Can words bombard you? If ever I have been bombarded by a word, it is this:
The first time I recall hearing this word was during a lesson about feudalism in world history, late middle school or early high school. From this, my perception of “sovereign” was negative: an overlord in control of serfs and land, in a system designed to keep those without any power as dependent as possible. Not exactly something I want to associate with a benevolent and loving Creator.
At 25 years old, I came to know Jesus. Suddenly, this word I had only heard a handful of times nearly a decade prior was being applied to the Almighty. “Sovereign Lord.” “God is sovereign.” In the past week, I have been confronted with this word in conversation, in reading, in song, and again in Sunday morning’s message.
Clearly, God is trying to get my attention.
To be fair, I no longer associate the word “sovereign” with evil, power-hungry elites scraping crusty bread and rotting potatoes into the meal troughs of the dispirited, broken plebians of the Old World.
Sovereignty, incidentally, has little to do with an exercise of power, and everything to do with surrender.
sovereign: possessing supreme or ultimate power; greatest, utmost; above all others
One of the more challenging concepts to accept as a Christian (and why many people resist Christianity) is that 1) God is in control, and 2) despite his being in control, we all have free will. If God is in control, why doesn’t He smite my enemies? Why are people poor and starving? Why is there cancer, war, drug addicts, violence, sex trafficking? WHY does this loving God who is in control allow these terrible, heartbreaking things to exist? Why must we suffer? Why is the world a sometimes horrifying, gut-wrenching place to live?
We are watching a volatile political climate fraught with tension and disagreements and vitriol being undermined by one common factor: control. If we could just control how guns are sold. If we could just control how medications are dispersed. If we could just control people’s diets. If we could just get manufacturers to label their products better. If we… if we…
If we could just control everything our way, it would fix things.
But God’s sovereignty doesn’t exist as a pulling of strings to make the puppets dance as He sees fit. His sovereignty exists in our surrender to His will. Only when we choose to walk the path that God has appointed us can we know and trust that even amidst chaos, He reigns supreme.
The reality is that we can’t actually fix things. No one group can make everything perfect, bad people will continue to do bad things, and people will continue to get sick or grow old and die. As Christians, we are warned of a decaying world. We are reminded that we “have the desire to do what is good, but [I] cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)
The only way we get it right, the only way we find ourselves in the will of God, is through Jesus. In a world without Jesus, driven by sin, the will of God is not the authority over people. When we choose to surrender our lives to Jesus, we stand to gain protection, peace, mercy, love, and grace. Through surrender, through sovereignty, we are given life.
Psalm 68:20: Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
Romans 8:28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.