God’s Rule Over the Nations

The sovereignty of God over the nations can at first seem theoretical and remote from our daily lives. In the West, especially, we don’t often consciously feel the actions of government impacting our lives from day to day. The laws of the land, for the most part, are reasonable and favorable to us, and we live each day unconscious of the multitude of laws and governmental decisions that affect us.

For most of the world, however, God’s sovereignty over the ruling powers is a crucial issue. It is commonly said that more Christians were martyred for their faith in the 20th century than during all the rest of church history. Christians are viewed unfavorably in much of the world today and in many countries face outright persecution from hostile governments. The freedom to publicly practice biblical Christianity, taken for granted in most Western countries, is not available to more than half of the world’s population. For Christians living in these countries, the assurance that God rules over the governments that rule over them should give courage and confidence to them in times of harassment and persecution.

The Apostle Paul said, “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. … For [the ruler] is God’s servant to do you good” (Romans 13:1, 4).

Admittedly the statement, “The ruler is God’s servant to do us good,” seems difficult to accept when we see some of our brothers and sisters in Christ persecuted and perhaps killed because of their Christian commitment. We should remember again that God in His infinite wisdom and sovereignty, and for reasons known only to Himself, allows rulers to act contrary to His revealed will. But the evil actions of those rulers against God’s children are never beyond the bounds of His sovereignty. And we should remember that God works in history from an eternal perspective, whereas we tend to view the outworking of history from a temporal perspective.

Paul urges that prayers be made “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2). Prayer is the most tangible expression of trust in God.

If we are to trust God for our persecuted brothers and sisters in other countries, we must be diligent in prayer for their rulers. If we are to trust God when decisions of government in our own country go against our best interests, we must pray for His working in the hearts of those officials and legislators who make those decisions. The truth that the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord is meant to be a stimulus to prayer, not a stimulus to a fatalistic attitude.

God is sovereign over the nations. He is sovereign over the officials of our own government in all their actions as they affect us, directly or indirectly. He is sovereign over the officials of government in lands where our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer for their faith in Him. And He is sovereign over the nations where every attempt is made to stamp out true Christianity. In all of these areas, we can and must trust God. ©2008 Jerry Bridges.

Jerry Bridges, a well-known author, is on staff in the national collegiate office of The Navigators. Adapted from Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, ©1988; 2008 by navpress. (navpress.com.) used by permission. Scripture quotations are taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version, ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.