Gerald Gardner was a TV writer, best known for writing the scripts for two of my favorite TV shows when I was growing up—The Monkees and Get Smart. In 1962, Gardner got the idea of taking news photos of U.S. Presidents and adding humorous dialog in the form of speech bubbles that supposedly showed what they were saying or thinking. The book was called Who’s in Charge Here?, but you need to understand—Gardner’s book didn’t take a particular political point of view. Instead of focusing on their party he focused on the foibles of presidents—people who were supposed to be in charge. As you can see, the cover of the first edition showed a newly elected President Kennedy talking to former President Truman. Truman says, “So the bathroom STILL leaks.” I guess he was joking that the Eisenhower administration hadn’t fixed it. Well, the book was a smashing success—so much so that Gardner continued with new editions every few years. There was: More Who’s in Charge Here, Who’s in Charge Here 1966, Who’s in Charge Here: Watergate Follies, and many other variations on the theme.
Gardner’s books came to mind because they highlight a question that all people deal with when they look at not just our government—but this whole messed up world of ours, namely: “Who’s in charge here? Who’s in control? Who’s running things?” And that brings us to the focus of today’s message—because the answer to this question is God. The REAL God is in charge. He is in control—for He is sovereign.
Now—what do we mean when we use that word?
When we say God is sovereign, we’re saying He’s the boss. What He says goes. No one tells Him what to do. He sovereign over ALL things—both good and bad. Understand—there is no such thing as partial sovereignty. To be sovereign is to be absolutely superior to everyone and everything. I don’t know about you but knowing that God is sovereign—knowing He is at the controls of my life is a great comfort to me. Whenever I am confronted with a close friend wrestling with a terminal illness or the death of a loved one or worries about our nation and where it’s going or approaching hurricanes—I mean, no matter how perplexing and fearful life gets, I remind myself, GOD IS IN CHARGE HERE! My completely faithful, all-wise, all-powerful, loving Heavenly Father is sovereign.
And I know He is because the Bible repeatedly teaches us that this is indeed an attribute of God.
Here’s just a small a sampling of texts that proclaim this comforting truth:
- Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s will that prevails.”
- Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
- Proverbs 21:30, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.”
- Lamentations 3:37, “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?”
- Revelation 3:7 reminds us that, “No one can shut the doors that God opens and what He shuts no one can open.”
- And one more. In Job 42:2 it says, “I know that You, [Oh God,] can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted.”
All these texts proclaim the consoling fact that nothing will enter our lives that our loving Heavenly Father does not either decree or allow. His will is always done Listen to what Tozer has to say about this attribute of God. It’s a long quote but I love it. He writes:
“God’s sovereignty is the attribute by which He rules His entire creation, and to be sovereign, God must be all-knowing, all-powerful, and absolutely free. The reasons are these: Were there even one datum of KNOWLEDGE, however small, unknown to God, His rule would break down at that point. To be Lord over all creation, He must possess all knowledge. And were God lacking one infinitesimal modicum of POWER, that lack would end His reign and undo His kingdom—that one stray atom of power would belong to someone else and God would be a limited ruler and hence not sovereign. Furthermore, His sovereignty requires that He be absolutely FREE, which means simply that He must be free to do whatever He wills to do anywhere at any time—to carry out His eternal purpose in every single detail without interference. Were He less than free, He must be less than sovereign.”
Well, the Bible teaches that God is sovereign in each of these senses. So—understand, when we pray—when we face a mountain of a problem—this is the God we are talking to—the one TRUE—REAL God—-the One Who has power over the entire universe from the sub-atomic level on out, the one Who has absolute freedom—and Who, as I have said last week, is infinitely good.
Let’s get a little more specific. What do we know about God’s sovereignty?
(1) We know He is OVER all.
Charles Ryrie underscores this fact. He writes, “If there is any element of the universe that is outside of His authority, then God is no longer over all. In other words, sovereignty belongs to deity. Sovereignty is a natural attribute of the Creator. God owns what He makes and He rules what He owns.” Ryrie is reminding us that God’s authority extends to everything and everyone. He is over all.
As most of you know decades ago I was a chaplain in the National Guard—and to be a chaplain I had to go to an 11-week chaplain school. One of the first things they taught us was rank. We were each given the rank of 1st or 2nd Lieutenant—but with no prior military experience we had to learn how to acknowledge superior officers—people who were over us. And the way we did this was to salute. When we saw a captain or a major or a colonel or a general we were to stop, come to attention, and salute. I remember one day after several hours in the classroom we were sent out side to drill—to learn to march. I had to stop at the bathroom on the way and when I came out everyone else was gone. I couldn’t remember which parking lot we were to go to and I ran around the outside of the building looking for my group. In my hurried and harried search I passed a major—and I knew I was supposed to stop and salute him but I was more afraid of upsetting the drill sergeant so I just rushed by. I still remember the frown that came on his face when he did not receive my acknowledgment of His rank—the fact that he was OVER me.
