Is God in Control?
We often say that “God is in control.” I believe this is true, but if we are not careful, this can become a misunderstood phrase that may be perceived somewhat flippantly. Part of the problem is that so much happens in life that makes it seem that God is not in control or that things are happening beyond His control. Like many of the Psalms express, we may feel forgotten by God or that God does not care (cf. Psa 42-43). But our perceptions do not always comport with reality.
Evils in the world gives people pause and they wonder where God is. Does evil negate God’s power? Is God really in control, or is this a trite statement meant to make us feel better? Part of the issue may reside in how we understand the nature of “control.” That term can even be used negatively of one who is tyrannical and obsessive. This is certainly not how God is depicted in Scripture. How, then, shall we understand God’s control?
The dictionary would tell us that “control” means “to exercise restraint or direction over; dominate, command” (dictionary .com). Certainly these things may be said of God and HIs relationship to this world. What do the Scriptures say about this?
There are many ways to establish the point in Scripture, but consider this statement. Paul told Timothy that the Lord “is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords…” (1 Tim 6:15). To say that the Lord is sovereign is to affirm His authority and power. The Lord’s sovereignty is at the heart of this question, and He has the right to command, direct, exercise restraint over, and even dominate anything.
To say that God is sovereign is to recognize that He is ultimately in control because He has the greatest authority and power. This is not to make a trite or bumper-sticker theology kind of statement. It is a recognition that God is the One who oversees, sets the limits, and brings all things to Himself in the end. I’ve seen some argue that we should not say that God is in control because that would mean He is responsible for evil. This misses the bigger picture. It does not mean that God is to be blamed for evil or that God makes evil things happen against His will. He allows these things for a time, but He still sets the boundaries and makes the final determination of when everything comes to judgment. Evil has a day of reckoning under God’s mighty hand. He controls what will happen to all things in His time and in His own way. This is His right by virtue of His sovereignty.
To say that God is in control is not to say that God continually and aggressively asserts that control over every little matter in some micro-managing kind of sense. He can oversee without interjecting Himself in every detail. By analogy, we see that a shepherd in a congregation is to have control of his own household (1 Tim 3:4-5), but that does not imply that he asserts control in a tyrannical way or micromanages everything. Some may have the idea that “control” means manipulating the minutiae of every detail, but that does not fit the biblical evidence about the way God deals with this world.
God is not a tyrant. He gives free will. He allows for variance. He provides for what seems to us to be time and chance (yet, how do we really know what is and isn’t?). Through it all, He maintains control of final outcomes and He can direct events according to His will. To accept His control is to accept His providence, to know that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). Prayer is a recognition that God is able to respond decisively because He has the final authority. He determines what will and will not be.
What is the alternative? Shall we say that God is NOT in control? That God is not able to take care of matters according to His will? That God is at the mercy of some other force and has no power over chance or fate? Is this the kind of god we are willing to accept? Where, then, will our faith be? A god who is not in control is not the God who created all things and upholds all things by the word of His power (cf. Heb 1:1-3).
We do not fully understand the wisdom, knowledge, and power of God. But it is not our “end of the stick” to be whittling away at what is fully in God’s jurisdiction. He is able to do far more abundantly beyond what we can even think (Eph 3:20). We need to learn to trust Him.
Let us say with Paul, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Tim 1:17)