by Jerry Bridges /
Read all the posts published to date in this 9-part series on God’s Providence from Cruciform’s good friend, the late Jerry Bridges. This was a teaching Jerry was presenting in the months leading up to his fatal heart attack in March, 2016.
GOD’S PROVIDENCE, PART FOUR OF NINE
So far in this series we have defined God’s providence, distinguished it from miracles, and offered reasons why it can seem so mysterious. Now we will take a look at sovereignty as it pertains to our personal and collective plans.
The sovereignty of God means that He is in absolute control of every event and circumstance in His creation. As the Psalmist put it, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). Whether person, family, tribe, or nation, God alone ultimately determines whether we will accomplish what we have planned. For a brief but powerful description of this, see James 4:13-16.
Centuries ago, Augustine said, “Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen; he either permits it to happen, or He brings it about himself.” This means that nothing in your life is so small or trivial as to escape the attention of His sovereign control; and nothing is so great as to be beyond His power to control it.
In Matthew 10:29-31, Jesus taught that there is no detail in His creation that is beyond God’s control. Even the little sparrow cannot fall to the ground apart from His will. Jesus spoke these words in the context of expecting persecution. Thus, even when a believer suffers the injustice of religious persecution, God is still in sovereign control of his or her life.
Think of the major political and military issues of our day, including the atrocities committed by the terrorist organization known as ISIS, and the danger of a nuclear warhead from Iran or North Korea. Even these are completely under God’s sovereign control.
Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful monarch in history up to his time. After being insane for seven years he was finally able to clearly learn this about the sovereignty of God: “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, what have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)
In 1279, the Mongol empire established by Genghis Khan was the largest contiguous empire in the history of the world. It included modern day Mongolia, China, Russia, and much of central Asia and Eastern Europe. It covered more than 12 million square miles and contained 25 percent of the world’s population. So why is present-day Mongolia less than 8 percent of its previous size? The empire was the origin point of the bubonic plague, known as the Black Death. Fleas that traveled on rats transmitted the disease, eventually killing one-third of the entire human population. With the Mongol empire already suffering internal divisions, the chaos created by the plague made political control impossible, and the empire collapsed.
Was God sovereign over the fleas? Yes. The rats? Yes. The plague? Yes. And the empire? Yes. From the tiniest to the greatest, God’s sovereignty extends over all.
This has been Part 4 of a 9-part series on God’s providence from Jerry Bridges.
Jerry Bridges (1929-2016) was the author of Who Am I? — Identity in Christ, as well as numerous other books, including The Pursuit of Holiness (which has sold more than 1.4 million copies), and the award-winning The Discipline of Grace and I Will Follow You, O God. He maintained an international speaking ministry and, from 1955 until his death, served in a variety of capacities with the Navigators.