Well, God doesn’t wear a uniform—he doesn’t have oak leaves or stars on his lapel but He does have the “titles” that show He is over all. Let’s review some of them.
- In Genesis 15 Abraham refers to God as, “The sovereign LORD.”
- Psalm 47:2 says God is, “…the LORD Most High, the GREAT KING over all the earth!”
- In Revelation 1:8 God says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega—Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty.”
- In 1st Timothy 6:15 Paul says that God is, “…the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords.”
- In Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” saying, that He is eternal-self-existent.
We could go on and on because, unlike any other religious system, the God of the Bible makes bold, unequivocal claims about His sovereignty—TITLES that set Him above anyone or anything else.
Lately I’ve heard news commentators saying as we enter the mid-term elections the balance of power could shift if the democrats win back the house. I’ve heard the same from a republican viewpoint in the past when the democrats had the majority. Well, listen. The balance of power NEVER changes. God always has been and always will be OVER all.
This week I came across a true story about a time when God SHOWED He was boss—over all.
In 1876, a small Methodist church near the ocean in Swan Quarter, North Carolina was struck by a hurricane and damaged. It was restored, but another hurricane came and damaged it, and the town, again. The parishioners restored their place of worship once more, but enough was enough, so they searched for a safer location. They found some land and offered the owner of the property a generous amount of money for it, but he refused. Then came another hurricane, and again there was massive flooding, so massive that it lifted the church from its moorings, and sent it meandering downstream. The residents of the town tied ropes to it, hoping to keep it from floating away forever, but the current was too strong. When the water receded, the building came to rest on that exact piece of ground which the parishioners had previously tried to buy. So, they went to the owner and once again made an offer. He refused their money again. “But I’ll give it to you,” he said, “The Lord definitely wants this church on this lot.” The sign in front of the church, from that day forward, said, “The House God Moved.”
Can you think of a time when God showed He was OVER some aspect of your life? A time when He showed His authority—His sovereignty? Maybe He intervened and made it possible for your kids to graduate debt free from college—showing He was in charge of that financial challenge—not you. Maybe it was a time He intervened and healed you or someone you loved—showing He was over your health—not the docs. Maybe it was a time you God took away your anxiety or depression—showing you that with Him in charge you need not fear. Who will raise their hand as a testimony of the fact that there was a time in your life when God showed He was OVER some aspect of your life? This leads me to mention a second way to understand God’s sovereignty—for He’s not just OVER all—
(2) He RULES All.
I’m referring to God’s intervening work in history. As we learned in our study of The Purpose-Driven Life last year, history is really His-story—for the historical record is really the story of the way God is sovereignly working out His purposes. And a study of history shows that nothing has been able to stop God from fulfilling His purposes.
In our Chronological Bible Reading for the past couple week’s we’ve read about how God used pagan rulers like, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Darius the Mede and Xerxes to fulfill his purposes—whether God’s purpose was to humble the rebellious Hebrew people—or bring their children home from captivity and rebuilt the temple.
In the nightly newscasts it may sound like some ruler causing the world problems is in charge but that’s not true. God is. God rules all. And here’s a more localized example of this principle. In 1971, the Afghan government gave a fledgling band of Christians permission to plant a church in Kabul. It was the only Christian church building permitted on neutral soil in Afghanistan. The Afghan government permitted this place of worship only for use among the foreign community; it was never to be used by the Afghan people. One Sunday morning, only three years after the sanctuary’s dedication, soldiers arrived and began to hack away at the wall between the street and the church building. One gentleman in the congregation went to Kabul’s mayor and prophetically warned, “lf your government touches that house of God, God will overthrow your government!” The mayor responded by ordering the congregation to turn over their church for destruction, thereby eliminating the need for the Afghan government to pay compensation. “This building does not belong to us but to God,” the people of the church replied. “We can’t turn it over for destruction. We don’t have the authority. God rules here.” And they proceeded to serve tea and cookies to the soldiers who were destroying their place of worship. On Tuesday, July 17, 1973, the Afghan soldiers completed their destruction of the church building. That very night, King Mohammed Zahir Shah, who had ruled for forty years, was overthrown in a coup, and the 227-year-old monarchy in Afghanistan came to an end forever. The rest of that story is told in the history books.
So, understand—the historical record shows that God is sovereign. He has never sat around biting His nails wondering what Kim Jong Un or Assad or Putin or Trump was going to do. And so, no matter what the nightly news says, we can have a sense of peace and trust because the world is not spinning out of control. God is at the helm. He has a firm grip on the wheel and He knows where He’s going! God is sovereign over history.
