The Bible makes it clear that God is absolutely and supremely sovereign over everything and everyone (Psalm 135:5-6). Yet, we have to be careful to also frequently and consciously remind ourselves that we are also completely accountable as human beings for our own actions and decisions (Romans 9:18-19; James 1:13).
The following are just a few of the dangers of misunderstanding the sovereignty of God.
1) Just because God overcomes sin does not mean that he hates it any less.
Although God used, for instance, the plotting of Joseph’s brothers’ for his own purposes, their sin was still detestable. God hates the shedding of innocent blood, and commands us not to even imagine evil in our hearts against our neighbor (Proverbs 6:16-19; Zechariah 8:17).
Ultimately, of course, God overcame sin by punishing sin in Jesus, on the cross. We should never allow ourselves to think lightly of the cost of overcoming sin. God hated sin enough that he required its payment, even on his own Son.
2) Just because God overrules sin does not mean that there are no consequences to sin.
Although God overruled Samson’s sin in order to deliver his people, Samson still suffered pain and blindness. Although God overruled Judas’ betrayal, this did not mean Judas was guiltless (Matthew 26:24).
There are some sins that—although Christ has paid for them and you may even see at times how they have been overruled for good—cause pain the rest of your life!
It is evident from Paul’s writings that, while he was actively forgetting what lay behind him and trusting his past sins to Jesus’ cross, he nonetheless still felt the pain of his past very poignantly (1 Corinthians 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:13-14).
Never make the mistake of thinking because God overrules sin—and even forgives sin completely in Jesus Christ—that there are not serious consequences to sin (Deuteronomy 29:29).
3) Just because God overrules sin does not mean we should not use everything God has given us, to the best of our ability.
Although God removes kings, and sets up kings (Daniel 2:21), we should still vote and pray for God to give us good rulers (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Although God is the sustainer of life (Colossians 1:17), we are not to recklessly use our bodies or health or life (Romans 12:1).
Although God is aware of our needs before we even ask him, one of the means that God has appointed for meeting our needs is prayer (Matthew 7:7; James 4:2).
Although only God can graciously change hearts, grant repentance, and give saving faith (Ephesians 2:8), it is our responsibility to repent of our sins, trust in Christ for salvation, and proclaim the gospel indiscriminately (Acts 26:17-20).
The same God who has appointed all ends has also appointed the means to those ends; the appointed ends are not separate or unrelated to the means God has given us toward those ends. Therefore, we should use every talent, every asset, every opportunity God has given us.
4) Just because God allows something does not mean he approves of it.
Although God used the Chaldeans to overcome the Israelites, he made it clear that he would later judge the Chaldeans for their own sin and guilt (Habakkuk 2:6-20).
God is longsuffering toward us, but that does not mean he will clear the guilty (Numbers 14:18). In fact, sometimes God allows the wicked to fulfill their own hearts desires in order to show his own righteousness and power in judging them (Romans 9:22).
5) Just because God allows something does not mean we can presume his purposes.
For instance, God may allow us what seems like an “open door of opportunity” in order to test whether we will choose him over a promotion, or over momentary pleasure.
The open door in the Red Sea meant deliverance for the Israelites, but not for Pharaoh. We must not presume God’s purposes or ends by reading our own desires into his providences.
On the other hand, we must battle the temptation to assume that bad news is an indicator of God’s displeasure. This was the mistake that Job’s comforters made. And just when Jacob assumed that everything was against him, it turned out that God was working wisely and powerfully to save him and his family.
In the end, then, we must trust God’s Word, work with all our might to pursue God’s glory in the earth, and rest in God’s sovereign purposes all the while.
Justin Huffman is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary and pastored churches in the States for over 15 years. He is currently lead pastor of Morningstar Christian Fellowship in Toronto, where he lives with his wife Chau and their four children. Justin is the author of the “Daily Devotion” app, as well as numerous books and articles, including his newest book Behold: an Invitation to Wonder. Connect with him at justinhuffman.org.