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God's Sovereignty: The Ultimate Question

Everybody asks the why questions of God. But what's it take to keep the faith even when we don't get answers?


Did you ever wonder why? You tell a man there's 400 billion stars and he'll believe you, but tell him a bench has wet paint and he has to touch it? Why? Why is it called a hamburger when it's made out of beef? Why do you put suits in garment bags and put garments in suitcases? Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle? Why isn't there cat food? Why do they lock gas station they afraid someone is going to sneak in there and clean them? If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes? Why are there five syllables in the word monosyllabic? When two airplanes almost collide, why do they call it a "near miss" sounds like a "near hit" to me? Why do banks charge you a funds fee on money they already know you don't have? Why do you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway? Why are they called apartments when they're stuck together? Why are they called buildings when they are already finished? Shouldn't we call them builts? If the black box flight recorder is never damaged during a plane crash, why isn't the whole airplane made out of that stuff?


Who, what, where, when and how are easier to answer than why.

A kindergarten class was taking a field trip to the local police station. There they saw pictures tacked to the bulletin board of the Most Wanted. One of the youngsters was intrigued by these pictures and asked the officer if those were real photographs of the wanted people. "Yes," the policeman said. "The detectives want them very badly." The child responded, "Well, why didn't they just keep them when they took their pictures?"

Why? Probably the most asked and question in the English language. The why it is asked out of curiosity. A child can ask 14 whys in 4 minutes. Sometimes it is asked in pain: Why would this happen to us? That is the most asked, and , question. That bugs us because somewhere in our life experience we developed the expectation that every question should be answered. Maybe it started out when we went to school: when the teacher asked the question, an answer was assumed. "Sarah, what's the answer to question number four?" "Tim, what's seven plus seven?" Questions were asked to be answered. To not have an answer meant you didn't know something you should know, so you had better find out what the answer was. And, unless you cheated off the guy next to you, there would be teachers and libraries and encyclopedias and dictionaries full of the answers to those questions.

I suppose it happens at a different time for each individual, but somewhere along our life journey we run into a question that doesn't have an answer, or at least not one that comes easily. "Why did my friend have to move to another town?" the child asks. "Well, his dad got a new job." "But why couldn't he just keep his old one?" "I suppose this new one was better." "But I miss my friend. Why did he have to move?"

The answer hadn't satisfied. There was something still unresolved in the heart that the surface facts couldn't satisfy. "Why did my hamster die?" "Sometimes they just get old and do that." "Why did he have to? He didn't look old to me."

As adults we think we have to answer all questions. We're not comfortable with the unsatisfying "I don't know." And if we know we don't have the answers, certainly someone should. So, ask the professor, or ask the pastor, or ask the doctor, or go to the counselor. That's what the professional is for, right? To answer the questions we can't answer. Why is this cough not going away? Why am I having these panic attacks?

We're always asking God why.

Sometimes there are clear answers. Honest, true, straightforward answers. More often there are guesses. And sometimes the best response would be "I don't know. Most likely no one knows, but I'll walk with you through it." Yet there is still something deep within us that often feels unsettled when the question goes unanswered. An unsolved question can lead to an unresolved spirit.

I think you know what I am talking about. You've asked, "If there is a God of love, why did____? If God is , why didn't he____?" Time and time again some of us have filled in those blanks. Christianity isn't immune from the dilemma of the unanswerable.

Unanswered questions are part of our faith. Perhaps that's one reason it's called a faith. If Christianity were all answers and no it just contained things you could control or manage, understand or wouldn't need faith. But it is a faith, a journey of faith. And it's a good journey. I wouldn't want to be on any other journey. It contains far more answers than other journeys could hope to give. The answers that Christianity provides are solid, historically based, reasonable, and they're satisfying.

But, as Christians, we don't at least we shouldn't we have full answers to every question. Some Christians, not really able to handle that, say things, at least in their attitude, such as, "Don't ask questions, just accept what the church says. Don't think for yourself. Don't question the answers the authorities give you, just do what you are told, believe what you are taught." Some versions of Christianity limit questioning. Evidently they have never read the Book of Psalms, which is filled with questions.

