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His Purpose Prevails: God’s Control Over Sinful Acts (Sovereign Rule, Part 7)

His Purpose Prevails

Are you suffering because of the immoral actions of another? Do you question whether or not God has power over sinful acts? Whether He exercises authority over the atrocities perpetrated against us? Whether life’s injustices are random, meaningless occurrences or if there is order and purpose behind it all?

When it comes to suffering, particularly that caused by sheer evil, we have a hard time fitting God into our box, into the confines of human logic and a temporal perspective.

“Surely an all-powerful, loving God would not permit an evil atrocity to occur if given the chance to stop it,” we rationalize. “When such acts occur, God must lack sufficient love for His creation … or sufficient power over that which He created. He must be heartless or powerless,” we conclude.

But this line of thinking is incorrect. God does control sinful acts—albeit in a different way than we might presume.

Let’s be clear: God never sins and He never tempts anyone to sin (see James 1:13). He never puts the idea of evil into anyone’s heart either. As we saw in the last article, man is a responsible moral agent though he is also divinely controlled.

The way God controls sinful acts is by steering them in order to accomplish His purpose. In When God Weeps, Steve Estes writes,

God sees the evil already there and steers it to serve his good purposes and not merely Satan’s viperous ones. It’s as if he says, “So you want to sin? Go ahead—but I’ll make sure you sin in a way that ultimately furthers my ends even while you’re shaking your fist in my face.” This is why we can accept troubles as ultimately from God even when the most dreadful people deliver them. [1]

As human beings we have a will of our own, but God still governs every aspect of our lives — even the evil intentions of our hearts. And He does it all without compromising His holy, righteous, loving nature.

“His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’“ (Daniel 4:34-35, NASB, emphasis added).

“The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Psalm 33:10-11, NIV, emphasis added).

“‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

His Purpose Prevails

God steers people’s sinful actions and makes sure they suit His higher purpose and plan. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the LORD‘s purpose that prevails.”
Proverbs 19:21, NIV

Click to tweet TWEET THIS God's sovereign rule

According to Psalm 139:16, all the days ordained for you and me were written in His book before one of them came to be. Before we were born, God knew every detail of our lives, from our first to last breath.

“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (Psalm 139:16, NLT).

Notice that God writes in His book the days and events ordained for us. It’s not as if He has vision to see the future but no power with which to change it. No, God has authority over every moment of our lives. He writes the events of our lives in His book. He ordains and appoints them in advance.

In other words, He sees our full, eternal potential and appoints the experiences necessary to cause us to reach it.

That We Might Reach Our Full Potential

Ephesians 1:11 says that God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (NIV). This passage does not say “some things,” or “only the good things.” It says “everything.”

God works everything—even the bad, tragic things—in conformity with the good and loving purpose of His will.

“I’ll see to it that everything works out for the best” (Isaiah 54:17, MSG).

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT).

And yes, if reaching our full potential means we must be impacted by someone’s sinful actions, God will allow it. He must allow it. For Him not to do so would be to cheat us out of the greatest blessings He could ever give us. Contrary to how it seems, it is out of love—not disdain—for us that God permits suffering to touch our lives. He simply wants us to experience His eternal best.

God turns evil (suffering) on its head to defeat evil (sin) in us. [2]

An example of God turning evil on its head is found in Ezekiel 20. God is recounting Israel’s rebellious history, including their idol worship that led to human sacrifice. In verse 26 He says, “I let them become defiled through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn—that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD” (emphasis added).

Centuries earlier God saw this in advance. He knew that Jewish babies would be killed in worship to the idol Molech. Long before this occurred, He saw where the Israelite’s rebellious ways would take them. He told Moses, “I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath” (Deuteronomy. 31:21). [3]

Why then did He allow them to reach this point? To reveal the wickedness in their hearts. To make them see their sin and puke at the sight. God hates the murder of children. Scripture tells us God loves righteousness and hates wickedness (see Psalm 45:7). God hated the murder of these innocent children, but He allowed it so that sin could be exposed. Exposing sin was more important to Him than relieving suffering.

God steers what he hates in order to rid us of something He hates even more: sin.

“I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75).

The root word for “faithfulness” in the original language means “trustworthiness.” God can be trusted with the course of our lives and all the details that occur—even the events that are a result of someone else’s sinful actions.

In Faithfulness, God Has Allowed Our Trials Because…

Through our trials God is causing us to grow up, to hate our sin and to know Christ more fully, an experience no amount of prosperity or ease can rival. He is proving our character — taking the impurities of our natural man and in return, imparting to us His holiness. (See Hebrews 12:10-11, Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, I Peter 1:6-7).

By allowing discomforts to touch us, God is giving us long-range vision and helping us recognize that this world isn’t our home.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

He is giving us His end-of-time perspective and a value for the glory and reward that await us there. The value we place on all things temporal — and our lust after them — is reduced.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

As our lives are stripped of every other resort, one thing alone stands as our key to survival — the Word of God (Jesus Christ, the Living Word, and the Bible, the written Word). Through our trials, we come to depend on the Word of God, and to treasure, it like never before.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word…. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold… If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction” (Psalm 119:67, 71-72, 92).

