God’s Sovereignty over Our Lives, Even Today?

  • Jeff Crotts
Man standing next to a waterfall with his arms out wide

J.I. Packer, a British-born Canadian Christian theologian, was born in 1926.  This means Dr. Packer is 94 years old.  One of the most influential evangelicals from North America; he is someone you probably know of and esteem. 

He is best known for his masterpiece, Knowing God first published in 1973.  If you have not yet read it, consider this book, core curriculum for Christian growth.    

As a young man and new Christian, I attended a Christian college, which landed me in the first-year Bible.  Speaking for myself and fellow classmates, early on, we all had a mental block (and heart block, truth be told) to fully embracing God’s Sovereignty over life.  The debate was on: God’s sovereignty versus human responsibility.  Since God thought everything up and runs everything, how and why am I responsible for anything?    

Especially in terms of someone’s salvation, “How does someone become saved in the first place?”  I know I was responsible to first repent and believe for God to save me.  Which came first the proverbial chicken or the egg? 

Not long into my quest to square all of this (as if I could) an associate pastor handed me a copy of a book called, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.  Author?  J.I. Packer.  This slender book came from lectures he gave to college students gathered in London for a pre-Missions Conference.  Students and faculty came together under the Inter-Varsity Fellowship, to raise a banner for missions.  It was October 24, 1959, and Packer took us the theme of God’s sovereignty and evangelism.  I say, apropos.    

This backstory is why this book reads with a mission’s conference voice.  The right tone for such a polarizing topic.  This very tone is what diffuses the suspicion that holding to God’s sovereignty undermines evangelism zeal. 

Packer’s book proves it does not.  I guess you have to read his book to see if you agree (hint, hint).  It has been 29 years since I first read it.  I was 19 and taken in by the first page.  Kneeling down by my bed I began reading chapter one, Divine Sovereignty

“Books do not change you, paragraphs and sentences do” [Piper]. 

Here is a paragraph that did change me.

I do not intend to spend any time at all proving to you the

general truth that God is sovereign in his world. There is no

need; for I know that, if you are a Christian, you believe this

already. How do I know that? Because I know that, if you are

a Christian, you pray, and the recognition of God’s sovereignty

is the basis of your prayers. In prayer, you ask for things and

give thanks for things. Why? Because you recognize that God

is the author and source of all the good that you have had already,

and all the good that you hope for in the future. This is

the fundamental philosophy of Christian prayer. The prayer of

a Christian is not an attempt to force God’s hand, but a humble

acknowledgment of helplessness and dependence. When we

are on our knees, we know that it is not we who control the

world; it is not in our power, therefore, to supply our needs by

our own independent efforts; every good thing that we desire

for ourselves and for others must be sought from God, and

will come, if it comes at all, as a gift from his hands. If this is

true even of our daily bread (and the Lord’s Prayer teaches us

that it is), much more is it true of spiritual benefits. This is all

luminously clear to us when we are actually praying, whatever

we may be betrayed into saying in argument afterward. In effect,

therefore, what we do every time we pray is to confess our

own impotence and God’s sovereignty. The very fact that a

Christian prays is thus proof positive that he believes in the

lordship of his God.

Packer explains this high doctrine by relating to our personal experience in prayer.  Reading this page was my tipping point to fully embrace God’s sovereignty. 

Though times are in flux and these days may seem a bit brighter, they are still injected with a twinge of daily stress.  Circumstances may not be exactly what you may want after this past year; however, I encourage you to remember that your God is sovereign. God being sovereign, is exactly why we pray for help.  Help God readily gives.