God is predictable.
He is predictably good. His character never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His love is something I can depend upon. His gifts and callings are without repentance. He gave His Son to save my soul, and calls "whosoever will" to accept His gift. He has never repented of His plan, nor will He renege on His promise to give everlasting life to all who respond to His call. Praise God for grace through faith by which we are saved!
God is predictable. He is predictably holy. His character never changes. He is the same ... yesterday, today, and forever. His hatred of sin makes judgment as certain as sunrise. He is coming again, and His rewards are with Him. To those who accept His Son, He gives everlasting life. To those who reject His Son, He consigns to everlasting punishment. It is as simple and sure as that! You can depend on it!
But I have a question. If God is so predictable, does that mean that He is no longer sovereign? If God is so predictable, does that mean that He is bound by the laws of nature and faith, and must respond to both in every instance? Is there a "natural law" formula that is so fixed that even the Creator himself must abide by it? Is there a "faith" formula so absolute that it guarantees that God will respond automatically to it? Is God a Coke machine that, if you put in your two quarters, you can predict a drink in your hand? Is there no will of a sovereign God that is independent of both nature and faith?
God is a God of nature.
He made its laws, and He works by them ... predictably. Thank God, He does! I can go to bed at night confident that the sun will rise in the morning. But does that mean that God is bound by the laws of nature? Does that mean that the account of the long day in the book of Joshua is untrue? Does that mean that faith cannot ask God to set aside the law of nature and stop the dread cancer in my body?
You see, faith is that without which it is impossible to please God. It sets aside the course of nature, and invites a sovereign God to intervene in times of predictable disaster. Faith makes possible the "turn around" of a life that is being swept inexorably downstream, and, against the current of sin and death, and makes it go supernaturally upstream to everlasting life! Faith breaks the "rules" of nature. In response to faith, God sets aside the natural and does the supernatural. He does so because He is sovereign. He made the laws of nature, and, because He made them, He can also set them aside in response to faith.
But does this mean that faith shackles the sovereignty of God? Does this mean that faith makes God a servant? Does this mean that the "word of faith" controls the "Word of God"? Never!
The laws of nature take the uncertainty out of life. Mountains that were outside our window when we went to bed, will be there when we wake. We can depend upon it. God honors his own laws and makes life predictable. Can you imagine what life would be like if this were not true? Life would be chaotic ... complete chaos!
However, we can thank God for faith. Nature can be relentless and grim. Without faith there would be no exceptions ... no possibility of changing the "inevitable." Life would be predictably hopeless. Nature would run its course. Death could not be delayed. There would be no supernatural... no miracles ... and nature, instead of God, would be supreme. God would be the servant of nature. But, thank God, faith changes all that. Mountains can be moved. A hell-bent world can be saved. A dying man can be raised to life. A suffering saint can be healed. The laws of nature can be set aside ... by faith!
But what makes possible the setting aside of the laws of nature? What makes possible supernatural answers to the prayer of faith? Is it not the sovereignty of God? Is it not because God wills it to be so? God does not set aside His laws of nature unless it serves His purpose. Neither will He respond to faith unless that faith is in keeping with His will. God cannot be coerced! Neither can His arm be twisted ... even by faith!
How important it is, then, to know the will of God! How important it is to add the words, "If it be Thy will," to our askings! Some say, "Oh, I couldn't do that. It would indicate a lack of faith!" Wrong! Rather, it would indicate a willingness to trust God to know what is best for us. It would mean that the answer to our prayer is less important to us than is the will of God! God is predictably good. God is predictably compassionate. God is predictably wise. But He is also predictably sovereign. He has a will. He has a purpose. He is not an impersonal "force" or "energy" to be manipulated by a faith formula! He is a personal loving God. Why are we so reluctant to say, "If it be thy will?" Can't we trust Him?
Another reason to add "if it be thy will" to our praying is because we are not very good at asking. We confuse our will with the will of God, and we expect our faith to overcome a reluctance on God's part. We see God in an adversarial role, and we seek a faith formula that will assure us of a positive answer despite His declared will. We do this because we are pursuing our own will and do not trust the Holy Spirit, who knows what the will of God is, to pray for us!
And what is the will of God?
It is God's predestined will that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9; Ephesians 1:5). It is God's predestined will that every believer be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Both nature and faith must serve these predestined purposes. When they do not, our sovereign God reserves the right to superimpose His will on them.
Natural law is the "rule" that glorifies a predictable omnipotent God. But when, by omniscient wisdom, intervention serves His divine purpose, our sovereign Creator sets aside His "rule" and supernaturally "overrules"! Again, with the same rationale, we can say that divine intervention is the "rule" that glorifies a predictable omnipotent God. He has promised that all things are possible to them that believe. However, when, by omniscient wisdom, non-intervention serves His divine purpose, our sovereign Lord sets aside His "rule," and "overrules" His law of faith in favor of His will!
Let me illustrate.
A child is infected with AIDS due to an unsterile needle. Natural law says he will die. Faith asks the God of natural law for an exception. God answers. The child is healed.
Again, the apostle Paul has an affliction. The law of faith says he can be healed.
Paul asks three times for deliverance. God lets nature take its course. Paul is not healed.
In both cases the sovereignty of God was manifested, and His will was done. The child's healing glorified God, and Paul's non-healing kept Paul humble and dependent upon God ... which was obviously more in line with God's purpose for Paul than was his healing!
One more illustration. A believer is called to leave father and mother, home and country to preach the gospel to those who have never heard. Faith says, "Ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you." The believer acts on this promise and prays for the burden to be lifted so as to allow him to stay home and enjoy a lifestyle such as his colleagues have. His faith for staying home does not work in this case. The will of our sovereign God takes precedence over the "promise claiming" that asked for something that was not God's will!
What, then, is the significance of sovereignty? It is this: "If we ask anything according to His will, He will do it." In this, God is predictable. The key to answered prayer is knowing God's will. And what is His will?
It is God's will to save "whosoever will"!
It is God's will to bring "whosoever will" into conformity to the image of His Son.
Note that the will of man is active in the sovereignty of God. God will not save a man who "will not." God will not make Christlike a man who "will not." But for "whosoever will" ... it is predictable that our sovereign God will give what we ask! And He will set aside the laws of nature and turn a deaf ear to selfish seeking in order to do so!