It seems to me that most of our serious questions revolve around the issue of the sovereignty of God. We may not have defined them in this way, but our significant questions end up landing here. As the young couple asks, "Why can't we have a child? Every year abortion clinics and maternity wards are lined with teenagers who aren't ready to have children, who don't even want to have the child. And here we are, ready, praying, longing, and childless. Why?" When a couple wrestles with those questions, with or without knowing it they are wrestling with the sovereignty of God. If there is a God and if he's involved in this world, why is this world the way it is?

God gets blamed for a lot of things we have no business blaming him for. When a bar serves a guy so much booze he can't see straight, and he gets into his car and kills a pedestrian, was that God's fault? Yet we question, we struggle: If there had been just a half second difference If that pedestrian had been delayed just for a moment before stepping off the curb If, if, if.

I want to assure you it is okay to ask, to wonder, to question. And, often our questions will land on the basic issue of the sovereignty of God.

We have verses like Matthew 10:29: "Not even a sparrow, worth only a half a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it." Somewhere in the great Puget Sound this week, as the storm winds blew, a little sparrow was nestled into the hollow of a decaying tree branch. But as the winds howled, with a crack, that branch broke and down came the little bird with it. The Bible says that God is so intimately involved in this world that he knew all about that little bird. The next verse in Matthew 10 reads, "And the very hairs on your head are all numbered." So? Have you cared, really, how many? Have you stood in front of the mirror counting? Maybe some of us who wish we had a few more. But the exact number of hairs on our head? That's one of those statistics that wind up in the trivial pursuit pile, that we don't care about. Yet God has them numbered. "Well, today he lost numbers 8,911 through 9,316." So detailed is God's knowledge of us.

But just because he knows, does that mean that in his sovereignty he causes? He knows how many hairs you lost, but does that mean he plucked them out? He knows the number, but does he control the number? Our little sparrow God knew that it fell, but does sovereignty go further than that? Did God knock it down? A hunter wanders through the woods, a grouse jumps up, the hunter shoots it, down it goes. Another bird has fallen to the ground. God knew it, but did God cause that? To what degree does sovereignty extend? Is God in control of this world in the minute things or just in the big things? Does he just know or does he cause?

God's judgments are unsearchable.


In Romans 9—11, Paul wrestles with some theological mind stretchers. If nothing can separate us from God's love, what happened to the Jewish people? As a whole nation, they didn't accept the Messiah, so what went wrong? They were his chosen people, but now they're missing out on his plan, or so it seems. Was that God's will? Did he for some reason cause that or was it because of their hard hearts? How can God be in control, yet not have his people under his control? Or was this all somehow part of his plan? How does the sovereignty of God and the free will of man fit together?

You may not have asked the specific questions that Paul is, but most assuredly you have asked in some way the basic question: if God is in charge, why____?

In the midst of the questions, my heart finds comfort from verses like Romans 11:33 and following: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out! 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?' For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen."

Paul, after wrestling with these hard questions, finally lands on what we call a doxology, a poem of praise. His heart lifts up to the Lord and says: "God, you're incredible, you are rich in your wisdom and your knowledge. Your paths are beyond tracing out." What a wonderful God we have. How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge. How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods. For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor?

Have you ever tried to give God advice? Well, we tried it, but it was pretty dumb when we did. The wisdom and knowledge of God are rich. They're deep. In fact, his decisions are "unsearchable." You can only begin to explore them. The mansion of God's wisdom is so vast you can spend your lifetime in exploration and not get past the front step. The paths of God are so intricate you can only begin to imagine where they might lead.

I take genuine encouragement from that. It is nice to have it stated simply. You are not going to understand it all, but he does. Be content with that. We don't get the full answer sheet to the quiz of life. But that's okay, because he does. Rest in that. It is okay to ask the questions, it's okay to try to solve some of the mysteries, but when it's all said and done, rest in the arms of the one who wrote the mystery. As one author prayed, "I cannot grasp your mind, but with my whole heart I trust your love."

