The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
But victory belongs to the LORD.
– Prov 21.31
The sovereignty of God is such a difficult topic to apply to our daily lives. Scripture teaches us from beginning to end that God created us out of nothing, He rules over creation fully, He planned redemption’s story from before He created the world, and He has chosen His bride and works in her sanctification to His glory. And while we can understand cognitively that God causes all things to work together for good, that He provides victories and places kings in power, it is difficult to walk daily processing this truth, because we do not see His hand orchestrating events (Rom 8.28, Prov 21.31, Dan 2.21, Rom 13.1).
Some people respond to God’s sovereignty with indifference and think, “It doesn’t matter what I do, God will accomplish His purposes with or without me”. And while that is true that “God is not served by human hands” (Acts 17.25), we will still stand before Him on the last day and give an account for all of our deeds – both good and bad (2 Cor 5.10).
Some people reject the sovereignty of God because they cannot comprehend that God is in control of and ordains everything that happens on the Earth. But the theme of Scripture from beginning to end is that God is in control and is working out His perfect plan. And sometimes that means He ordains things to happen that He commanded not to happen. Consider the cross. God gave very clear instructions about murder:
“You shall not murder.”
– Ex 20.13
And yet, we see throughout Scripture that it was God’s plan for Jesus to be murdered, and not only that, but it pleased Him.
“…this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”
– Acts 2.23
But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
– Is 53.10
So what we are left with is what theologians call “mutual responsibility”. God, when He considered creation and formed the Earth, already had history – in its entirety – completed. That is why when Adam and Eve fell, He spoke of Jesus and redemption. God exists outside of time and can see everything in its fullness, while we are stuck in time, seeing God in part as He reveals Himself and His plan. That is how Luke can say that Jesus was predestined to die before He ever came to the world, and yet “godless men” put Him to death in the same phrase. It was God’s plan and purpose, but yet those who actually nailed Jesus to the cross will have to give an account for their choice and actions.
Judas was prophesied and chosen to betray Jesus, but yet he is still guilty of betraying Jesus.
“’Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.’ (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) ‘For it is written in the book of Psalms,
“LET HIS HOMESTEAD BE MADE DESOLATE,
AND LET NO ONE DWELL IN IT”;
“LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE.”’”
– Acts 1.16-20
So what does that mean? What is the application? How do honor God in our actions and yet understand His sovereignty over everything?
We focus on Jesus. We keep our eyes on Him, we live in a spirit of thankfulness, and we do our very best. Paul says that we should obey diligently and keep a watchful eye over our souls to prove to ourselves that we are in Christ, but to observe the fruit of our obedience as the mark of our salvation.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
– Phil 2.12-13
It is God who is at work within us.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
– Phil 1.6
God started the work of salvation in us, and He will complete it. Therefore, get busy about living for God and fulfilling the things that He has commanded us to do.
We make ready the horse for the battle, but God gives the victory. We reason in our hearts and consider our thoughts, but God orchestrates the very words that come out of our mouths. We plan our steps, but God directs our paths.
The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
– Prov 16.1
The mind of man plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps.
– Prov 16.9
The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the LORD.
– Prov 16.33