The Meaning of the Sovereignty of God (Online Bible Dictionary)

The Meaning of the Sovereignty of God (Online Bible Dictionary)

The sovereignty of God can be a challenging concept, especially in the context of a broken world; but there are awesome personal benefits in fully understanding the idea...

Tags: online bible dictionary, God's sovereignty, sovereign, evil, peace, honor, patience, the sovereignty of God, sovereignty of God

If God is in control, why do bad things happen? No doubt, it is a difficult concept to get our heads around. It is one that both Christians and non-believers have asked for centuries.

The Meaning of the Sovereignty of God

Sovereignty is defined as "supreme power over something". When referring to "God's sovereignty", of course, we recognize God's power over ALL things. In short, by acknowledging God's sovereignty, we humbly recognize that the Creator of all things clearly must have control over all of those things... that His will shall be done and exhibited through everything.

The Current Struggle with God's Sovereignty

So how can we possibly reconcile all the evil we see in the world with the fact that God's will is being continuously fulfilled?

Based on the fundamental goodness and holiness of God, logic tells us that His will is actually NOT being done in our world. If the world were a perfect place, it would be easier to see how God is in control of all things. We would expect His goodness to fill the world, abundantly. We would expect no more tears, heartache, sickness, and death.

Even more, how can a God who is control of all things allow such evil and brokenness in the world? Why would we even want to worship or follow such a God? These are highly valid conclusions. Unfortunately, the difficulty in reconciling these issues has led many to simply walk away from God.

Quite honestly, we won't ever fully understand, but that's okay. God's plan has always involved revealing just enough for us to know Him well enough to choose to pursue relationship with Him. His revelation is sufficient, but not necessarily complete.

Reconciling God's Sovereignty with Evil

So how can we find peace between the struggle of God's sovereign will over the world and the evil that fills it?

Let's start with the fact that God does not want evil in the world. Remember, His plan started with the Garden of Eden before the great fall of man (i.e., original sin).

Herein lies the dilemma. God envisioned a certain type of relationship with His people. Because of that vision, He created man with a certain set of characteristics. While many of these characteristics are amazing and beyond explanation and our own understanding, a few of them supported man's behavior in the great fall. Specifically, man's desire for knowledge and intelligence in the Garden of Eden drove disobedience to God, shame, and a host of other unholy behaviors and attitudes that fateful day (see Genesis 3).

God's sovereignty reined even in that moment, however. He already had a plan in place for the redemption of mankind. Namely, he delivered Jesus Christ as a gift to us... the doorway back to the future Garden of Eden, or heaven, as we generally refer to it today.

Personal Benefits of Acknowledging "God's Sovereignty"

There are several key benefits to you personally for acknowledging God's sovereignty over all things.

1. An Uncommon Peace
First, no matter what tragedy enters your life, you will find peace. When you truly believe and feel to your core that God will work all things out for His glory, you can find great peace no matter your circumstances.

When drug addiction afflicts a young woman into years of internal and external destruction, we are confused. When that young woman beats her addictions, transforms her life, and then counsels and write books on the topic to help other young women transform their own lives, God's plan becomes more clear to us.

When a young child's life is taken by cancer, we are devastated. At the same time, we don't see so many of the other pieces that fall into place under God's plan. We don't see how that pain motivates others in positive ways. We don't see that child's brother or sister that decides to work hard to become a future oncologist or a childhood friend who will grow up and study to develop new medicines to treat cancers. We aren't always thinking about how that child's story galvanized a community that truly and deeply loves and carries that family in their loss. Ultimately, we are not seeing that young child fully restored with Jesus in heaven years before we have gotten the chance.

These are only two stories, but I am sure you can think of many others. The common denominator is they each have many many inputs and outputs that can all work together to truly glorify God in ways we could never imagine. I am not diminishing the pain or the tragedy of the situation, but rather showing how a single tragedy does indeed ignite many positive events than we can even keep track of.

You don't have to have all the answers. Rather, you can rely on a much greater power working all things out for His ultimately glory, including those that seem horrific to us.

2. Uncommon Honor to God
We honor God when we acknowledge His sovereignty. It is pleasing to Him when we truly offer our acceptance of His will in all things. It can be all too easy to become angry at God when things don't go our way. Rather, it is wonderful when we can take the posture of acceptance that drives us to find the right messages in the situation. For example, when a tragedy strikes, God may be asking us to find something different and new in us. When a storm devastates a nearby town, He may be asking us to be his physical hands in this world as we help build new homes and new relationships.

On the other side of this, we dishonor God when we give ourselves credit for being ultimately in control.

In the book of Daniel (Chapter 4), the great Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar learned this the hard way when, after proclaiming his own great accomplishments and works in his kingdom, God stripped him of his royal authority and turned him into an animal. After all, it was God that gave him his leadership role in the first place. However, Nebuchadnezzar had not recognized this.

As an animal, he lived off the land with other animals. It was not until Nebucchadnezzar turned his head to heaven and acknowledged God as the most high and ruler of all things, that God gave him back his humanity and royal kingdom.

3. An Uncommon Patience
Another benefit of truly handing over sovereignty to God is that you will develop exceptional patience.

Patience is a very difficult discipline. I used to think all you needed patience for was to be able to bear the lines at Starbucks. However, I have come to realize that true patience goes much deeper than that.

Above, we discussed a few scenarios of how tragedy can result in God's glory being revealed. In each of those stories, there is an element of the passage of time until we see the pieces coming together. For the inspired future oncologist or scientific researcher, there are years of training and then work until a cure is developed. For the ex-addict, there are years of healing from so much heartache and damage, before he or she is willing and able to share the experience for the benefit of others.

We hear such stories so we know these things are possible. Remembering and praying for God to use such tragedy for good in His sovereignty is an excellent way to exhibit patience, daily. It allows us to find peace during the tragedy even as we find hope in anticipation of God's greatness that will ultimately be revealed.


It is admittedly difficult to reconcile God's sovereignty with the brokenness we see in the world around us.

Our time on this planet happens to be in between Jesus' first and second coming. As a result, we have to witness the reign of evil in the hearts of men and their destruction. However, I encourage you to place your hope in the hands of God's sovereignty. In the midst of tragedy, remember that God is there, always finding ways to reveal His glory. In the midst of tragedy, remember to pray for His glory to be revealed. And finally, in the midst of tragedy, pray for the patience to witness His glory revealed.

Please share your own thoughts about God's sovereignty in the comments section below...

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