Does God Control Everything That Happens?


August 1999

Dear Ministry Friend,

Does God control everything that happens? Does He personally permit or allow every good or bad thing that you experience?

The first related issue to discuss is the fact that there is a devil. Based on a Gallop poll, only 55% of Americans believe there is a devil or Satan. With only half of Americans believing there is a devil, then it is no wonder so many people think God controls everything. Insurance companies even call natural weather disasters, "Acts of God."

One prominent Christian leader once said "When bad things happen to good people, you know the devil is involved." And we see that illustrated clearly in the Bible, from Adam & Eve (Genesis 3:13), to Job (Job 2:7), to the apostle Paul (2nd Corinthians 12:7), to Jesus (Luke 22:3).

A major theological view centers around the term "sovereign." Some Christians highly emphasize that God is "sovereign." Now, I don't know a single Christian that says God is not sovereign. But what people mean by the word "sovereign" makes all the difference in the world. The dictionary and theological definition is that God is immensely powerful. But people then assume that since He is that powerful, then He would control everything. However, it is clear from scripture that God created both angels and mankind with a free will. Both used that free will to sin and fall from right standing with God.

Many years ago, I decided to do my own study on the word "sovereign." To my surprise, I found the word sovereign is used only once in the entire King James translation of the Bible. The most liberal use of the word "sovereign" is found in the weakest major translation, the NIV, which incorrectly translates YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah) Lord into Sovereign LORD, etc. Then, I turned in the concordance to study free will. I found 26 pages of references to verses using the word "will." I found phrases like "I will," "I will not," "if you will," etc.

Jesus told us clearly why things happen. In fact, He said it was the key to understanding the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus said "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Jesus was saying that God allows whatever we allow, and He binds out of our lives whatever we bind. (Our words and actions determine what we bind and loose.) God honors the free will and authority He gave us!

The most spiritually ignorant and non-Christian societies believe that God controls everything that happens. This is why they go to the village witch doctor for "help." They are trying to get "relief" from God — who they think is responsible for their afflictions. Also, false religions (such as Islam) teach that everything is controlled by "fate" (God).

The clear end result of "sovereignty theology" is that God is responsible (guilty) for everything that happens, and humans are not responsible (therefore innocent). Yet we know that scripture states the opposite — that mankind is guilty and God is righteous.

It is true that God has sometimes killed the wicked, but He does not afflict His children! God would never do something to His sons and daughters for which He could be convicted of child abuse in Federal Court. Jesus said in John 10:10 the thief (Satan) comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Further, we are warned in Ephesians 4:29 not to "give place to the devil." At the end of my Dad's life, after he had more than 40 years in active pastoral ministry, I asked him what he would do different in ministry if he had it to do all over again. Without hesitation, he told me two things. The first was, "I would teach more about the devil."

Another prominent Christian leader pointed out that "sovereignty theology" caused Europe to fall into a "post-Christian" condition. It was the emphasis on Calvinism and its sovereignty theology that caused the Christians there to stop evangelizing. They assumed that if it was God's will for people to be saved, they would be. Hence, there was no need to witness and evangelize. They overlooked scriptures such as 1st Timothy 2:4 that God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth," and 2nd Peter 3:9 that God is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

Sovereignty theology also overlooks the correct role of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be our "Helper" which is parakletos in the original Greek language. Parakletos is defined in Bible dictionaries as "one called alongside to help." Notice that God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, does not sovereignly do everything, but He helps us as we choose to be doers of God's Word. God is depending on us to do the work of the Gospel — which is why Jesus told us to pray that God would send forth more laborers into the harvest. In fact, sovereignty theology even discourages the prayer life of believers because they feel if God wants something to happen, He will just do it — therefore no need to pray.

God is not a God of whim and fancy, doing everything on a sovereign and unpredictable basis. He is a God of law and principle, and we can depend on God's spiritual laws as much as we can His natural laws like gravity. One of God's spiritual laws is faith. Romans 3:27 states, "The law of faith." This "law" is explained that when we pray for God's will to be done, and believe, then we receive. This is clearly stated in Mark 11:23-24, Matthew 21:21-22, etc. It is not God's sovereignty, but faith that is the key that unlocks the mysteries of God's Word and God's ways.

This concept of faith has been misunderstood, misapplied, and attacked by many Christians. One minister said, "What you are not up on, you are down on." But those who have discovered the theological answer of faith to the important questions of the Bible have seen the importance of our part in accomplishing God's will here on the earth.

While I cannot address every related issue in this short letter format, I hope you see the importance of applied spiritual warfare against the devil, plus the role of faith, in the life of a believer to be victorious in advancing the Kingdom of God and having personal victory over the problems of life. While you may not see everything the way I briefly presented it here, this should give you food for thought. I pray that you will grow in faith, and be able to totally trust your Heavenly Father — knowing He will not hurt or abuse you, and that He is not the one that has caused the pain and suffering you may have experienced in this life.


Dale Leander


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