In this beautiful Psalm, David in essence says, “It was the Lord Himself who afflicted me — and I’m glad He did. Out of His steadfast love and faithful commitment to me, He worked through my affliction to show me how I was wandering away from Him. During my suffering He opened up His Word to me like never before! If God hadn’t helped me live by the life of His Word, I wouldn’t have made it through.”

Nothing Compares

No amount of comfortable, easy, suffering-free living on this earth could ever rival knowing Jesus Christ and His Word. Temporal perfection can never compare to experiencing:

  • His strength in our weakness …
  • His peace in our turmoil …
  • His comfort in our grief …
  • His endurance in our weariness …
  • His forgiveness instead of our bitterness …
  • His love instead of our hate.

As we yield to God’s wiser, higher plan, He replaces our negative feelings, misplaced values, and temporal perspective with the heart and vision of Christ — to Whom nothing compares.

“Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. … I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power…” (Philippians 3:8, 10 MSG).

God doesn’t let us suffer because He lacks love, but because he does love, in order to bring us to the point of encountering Him face to face, which is humanity’s supreme happiness. Our suffering hollows out a big space in us so that God and joy can fill it. [4]

More TweetablesTweetables

  • “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” ~ Proverbs 19:21 Click to tweet Tweet
  • God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” ~ Ephesians 1:11 Click to tweet Tweet
  • God steers what he hates in order to rid us of something He hates even more: sin. Click to tweet Tweet
  • “I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” ~ Psalm 119:75 Click to tweet Tweet
  • God turns evil (suffering) on its head to defeat evil (sin) in us. Click to tweet Tweet

 

Question: In what ways is God turning evil on its head to defeat sin in you? 

 

OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

 

RELATED POSTS:

 


  1. Joni E. Tada and Steve Estes, When God Weeps (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 86
  2. Ibid., 56
  3. Ibid., 82
  4. Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 69-70

Click here for more about the book When God Weeps:

When God Weeps is an invaluable resource — a Bible study within a book. As the subtitle states, this book not only answers tough questions about God’s sovereignty over suffering, it explains why and how our sufferings matter to our loving God.

The opening and six closing chapters are written by Joni Eareckson Tada. The middle five chapters are written by Steve Estes. Estes’s chapters contain near-exhaustive Biblical teaching about God’s sovereign rule over suffering. The content is informative and comprehensive, yes — but it’s also compelling, and easy to read and assimilate.

Joni’s chapters are chock-full of encouraging, inspiring truths that cause you to view your circumstances through God’s eternal lens. She incorporates examples from her decades as a quadriplegic and from others who have endured unimaginable sufferings. As you read, you find yourself valuing what is of eternal worth and treasuring your hardships because of the eternal good they accomplish.

The appendices contain a wealth of Biblical references. The first appendix is scripture on God’s hand in our suffering. It includes scriptures about God’s hand over other people’s good deeds and wicked actions… His hand over Satan and demons … His hand over plants and animals … and over inanimate objects — even His hand over machinery, tools and technology. The second appendix is scripture on God’s purpose in our sufferings. 

When God Weeps is an indispensable resource and one of my all-time favorite books — as you can tell from how many times I’ve cited it in this and other articles. My copy is highlighted and tagged with sticky notes throughout. highly recommend it for anyone enduring hardship of any kind, great or small.

As the back cover says, “[Joni] and lifelong friend Steven Estes probe beyond glib answers that fail us in our time of deepest need. Instead, with firmness and compassion, they reveal a God big enough to understand our suffering, wise enough to allow it—and powerful enough to use it for a greater good than we can ever imagine.

The front flap of the book states:

It’s easy to trust God when things are going our way and the world makes sense. But when suffering strikes–especially seemingly senseless suffering–we are filled with doubt and stunned by events spiraling beyond our control. In the midst of suffering, we often question the very foundation of our faith–our belief in the God who says he loves us.

Since our trust and obedience rest on God’s character, the questions that life’s tragedies force us to face are difficult, even frightening. Who is God? Can he really be trusted? What are his purposes in the face of suffering? If he can stop suffering, why doesn’t he?

Joni Eareckson Tada, a woman who has lived in a wheelchair for more than thirty years, and Steve Estes, a pastor and one of Joni’s closest friends, explore the answers. When God Weeps is not so much a book about suffering as it is about God. It tackles tough questions about heaven and hell, horrors and hardships, and why God allows suffering in this life.

Through a panoramic overview of what the Bible says about suffering, the authors make clear who God is, why he permits so much heartache and pain, and how it is we can trust him. With both a practical edge and heartfelt warmth, When God Weeps offers a message of deep reliance on God–and keys to a radical, life-transforming dependence on his love and mercy in spite of our doubts, fears, longings, and questions.

It’s a message much needed. Despair and discouragement are rampant. At the same time, fewer people are able to balance God’s purposes and his mercies. Instead, attempting to avoid tragedy and suffering, many Christians confuse simple formulas for faith. But where does that leave the family who loses a son on a military mission? Or the young mother who isn’t healed of cancer?

When God Weeps is for people like these . . . and for thousands more who need more—much more—than answers.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Shades of Grace will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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