Raise your hand if you have heard this phrase in church.
“GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER ALL!”
I’m sure that just about everyone has, and I’m pretty positive that if any pastors or teachers are reading this, they have said it themselves. I know that I have.
There is nothing wrong with this statement. It is completely 100% true.
The issue is this: what do we mean by the word ‘sovereign’?
I read an article this morning with the idea of God being sovereign as a point to the blog. The whole article was about making a preacher’s sermon shorter. It read like this, “Point 5: God is Sovereign.”
They expected God to come in and forceable make the sermon shorter. It was weird.
I don’t know how God is sovereign was supposed to make a sermon shorter, or why they expected God to do that for pastors. I was left with the impression that they have a poor understanding of what sovereignty is. Sadly they aren’t the only one.
There are a lot of people that talk about God and His sovereignty as if God was a Cosmic Micromanager. This is not good. This is a poor understanding of God and what sovereign actually means. Let me example this ill-informed idea first, and then a better understanding of sovereignty.
God is sovereign usually means, and is understood to mean when the phrase is overheard, that God is in control of everything. God is moving and manipulating each and every little thing in the universe. This is including your life, and potentially your sermon length. I would call this the Cosmic Micromanager because that is what people think God is doing. They expect God in all His limitless power and infinite wisdom to manage and puppeteer everything.
And not only that they want God to do this for them, but they expect Him to. Because He is sovereign. Sovereign, in this case, meaning that God has all the power that He wants or needs to control and dictate all things, so that is what is going to happen. He has to take over. He has to dictate and control. Because He is sovereign.
If you’ve noticed that is very circular thinking. It is this way because it is that way. God is sovereign and controls everything because God is sovereign and controls everything.
This is a poor understanding of sovereign. Also, this understanding makes God out to be someone that is unlike Himself. God is not a Cosmic Micromanager.
God is the Cosmic King.
For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods. – Psalm 97:9 NIV
Another translation of this verse says, “For you, Lord, are the sovereign king over all things.”
Sovereign is an adjective, not a noun or verb. When people talk about God as the Cosmic Micromanager, sovereign in a noun. It is who God is. Or it is a verb; somehow you ‘sovereign’ over things, or ‘sovereign’ at someone. But that isn’t how the word sovereign is supposed to be used.
Sovereign is an adjective, it describes a person. It is a word to talk about the power or ability of an individual, and the authority an individual has. When we talk about God being sovereign, it isn’t about His managing everything. What we are saying is that God has the power and authority over all things. If He did want to control and manipulate everything, He could, because He has the might and the right. But that isn’t who God is.
Far above all gods, God, the Lord Most High, sits on his heavenly throne with a sovereign power and authority over all. God creates the heavens and the earth. He is sovereign over these things. He creates the animals, the vegetation, the water; all the things that fill the earth. He is sovereign over all these things. God created man and woman. He is sovereign over all people.
Does this mean that God dictates how all these things work? No.
Only that He has the authority and power over all these things. He is a King ruling over His kingdom. The king doesn’t come down and move the hands and arms of his people. He watches over them, as they make their own decisions, whether they are consistent or not with the will of that King. He still has power over his servants but doesn’t dictate or micromanage them.
Understanding sovereignty this way leaves God to be who God is, and allows us to a refreshing freedom. He is not dictating who you are. You are free to choose. Free to make your choices to be obedient to God or not. You are able to follow Him perfect will or not.
In this way, God is showing you perfect love by not being a giant puppeteer in the sky or a Cosmic Micromanager, but as a benevolent King give us a chance to know and experience a full life.
This understanding, God as sovereign, thinking of that as an adjective, not a noun or verb, changes things.
Saying “God is sovereign over all” when God is a Cosmic Micromanager is almost a war cry. It is how we deal with (or don’t deal with) things, or how we try to trump someone’s argument to prove we are right. This doesn’t dance or work with the issues of life or understand the character of God.
However, saying “God is sovereign over all” when God is a Cosmic King, we are offering praise to a benevolent Lord. We are saying that God, high above all things, is powerful and ruling over everything. It puts us in a place for proper perspective, where we can dance and work with the issues of life, and properly understand the character of God.
I don’t know how long your sermons are. Maybe they are too long. Whatever method you use to make them shorter, I’m sure your church will love it. But do not fall on the excuse and poor understanding of God and His sovereignty to make it happen.
Grace and peace.
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