And—I believe God wants each of us to know that He is sovereign in OUR personal history!
When there’s a problem at work; when your children rebel; when your loved ones die, when your child is ill—no matter what happens in the course of your life, God is in control. Remember, He is all-wise. He is completely faithful. He has limitless power. He’s completely good. He’s the King of kings and as a Christian, you’re His child. He’s above all. He rules all—and here’s one more aspect of His sovereignty:
(3) He KNOWS All.
The Bible shows us this because the record of God’s ability to tell the future is 100 percent! God’s predictions—given through His prophets over the millennia—never fail to come true.
And—you can’t say this about other predictors.
In a recent article in The Futurist magazine, writer Laura Lee catalogues some of the worst predictions of all time:
- A Roman engineer named Julius Sextus Frontinus said this in 100A.D. “Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further developments.”
I think the pontoon bridge—and ball bearings were invented in 100AD. And Frontinus predicted the would be it.
- In 1873, Dr. John Eric Ericksen, surgeon to Queen Victoria said, “The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.”
Aren’t you thankful Ericksen got that wrong?
- In 1893 a journalist named Junius Henri Browne said, “Law will be simplified [over the next century]. Lawyers will have diminished, and their fees will have been vastly curtailed.”
- In 1895 Albert Einstein’s teacher told his father, “It doesn’t matter what he does, he will never amount to anything.”
- In 1949 a computer scientist named John von Neumann said, “It would appear we have reached the limits of what it is possible to achieve with computer technology.”
- In 1954 John Foster Dulles, who at the time was the Secretary of State said, “The Japanese don’t make anything the people in the U.S. would want.”
I’m wondering why we named an airport after this guy!
- In 1955 Alex Lewyt, president of the Lewyt Vacuum Cleaner Company said, “Nuclear powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within ten years.”
How would you like to have to take your vacuum cleaner to a nuclear waste sight when it broke?
- In 1959 Arthur Summerfield, U. S. Postmaster General, said, “Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.”
- And one more—from just 23 years ago. Bob Metcalf of InfoWord said, “I predict the Internet will go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.”
Obviously, these people did not know all—but God does. Look at Isaiah 44:6-8: “This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no God. Who then is like Me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before Me what has happened since I established My ancient people, and what is yet to come—yes, let him foretell what will come. Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”
Well, there IS no being like God—He is above time—and one way we know this is because over and over again God has accurately foretold what would happen. God knows literally EVERYTHING. I take comfort in this fact. I mean, I don’t know everything—but God does. I love this quote from Charles Swindoll: “The prophecy in the Bible shows that the jumbled pieces in society and even in our lives will one day come together in a beautiful portrait—that reflects and exalts the One Who truly has dominion, Jesus Christ.” I hope these three statements help you better understand God’s sovereignty. But this brings a question to mind. If God is over all—if He rules all—if He knows all—and if, as we learned last week God is ALL-good, why does bad happen?
If memory serves me right, it was Robert Browning who wrote, “God’s in His heaven—and all’s right with the world!” Well, on happy days we hear that phrase quoted but you only have to read a newspaper headline, or watch the nightly news to see think that Browning was wrong. In spite of the fact that God is on His throne, all’s NOT right with the world. Why is that? If God is good, why is the world filled with so much bad? Well I don’t know all—but I do know a couple answers to this dilemma.
(1) One reason the world is bad is because WE are messed up.
We are each sinners who do bad things. You see, in His sovereignty God has given us free will. The first two people, Adam and Eve, used their free will to sin. And every human being since then has inherited that sin nature. Every day everyone—including you and me—we all make sinful choices and foolish mistakes that cause all manner of hardship and heartache. We have evil in the world because over and over again we use our free will to do evil. It’s just as Isaiah prophesied, “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned to our own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)
I like the way Tozer says about this GOD IS SOVEREIGN—WORLD IS BAD issue. He writes:
“A god less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures so, when we do what we please we are fulfilling the will of God, not controverting it—for God in His sovereignty has sovereignly given me freedom to make a free choice.”
He suggests the following illustration to help us better understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities. Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty. On board the liner are hundreds of passengers. These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port. Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other. You see in a similar way, the mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history. God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfillment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began.
So—one reason there is bad in the world is because we are messed up. Here’s a second reason.
(2) The WORLD is messed up.
You see, Adam and Eve’s sin didn’t just affect them. It didn’t just mess them up. It messed up the world as well. Romans 8:20-22 says that because of the sin of Adam and Eve all, “creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—but by its bondage to decay.” Irwin Lutzer writes, “Mankind, now tainted with sin, could not live in a perfect sinless environment. So, creation itself became an impersonal victim of Adam’s personal choice to rebel. There is a vast difference between the world God originally created and the current one that erupts with earthquakes, mud slides, and floods. We are living on a once perfect but now flawed planet. Sin has changed everything.”