If we don't come to this place of rest, this place of trust, then we will end up making the same mistake that Job and Jeremiah made. Both of these godly men of the Old Testament faced serious trials, and in the midst of their crises they asked serious questions, legitimate questions that are recorded for us. But in the midst of their questioning, they crossed a line that wasn't to be crossed. They implied God was wrong, that he had messed up. And for this they were both rebuked. Better to have Paul's perspective, that it is impossible for us to understand God's decisions and ways. In fact, it's good.

At human birth the brain weighs, on average, 14 ounces. It usually reaches its maximum size at age 15 (proving the size of the brain has nothing to do with intelligence level). At its maximum size, the brain weighs an average of 46 ounces, slightly less than three pounds. In liquid measurement, that's about a big gulp from the soda machine at the local gas station.

There is no way for medical professionals to prove this, but the old theory was that we only used about 10 percent of our brain capacity. If that were true and we only start out with a big gulp in the first place, we're down to about a with cheese by the time we're done. And we think that with our with cheese we're going to comprehend the infinite, decipher the mysteries of the millenniums, we're going to answer all the questions? Right!

Isn't it logically impossible that we as finite creatures could ever fully understand the infinite? Do this little exercise sometime: Picture 100 years, either direction: 1898, 2098. Then picture 1,000 years. That's a little harder. Then stretch it out. Picture past, eternity future. Can you do that? Try the same thing with numbers. Think of the biggest one you can, and add another billion, another trillion, and keep on going. Or try to comprehend the universe. Go out into the night and look at that sky and think how it doesn't stop. Picture the farthest point you can think of—what's beyond that? I don't know about you, but when I try to do that, my brain short circuits and a message comes up on the screen: "Illegal operation, not enough RAM."

If we can't get our brains around these common things, how can we expect to grasp the ways of our eternal, infinite God? It is guaranteed that you will live frustrated if you need to have every piece to the puzzle.

Meanwhile, there is another option. We can be content with our humanity and his deity. He's God and we're not and we're glad. He sees the big picture, we don't, and that's okay. This leads to a settled contentment, and it leads to peace.

"There's a certain paradox in the human situation," one author explained, "that God gave man a mind, and it's man's duty to use that mind to the very limit of human thought. But it is also true, there are times when that limit is reached and all that is left is to accept and adore."

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out."

Accepting that not only leads to peace, it also leads to theological humility. It is good for you to know what you believe and to be able to defend it. We encourage you to take classes and get into Bible study for yourself and ask good questions so that you can know for yourself what it is that you believe, and you can support it. But it takes the arrogant edge off of our convictions when we admit we don't have it all totally figured out.

Theological humility. "How unsearchable are God's judgments, his paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the Lord, who has ever been his counselor?" That leads to a settled contentment, theological humility, and finally it leads to a confidence in God.

A tourist to Brussels was eager to see how and where some of the world's renowned lace was manufactured. His guide took him to a small, unassuming building where he was introduced to the plant manager. After a brief explanation, he was directed to the workroom in the basement. The only light penetrating the basement workroom came through several narrow windows near the top of the exterior wall, slightly above street level. Taped to the windows were exquisite, intricate patterns. The workers sat at tables facing the windows, working in relative darkness. The visitor, accustomed to seeing our workspaces, asked why there was so little light. The manager responded, "Centuries of experience have taught us that the finest lace is produced when the workers are in the dark and the pattern is in the light."

We often find ourselves in the dark. We don't always have the answers we wish we had. Explanations are not always given, and the flies of life sometimes linger. The pattern, however, remains in the light. It's a pattern that has stood the test of time and countless human questions. When we don't understand God's activity, we can rest in his character and have confidence in God. Even though we don't understand it all, he does. And that's enough.

"Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out." Accepting that leads you to a settled contentment, a theological humility, and a confidence in our great God.

John Stumbo is the President of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

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Sermon Outline:

I. Introduction

Why questions are always on our minds.

II. We're always asking God why.

III. God's judgments are unsearchable.


We often find ourselves in the dark, but the pattern remains in the light.