the power to carry out that plan. It’s one thing to know that no person or circumstance can touch us outside God’s sovereign control; it’s still another to realize that no person or circumstances can frustrate God’s purpose for our lives.
God has an overarching purpose for all believers to conform us to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ(Romans 8:29). He also has a specific purpose for each of us that is His unique, tailor-made plan for our individual life(Ephesians 2:10). And God will fulfill that purpose. As Psalm 158:8 says, “The Lord will fulfill that purpose for me”. Because we know God is directing our lives to an ultimate end and because we know He is able to sovereignly able to orchestrate the events of our lives toward that end, we can trust Him. We can commit to Him not only the ultimate outcome of our lives, but also all the intermediate events and circumstances that will bring us that outcome.
We often hear people say that God has a purpose, especially when something difficult is happening. I know I have heard that statement in reference to the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or some other devastating event in an individual’s life. It is said in times of national or international distress. These statements no doubt are true for nothing escapes the attention of God and in His sovereignty and control, nothing happens outside His authority. Jesus made it clear that Pilate could not crucify Him unless God had given him that authority. As a matter of fact, Jesus said that no one took His life, He laid it down freely. It may have seemed that Satan, the Jews and Rome was crucifying Christ, but in truth God was orchestrating all the events in order to fulfill His purpose and plan. Nothing that happens to us as individuals falls outside the scope and plan of God for us. But there is not some vague unknown purpose that God someday in the undetermined future will reveal to us. As Christ was facing the cross, He was aware of the purpose of God. In 2 Corinthians 12, we read of Paul’s struggle and God’s purpose.
“Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
First we note that Paul apparently struggled with pride and self-importance. “Because of….the revelations….to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me….to keep me from exalting myself!” Do you see that his suffering had a purpose?
Second, the restraint, the leash if you please, that God placed on Paul was necessary for the long run for otherwise the self-exalting Paul would have been out of control and useless to God. So God in His love kept the reins tight. When Paul pleaded for release from this “messenger of Satan” God responded with “sufficient grace”.
The end result of this struggle and suffering produced a man who could “ boast in my weakness, so that the power of Christ may completely enfold me and may dwell in me.” Paul gained great insight as God’s sovereign control orchestrated his life for he had learned the great lesson, “when I am weak in human strength, then I am strong…truly drawing strength from God’s strength.”
There will always be those who attempt to twist God’s purposes to their own and try to use events, especially those affecting the whole, for personal gain. There will be those who will say the in a certain circumstance, God has a purpose but never seek to know that purpose. But we must know that the sovereignty of God will never allow humans to control His decisions. He is always moved with compassion and every sovereign act is through supreme love and mercy, but His sovereignty is never shared.
There is no better story concerning the sovereign purpose of God and its work in humanity than that of Jonah. Jonah knew the purpose of God. As a matter of fact, it was plain. Jonah was to go proclaim God’s word to Nineveh whose people were bitter enemies of Israel. The Ninevites were a wicked and cruel people and in Jonah’s mind should be destroyed. He refused to go because he knew if they repented, God would spare them. Jonah knew the compassion and grace of God. We read he got into a boat going the opposite direction and that boat got into a storm. Finally, in desperation, the sailors cast Jonah over the side where he was swallowed by a big fish. By the way Jesus referenced this in His teaching as though it were a fact. The fish took Jonah into the depths of the sea and in that state of being, Jonah cried out to God, repented of his disobedience and the fish spit him out on land. Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches. They repent and God spares them.
What’s our lesson? It’s that God is sovereign and everything is under His control. He does not destroy or mistreat us and nothing evil comes from Him. In the case of Christ, the greater purpose of God allowed Him to be crucified. His suffering and death brought about the sovereign plan of God for redemption. In the case of Paul, his suffering brought the sinful nature of self-exaltation under control and a revelation of God’s strength in us. From this, God was able to use this vessel for mighty works. Now Paul relied completely on God and nothing in himself. In Jonah’s case, the sovereignty of God to offer redemption rather than destruction to a people move him to break the rebellious will of His prophet to carry out God’s plan rather than his own.
So then, God sovereignty moves us through suffering and difficulty always toward a greater purpose, a stronger trust and a surrendered will. That purpose is not something vague that we will only understand when we get to heaven, but a revealed plan now. In each of these cases, each knew the purpose of God. In Paul’s case and in Jonah’s case, they pleaded with God to change His purpose but in the end surrendered to it. Even Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane pleaded for another way, but the sovereign will of the Father prevailed.
Is there a purpose to all we are experiencing as individuals and collectively as a people? Yes! Yes! Yes! Let us individually enquire of the Lord and let us receive His revelation of His plan and purposes.
Dr. John Thompson