Sovereign and Good – #COVID19SERIES
Welcome to the 2nd part of the series on God’s sovereignty and Healing during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Do check out the previous part before reading this one (if you haven’t already).
In the first part of the series, I wrote largely about Jesus’ healing ministry, the healing gift of God and sickness. This was done to set the tone for the subsequent parts of this series. I came to the realization that some believers, when faced with sickness, attribute it to the sovereignty of God alone. Hence, they see it as a thing to be endured and not to be prayed against. There is not a single time we see Jesus in the gospels encounter a sick person and tell him/her ‘this is the will of God for you’. There were times he healed every sick person in the crowds (Luke 6:19). There was a time when he couldn’t heal anybody at all because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:58). And there was also a time when the healing process was gradual; Jesus had to pray more than once (Mark 8:22-26). Bottomline is, Jesus was/is against sickness.
I would like to briefly touch on the topic of the sovereignty of God and how some people like to contrast it with the faith a believer has in God’s healing power. To some, God’s sovereignty means, when evil happens to a believer it is always a result of God exercising his sovereign power. I have heard this idea expressed only when something evil happens in the life of a believer, like sickness. If the sickness of a believer is always as a result of the sovereignty of God, then how do we pray against it?
First of all, the sovereignty of God is in reference to his supreme power and authority. It means, God answers to nobody and he has the right to exercise this authority he has over all creation and even in eternity without any interference from anybody. Basically, to wield this power is to do whatever pleases you without having to explain yourself to anybody. But you see, God is not only sovereign, he is also good. That means he can do whatever pleases him, but the point here is that what pleases him is goodness. Apart from God, there is nobody who can navigate the intersection between sovereignty and goodness. He alone has the capacity to do that because he is sovereign and absolutely good concurrently and in equal measure.
They say ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ but God cannot be corrupted by his own power. He is not a man. We need to understand that none of the attributes of God exceed any of his other attributes. So, we cannot say God is more omniscient than he is omnipotent. All of his attributes are whole and absolute in him and that is what makes him God. So my point is, God is as sovereign as he is good; he is not more sovereign than good and vice versa. Also, we cannot assume that anytime a believer is having a hard time then it means God is exercising his sovereign power alone. He is also good, and his goodness is expressed all over scripture. That is why the bible speaks of the healing power of God. It is a reference to the point that when we encounter sickness, God’s power is available to bring healing to the person because God is good too. When a believer is going through hard times, it is because God is so good that he will use those hard times for the good of that person who is called according to his purpose. Whatever God says or does is in the power and authority of who he is and that is all his attributes combined. So there is nothing God does that is purely because of his sovereignty without it being ultimately good. There is nothing God says that is solely because he is omniscient and not because he is a loving and good God. We see this convergence of God’s seemingly contrasting attributes especially at the cross. His attributes that seem contrasting only appear so from a human perspective, but in God they dwell amicably in perfect harmony. For example, the cross of Jesus meant justice for the sins of the world and it meant mercy and grace for sinners. God is just and he is merciful, nobody can marry justice and mercy in one act like God did. John Njoroge of RZIM puts it this way:
It was at the Cross of Jesus where God’s justice was perfectly administered and his eternal mercy publicly displayed when God took upon Himself the punishment meant for the guilty.
Read the full article here.
Let’s take for example, a person suffering from a disease for 16 years. What should be my words of encouragement to this person? I will remind the person that God is good and he is sovereign. He is so good that he can use sickness to bring glory to his holy name. God does this in 2 ways:
- When he gives grace to the person to endure the sickness until the day they get healed or leave this earth.
- When he heals the person.
I will also remind this individual of the sovereignty of God and how God can overturn any situation – including sickness – without having to answer to anybody. In the face of a global pandemic that is taking thousands of lives, I will say the same thing. God is sovereign and good. Because I believe this, I will pray continually for him to heal our world. If I resign and say that ‘well, this may actually be an act of God’s sovereignty so what’s the point praying against it?’ I am not being a good Christian.
God’s goodness makes him as mysterious as his sovereignty does. The Psalmist said that God forgives us so that he may be feared (Psalm 130:4). Which means the reverential fear we have for God is as a result of his mercies (his goodness). God is so sovereign he can allow evil to thrive and later use it all for his glory. These two attributes of God make him mysterious. When Jesus was informed about the ill health of Lazarus, these were his exact words ‘this illness does not lead to death’ which means some illnesses lead to death (most, actually). Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha, however, he delayed in responding to their distress call. He actually delayed so that they would see the glory of God. You know how the story goes (John 11:1-16). Christ shows up at the tomb of Lazarus and resurrects him from the dead. God is good and sovereign at the same time. He is so good he used Lazarus’ illness and death to illustrate the fact that the resurrection is not an event but a person. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He is so sovereign that he can even bring the dead back to life. Death isn’t sovereign. Death doesn’t wield ultimate power over us. This is what the resurrection of Lazarus meant, that there is one who doesn’t only bring the dead back to life but he is in himself the Resurrection and the Life. He is life: the direct opposite of death.
God is sovereign. I couldn’t trust sovereignty in the hands of anybody apart from God. Because ‘there is none good but God’, as Jesus said. If anybody or anything apart from God was the sovereign authority in both eternity and time, since that person or entity isn’t ultimately good, we would have to expect an abuse of that power. But our God is sovereign and good at the same time. He doesn’t answer to the laws of nature. God doesn’t have to explain to us why he resurrected lazarus from the dead. He just did it for his glory and that’s that.
Job’s story typifies all that we have discussed to this point. He was a good man. If we go with the expectations of man then it means he wasn’t deserving of any evil. God himself describes Job as a ‘blameless and upright man’ and that ‘there is none like him on the earth’ (Job 1:8). The devil had no intention of attacking Job but God himself suggested it to him. God asked Satan, ‘have you considered my servant Job?’. Satan then argued that Job was only as devoted as he was to God because God had blessed him exceedingly and had mounted a hedge around him. He proceeded with his argument by stating that if God were to remove the hedge, Job would curse God to his face. Guess what God did? No, he didn’t rebuke Satan, he rather removed the hedge of protection he had put around Job and asked Satan to do whatever he wanted to do with Job but he shouldn’t touch his life. Satan inflicted all manner of evil on Job: Job lost his properties, he lost his children and he was later stricken with “loathsome sores from the soles of his foot to his crown of his head”. The question is, if God is good then why did he allow Satan to inflict so much pain on Job? God isn’t only good, he is also sovereign. This means that he still reserves the right to do what pleases him without owing anyone an explanation, including his children. So while it may not make sense to us why God would do such a thing to somebody who was blameless like Job, we have to understand that God is sovereign. In the end, this is what Job himself says about God:
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
Job 42:2 ESV
There you have it, Job understood that God can do anything and his plans cannot be thwarted by anybody. God does what he does because he is sovereign and we know it will all turn out for the good of his children because he is good. In fact, he is absolutely good. He is so good anything or anybody we can describe as good is utterly evil in comparison to God. At the end of Job’s story, we see God bless Job with more than he had before:
And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters.
Job 42:12-13 ESV
This is the confident assurance I have in God, that he is sovereign and good at the same time. I may not like what I am going through right now, but so far as I remain submitted to his will, it will all work out beautifully for my good. My God is sovereign and good!