God’s will #5: Sovereignty
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2 NIVUK
In Romans 12:2 we read that God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect, and I think this is something we’ve seen as we worked through the attributes of God’s will these last two weeks. We’ve seen that God loves us and wants us to be saved; that he lives within us, protecting and enabling us; that he is holy and steadfast and not subject to darkness or change; that he is righteous and has made us righteous through himself for righteousness. But God wills one more thing; something that both encapsulates and crowns the four attributes we’ve already discussed: sovereignty. God wills that we know his sovereignty.
Why? we might reasonably ask. I think there are a few reasons:
First of all, God wants us to know him fully and completely, and the most full and complete picture we have of God is in his Son, Jesus. We cannot truly know God unless we also know him as our friend (John 15:15), our saviour (Luke 19:10) and our lord (Romans 10:9). Anything less than that would be an incomplete picture, which would equal an incomplete relationship. God knows us, boots, warts and all. God wants us to know him in the same way.
Secondly, it’s about trust. In an earlier #CoffeeTimePrayer, we talked about how we need to trust God before we are able to pray things like “Your will be done” with any kind of sincerity. In the section above, Paul explains to the believers in Rome that, in view of God’s mercy, they were to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. We can trust God’s lordship over our lives because his will is good, pleasing and perfect. We can trust God’s sovereignty because he isn’t weighed down with human foibles like pride, greed, arrogance or selfishness.
Thirdly, God needs us to surrender to him, because it is in the spaces left by our surrender that he works best. When we live us-centred lives instead of God-centred lives, we leave very little margin. We pray for miracles but surrender no room for them, instead trying to run ahead to maintain the illusion of control. We pray for God’s will for our lives, but we cede no control to God. I think sometimes what God wills most is that we just stop. Stop, breathe, let go. That’s the first part of surrender, and I think that’s the hardest part. It’s usually a place we’re forced to when we finally run out of options. Had it only been the place where we chose to start instead! The second part of surrender is living in expectation of those margin miracles. Surrender is not a passive thing; it is actively expecting God to intercede, to fight on your behalf, to be God. How can we do this, if we do not acknowledge God’s sovereignty, not only over us but over all?
Lastly, I believe it’s God’s hope that living under his sovereignty would foster mutuality among humans. If we acknowledge God as totally sovereign, if we submit to him and his perfect will, there remains little room for power struggles in the rest of our lives. Why contend for leadership in the home when there is one leader, God? Why look for empowerment in material things, when we no longer need to “one up” each other? Why take out our insecurities on others when we are all equally serving the Lord? Why fear, when our lives are in the hands of a sovereign God?
Ultimately God’s will is this: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Hebrew 8:10 NRSV). His will is that we be his, and he ours; that we return to him and make our home in him. So when we ask ourselves again, as we inevitably will, what God’s will for our lives is, we need to remember that this is always what it boils down to: it’s not about what we are, it’s about whose we are. It’s not about what we do, it’s about who we do it for.
With this in mind, let’s pray St Francis’ prayer one last time: