A Very Precious and Practical Doctrine

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Last Sunday night I rejoiced to hear the blessed truth of God’s sovereignty exalted by Glen and June. It is a most precious doctrine. But perhaps some of you would like a little biblical light on it.

The word “sovereignty” (like the word “trinity”) does not occur in the Bible. I use it to refer to this truth: God is in ultimate control of the world from the largest international intrigue to the smallest bird-fall in the forest. Here is how the Bible puts it:

“I am God, and there is no other . . . my counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:9–10). “God does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What doest thou?’” (Daniel 4:35). “But he is unchangeable and who can turn him? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me” (Job 23:13–14). “Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

One reason this doctrine is so precious to believers is that we know that God’s great desire is to show mercy and kindness to those who trust him (Ephesians 2:7; Psalm 37:3–7; Proverbs 29:25). God’s sovereignty means that this design for us cannot be frustrated. Nothing, absolutely nothing befalls those who “love God and are called according to his purpose” but what is for our deepest and highest good (Psalm 84:11; Romans 8:28).

Therefore, the mercy and the sovereignty of God are the twin pillars of my life. They are the hope of my future, the energy of my service, the center of my theology, the bond of my marriage, the best medicine in all my sickness, the remedy of all my discouragements. And when I come to die (whether soon or late) these two truths will stand by my bed and with infinitely strong and infinitely tender hands lift me up to God.

When George Müller’s wife of 39 years died, he preached her funeral sermon from the text, “Thou art good and doest good” (Psalm 119:68). He recounts how he prayed when he discovered she had rheumatic fever: “Yes, my Father, the times of my darling wife are in Thy hands. Thou wilt do the very best thing for her, and for me, whether life or death. If it may be, raise up yet again my precious wife — Thou are able to do it, though she is so ill; but howsoever Thou dealest with me, only help me to continue to be perfectly satisfied with Thy holy will.”

The Lord’s will was to take her. Therefore, with great confidence in the sovereign mercy of God, Müller said, “I bow, I am satisfied with the will of my Heavenly Father, I seek by perfect submission to his holy will to glorify him. I kiss continually the hand that has afflicted me. . . . Without an effort my inmost soul habitually joys in the joy of that loved departed one. Her happiness gives joy to me. My dear daughter and I would not have her back, were it possible to produce it by the turn of a hand. God himself has done it; we are satisfied with him.”