Embracing God’s Sovereignty in Salvation and Our Role as His Heralds

God has called us to express that we belong to Him by faithfully stewarding what He has entrusted to us.

When we think of God’s sovereignty, we think of God’s “control,” “determination,” “predestination.” But we should also think of God’s “mine.” “Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine,” He declared to Job (Job 41:11). As the sovereign Lord, He has the right to do what He will with the things that are His. Those things include our relationships with unbelieving spouses, children, parents, neighbors, and friends. What relationships in our lives do we need to offer up to the sovereign Lord as “His,” and then treat as a stewardship to be ventured for His glory, not a possession to be controlled for our preferred outcome?

 

The doctrine of God’s sovereignty makes us bold in the face of threats, resolute in the midst of suffering, and hopeful under the weight of disappointment. But the knowledge of His sovereignty does not always produce such confidence in our conversations with unbelievers. Here we tend to feel burdened by fear of saying the wrong thing and puzzlement about the extent of our human role in the midst of His divine plan.

Why this difference? We tend to find refuge in God’s sovereignty when we face things that we know full well are out of our control—a diagnosis, a disaster, a distress, or a death. On the other hand, we tend to cling to control—or the illusion of control—in our relationships. We think that if we do or say this or that, we can reasonably predict how other people will react and how their reactions will affect our relationship. Since we know what kind of relationship we want to have with them, we do our best to steer things toward that desired end. This illusion of control drains the boldness from our witness—the boldness that the doctrine of God’s sovereignty otherwise provides.

Years ago, I made friends with my trainer at the gym. We were different as could be. I was a white, sixth-generation American; he was a dark-skinned immigrant from East Africa. I had “the arms of a thinking man”; he was a hulking heavyweight bodybuilding champion. I was single; he was on his second marriage and had three young children. I was a Christian; he was not. But I wanted to see him come to know Christ.

Deep down, I also wanted something else—I wanted him to like me. And that was the rub. My desire for him to know Christ often collided with my desire for him to like me. I thought I could manage these two desires, but in truth I had to choose between them.

I don’t remember when exactly it happened, but I do remember finally surrendering this relationship to the Lord. I prayed: “Lord, I cannot save this man, nor do I have any right to a friendship with him. Help me to be free when I’m with him and leave the results to you.” As a result, I began to say things to him about Christ without hesitation as he led me from machine to machine at the gym, not in a forced but in a natural way—I was finally OK with “losing” this relationship, and that made all the difference. He came to know and trust Christ months later. The Lord did it.

One of the parables that helps us think about witnessing is the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30). The master entrusts talents to his stewards. At no point do the stewards possess the talents; the talents are from beginning to end the sole possession of the master. Two stewards venture the master’s talents in investing. One steward does not venture the talent but protects it, thus forfeiting the prospect of gain and coming under the master’s condemnation.

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