The Sovereignty of God in the Lives of His People

The following article is an excerpt from "A Book of Bible Study"

by Joseph F. Harwood.


To download the book in PDF format, visit our home page at


From Proverbs 21:1 we learn that God controls the intents and the actions of men, even rulers of the earth. And previously, we considered a few examples from the Scriptures, where God intervened in the lives of Pharaoh, Sennacherib, and Sihon to accomplish His sovereign purpose through them. These men were kings of the ancient world whom God hardened against His will so that He might display His power by prevailing against them. 


Just as God intervenes in the lives of unbelievers in order to accomplish His plan and purpose, He also works in the lives of His people in order to accomplish His sovereign plan and purpose. His purpose for our lives always includes conforming us to the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), and it also includes a particular place of service that He has ordained has for each of us individually. 


Paul exhorted us in Philippians: “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13, emphasis added). 


When Paul exhorted us to continue to “work out” our salvation in a reverential fear of God, he was not implying that our salvation is in any way earned by works that we do, because as we can recall from Ephesians 2, Paul wrote: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul then continued, expressing the sovereignty of God in the lives of His people when he wrote: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, emphasis added). 


The lesson from Philippians 2:13 and Ephesians 2:10 is that each of us as believers was created in Christ Jesus to do good works, and God Himself has decided in advance just what those good works and places of service will be in each of our lives individually. As God fulfills His plan for each of us, He works in our lives to motivate us to will and to work for His good pleasure”.  


According to Philippians 2:13, God is working in our lives to make us willing, and to indeed make us act  in accordance with His plan and purpose for each of us individually, as it fits into His sovereign will, plan, and purpose for His creation as a whole. The good works that we will do in His service, which God has prepared beforehand for each of us, will bear fruit to His glory. 


The good works that God has ordained for each of us always include obedience to His word as revealed in the Scriptures. These good works also include obedience to His directive when the time comes that He reveals to us some special work or place of service that He has assigned for us. These special works, assignments, or places of service will most likely be consistent with a spiritual gift that He has given to us in order to edify the body of Christ (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11). As we have seen before, preparation for a special work or task that God has assigned for us may take years, or even decades, as is evident from the lives and experiences of both Joseph and Moses as recorded in the Scriptures. 


Believers who are young in the faith and have no idea whether God has any special work for them to do should not be too concerned about these things. God will reveal to all of us in His time what gifts He has given to us, and how we are to serve Him. Instead, those who are young in the faith should focus their efforts as Peter taught when he said: “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” (1 Peter 2:1-3). 


Teaching along these same lines in Romans 12:1-2, Paul wrote that we should offer ourselves as a “living and holy sacrifice” to God. Practically speaking, this means that we are to yield ourselves in obedience to all that we know God requires of us. Paul then continued, teaching that we should no longer be conformed to the ways of the world and the thinking of unregenerate men, but we should be “transformed” by renewing our minds.


This transformation is a process that moves forward as we learn more of the word of God through our study of the Bible, and as we are obedient to what we have learned. Through this process of transformation, we grow in our faith, and we will be able to understand what God’s will is. God’s will for all believers is revealed to us through His word. His will for each of us individually is revealed as the events and circumstances of our lives unfold, and all of these events and circumstances have been ordained for us by our sovereign God. 


Abstaining from evil and renewing our minds by being actively involved in the study of God’s word is something that all of us as believers should be endeavoring to do throughout our lives, but we should also understand that the time will come when we are no longer “newborn babies”, as Peter said. In God’s time we will all be called upon to exercise our spiritual gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ, serving God in the place and capacity that He has assigned for each of us.



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