When you first come across the theology of God’s absolute sovereignty over all things—it’s like you see the world through new eyes. Every page of Scripture, as you turn it, it’s as if the truth of the bigness of God leaps off the pages. Soon enough, you find yourself digging deeper and deeper into God’s Word, talking with friends, listening intently to the preaching, reading books, and enjoying God in a way that you haven’t in years past.
It’s one thing to think about the sovereignty of God in salvation and the absolute sovereignty of God in creation from an academic perspective or from a Bible study perspective—but what happens when the doctor walks into the room and diagnoses you with cancer? What happens when you receive the unexpected phone call informing you that your loved one has just passed away? Suddenly, it’s time to employ that theology into action in your life. It’s there in the pain of tragedy that you realize the value of such a big God theology in ways that mere academics cannot compare.
The Labor of Application
Applying the Bible is not the job of the pastor only. The labor of application is something that every believer must engage in on a regular basis. When the congregation is listening to the sermon, there must be active participation taking place by everyone in the room as each individual seeks to take the truth and apply it to their own life.
Imagine the pastor preaching through a passage and is driving home the sovereignty of God—and he describes the omnipotence of God by looking at snapshots of Scriptures throughout the Bible. One young man is seated near the front who attends a local college. It’s his first semester as a college student and he has many fears and insecurities he’s working through. He feels unbelievably small as he walks onto the large and expansive campus, smells the books as he walks into the library, and sits in the large lecture hall to hear one of his professors teach a couple of hundred students.
On the other side of the church, a seventy-nine year old man is contemplating the recent diagnosis of cancer and his treatment options. Both individuals are at different stages of life, yet both of these men are facing challenges. It’s the same Word of God being presented to both, yet they labor and engage in the sermon to apply the grand truth to their own personal situation in order to find refuge in their big God.
While the pastor may provide a couple of general application statements, it’s the responsibility of the individuals in the congregation to hear the Word, work to understand the text, and then connect the dots from the ancient context to their present situation in order to apply the truth to their own personal life. Far too often people sit back and ask the pastor to spoon feed them while missing the point of a sermon altogether. There must be engagement and involvement and personal labor in the proper hearing of a sermon.
The Comfort of God’s Sovereignty
David declared in Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” All through the Bible, we find bold statements about our big God.
It was Martin Luther, who in the midst of a dangerous season of persecution was kidnapped by his friends after his famous stand at Worms and was taken to the Wartburg Castle. While in hiding, in the safety of the structure, he translated the Bible into the German language. He worked at the relentless speed of 1,500 words per day.
During 1527, a dark time swept over Luther’s life—both spiritually and physically. He was physically sick due to the pressures of ministry and the battle of the Reformation. He battled spells of dizziness and fainted often. He felt as if he was going to die. But then, God brought him through it.
Soon the Black Plague swept through Germany killing many people. It was so bad – many people would flee for their own safety. Luther stayed and turned his home into a place of refuge—a makeshift hospital. During this crisis, his son almost died.
It was with this backdrop that Luther penned the words to “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” which is one of the most famous hymns in the history of the church. As he faced the plague, looked at the black death surrounding him, and contemplated the frailty of his own life (and the lives of his family)—he thought about the walls of the castle and how he once found refuge. Then he considered the words of Psalm 46 and applied the grand truths of God’s sovereignty to his dark situation.
A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
No matter what you face today as you journey through this world with devils filled who threaten to undo you—you can walk with confidence that your God is big. “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). No matter what trial you face or what challenge is presented before you, remember to lean on the theology of the Bible and find comfort and peace that passes all understanding in the God who is big, strong, and serves as our Rock and our Refuge! If God is for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)?
Psalm 46:1–3; 6-7 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,  though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah…The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah