(Photo taken by Erik Johansson)

Written by Lauren McDermott


The Sovereignty of God

We sat in a stunned silence.

It wasn’t just on-edge due to her tone, or even her hard words, per se. As we floated in the space between her declaration and our response, I know we all wondered what would come next. Who would reply first? Should we give up? Run home?

Let me explain. Cyrus and I had met that night in the Freshman Dorm (or, residence hall, as school marketing prefers) to invite others to kick off a brand new Bible study with us. It’s one of the big ways we do ministry at UoP—small groups that go deep and challenge people to explore faith for themselves. It’s a gift we take for granted, I think, that we can openly read Scripture just about anywhere we want, with whoever we want. Especially those who might never wander into a church of their own volition.

As the six of us sat that night on those sand-colored couches, we gathered around Luke 14:25-35. Jesus told us to count the cost: that following him was not a light decision. And just as we were getting into the Real Questions, she rolled up.

The Resident Assistant, wearing her embossed University uniform, came to a stop behind one of the couches. There were a lot of words, but they all essentially amounted the following exchange: ;You’re not allowed to meet here,’ she began, voice quavering.
‘But these students live here. Students who live here can gather in this space?’ we hedged.
‘No, you’re not allowed to meet here. For Bible study.’ Her hands were on her hips, and her voice was slowly coming undone.

Back to where we started. As it turns out, I was the first one to reply. “I understand,” I said, putting as much peace into my voice as possible. Blessed are the peacemakers. “We were almost finished. Can we pray before we leave?”
By the grace of God, she allowed this small thing. Or large thing—it depends on your perspective.

As we walked out, Cyrus and I had a choice to make. The highest ranking authority in a campus dorm had told us we were not welcome. In the time between her confrontation and walking out, other students had already received emails from the Resident Director demanding a meeting. So what would become of the Bible study?

When we talk about God’s sovereignty, it can often feel ethereal. Whether it’s because we don’t actually know what it’s like to live under a king, or because we are often distracted from the business of the kingdom, I’m not sure. But I know that it’s always been easy to proclaim and harder to actually pin down.

By contrast, the Acts church members have a firm grasp. The scene from our passage this week seems grim. The local authorities have brought down the law, imprisoning leaders of the church in an attempt to scare the new believers into defeat. Silence their good news.

But what does the church do? Verse 31 reports: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

I could spend an hour on this sentence. All of them—ALL—continue! Not just their brave leaders, or those with nothing to lose, but all of them. God himself is with them in the person of the Holy Spirit, and they are propelled to continue with incredible boldness!

These believers live in light of a truth we easily forget: we live in a global kingdom, contained by no human border or power, which is ruled by the truly good and supreme King himself. Jesus. This is what we mean when we say with simplicity that our God is “Sovereign.” If the King says to go, do we stop at the word of a mere foot soldier?

Cyrus and I had a choice to make. In some ways, it wasn’t at all like the Acts church—no one was threatening us with imprisonment or pain. But in other ways, it was very much the same. The opposition of authority always has consequences, and in the highly social environment of a small private college, it can be costly to make waves.

‘Cyrus,’ I said quietly, as we stood on the sidewalk outside the building. ‘I know that was hard. But Jesus warned us about this, didn’t he? He said that there would be a cost. I think he’s worth the cost. But you still have to decide. What do you want to do?’

‘We should keep going,’ he said with a nod. ‘The Gospel is definitely worth it.’

And that was it.

We came back every week, despite continued opposition from the authorities there. God has faithfully brought us together with non-believers there who are seeking Jesus. We knew something that night, that I have held onto ever since: We live in a good kingdom, ruled by a good King. What authority can stand against his orders? As it says in Isaiah 49:6b/7b,

“I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.
…Kings shall see and arise;
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;
because of the Lord, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

If this is our Sovereign God’s will that we carry his good news all the way from our neighbors to the end of the earth, then we can trust that it will be accomplished. There’s no need to fear whatever forces try to oppose us—whether humanity, or even death itself. Christ himself proved this on his cross.

We live in a good kingdom, with a good King. Alleluia, God be praised!

He’s with us, family. Let’s live into that reality together with boldness.

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Lauren is a campus missionary on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. As a part of Reality Church Stockton for the past five years, she has served with the Music Ministry and in connecting college students to the local church. In her spare time, she enjoys challenging theological conversation, cats, and psychologically intense movies.