Do you understand what Lutzer is saying? Much of the suffering in the world is due to the fact that when sin entered the world, a terrible thing took place. Not only did sin touch the CREATURES but also the CREATION. And because it did, we have diseases like EBOLA and AIDS and cancers in almost limitless forms. This why there are so many hurricanes each year that they have to use letters of the alphabet to name them. It’s why there are tornadoes and earthquakes and tsunamis and forest fires. Insurance companies refer to these natural disasters as, “acts of God”—but that is not really true because these calamities are the end result of the actions of man at the dawn of time. Sin has tainted our world just as it has tainted our lives and because it has, this is a dangerous, fallen world in which to live. We should not be surprised to hear this because Jesus told us this repeatedly. In Matthew 24 He said, “There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” (Matthew 24:6-8) And in John 13 He said, “In this world you WILL have trouble!” Well, as Christians we must let texts like this remind us that it is a bad world—it’s hazardous to our health to live in THIS world—but we must also remember that this world of ours is a TEMPORARY world. The real world—the permanent world—the fair world—the safe world—the world where there is no suffering or death—THAT world is yet to come. As 2nd Peter 3:13 says, “In keeping with [Jesus’] promise we are looking forward to a new Heaven and a new Earth, the home of righteousness.”
Okay, quickly, how do we respond to this aspect of God’s character. How should respond to the REAL God’s sovereignty?
Well, the main response should be to NOT FEAR. I mean, with God is in control there is no need to worry—about literally ANYTHING. I read this week that recently Amazon released a list of the most highlighted verses of the Bible. I thought the list would include verses like John 3:16 or Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer. But the number one verse was Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This is a great verse to highlight—because with God at the helm we don’t need to be anxious. And if we look back as I suggested last Sunday—we can see times when we realized God was in control. Those memories can help motivate us to not be afraid—no matter what happens.
This week I read about a man named Bill Fong—a great example of this principle. Bill loves to bowl. And if you are a bowler you know a perfect game is 300. A good bowler on a hot streak can do that—roll 12 consecutive strikes. For a competitive bowler, however, the “holy grail” night is a perfect series—three consecutive perfect games. A total score of 900. Now—bowling has been around since 3200 B.C. and in that entire history, there have only been 21 perfect series.
And one night, Bill Fong was three rolls away from just that—perfection. On a January 18, 2010, league night at the Plano Super Bowl, Bill Fong had rolled 33 consecutive strikes. The crowd of fellow league members stopped to watch, as on frame 34, Bill Fong gathered his ball, walked up, and rolled another strike. And then he rolled another on frame 35, and the crowd went wild.
But something was wrong. Two frames back Bill had begun sweating profusely and feeling dizzy. But he was just one roll away from history. Bill pulled the ball to his chest, took his usual five steps, and released the ball perfectly. People actually started applauding before the ball reached the pins. That’s how perfect the roll was. It curved exactly where it was supposed to, made contact with the pins at precisely the right spot. Pins flew, the crowd cheered.
And the number 10 pin wobbled, but settled back onto its base. Standing. A score of 899—not 900. One pin short of perfection.
Heartbroken, Bill headed home. Well, the dizziness that began on frame 34 had not improved. Bill staggered into his bathroom and threw up. The walls continued to spin. Bill was having a stroke. Already struggling with high blood pressure, the events of that Monday evening turned a delicate situation into a deadly one. But Bill never realized he had suffered a stroke that night until he had another one later. He had an exam and his doctor found scar tissue, and was told about the league night. The doctor said the only thing that saved Bill on the night of the 899 was that number 10 pin staying up. He said if that last pin had fallen, his body, already in the midst of a stroke, would have pushed his blood pressure even higher. That, most likely, would have killed Bill immediately on lane 28. What felt like the worst thing that could have happened turned out to be the very thing that saved Bill’s life.
Now—if you were Bill—wouldn’t you see God in that standing 10 pin? Would you see Him in control? Wouldn’t it help you to worry less? Since God is sovereign we must not worry about anything. And then with that boldness we must obey Him in everything. Understanding that God is sovereign—that He is over ALL—rules all—knows all—is always working for our good——this should inspire us to give ourselves completely to His will.
This morning let’s make our time of invitation a time for us to do that. Let’s all say, “I give my life to Your control God—my checkbook, my marriage, my parenting, my career, my health—everything I am and everything I have.” As Bill comes to lead us, if you have a public acknowledgement of God’s will to make, come forward—share it with me or Kevin. Perhaps God is telling you to join our church family and give Him your time and talents to use here with us at Redland. Maybe this is the day for you to put your faith in Jesus—to give Him your life.
Come as God leads.