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God’s Sovereignty Doesn’t Excuse My Lazy

4 friends sitting near trees - God's sovereignty doesn't excuse my lazy
God’s in control, but I still play a part in His plans for me.

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“Bad news, guys; there’s no soap.”

I step toward the sink to assist.

“You sure?”

I give the soap dispenser a good pump and my hand fills with foam. I raise an eyebrow as my friend erupts with embarrassed laughter.

“…did you think it was automatic?”

Now we’re both dying as I picture her waving her hand under the manual dispenser in anticipation of the soap that never comes.

I continue aloud, “Why is this so reminiscent of my spiritual life?” (Quite the question to ask while doubled over in a public restroom.) “I’m out here waving my hand saying, ‘God, where’s the soap?’ and He’s telling me, ‘Olivia, it’s a manual dispenser — you’ve gotta pump it.’”

Excuses, excuses

I am thankful for a God who is in control. One whose power is beyond my understanding. But it doesn’t take long for God’s sovereignty to move from a comfort to an excuse. Do any of these people sound familiar? The one who:

  • complains about lack of community but never invites anyone over
  • laments being single but won’t actively meet people their age
  • gripes about their job but never submits a resume
  • whines about living with their parents but won’t consider a roommate
  • is discontent with their distance from God but doesn’t open His Word or pray
  • is tired but stays up late on social media or binge-watching TV
  • is perpetually too busy but won’t say no to anything

You get the point. The truth is, we’ve all been one or two of these people. We maybe still are one.

Somewhere along the line I think we mistakenly decided that trusting God always means sitting still. And while I believe there are seasons where the boldest thing we can do is wait, I also believe God calls us to risk our comfort and reputation for Him. I think we often don’t pursue the (God-given) desires of our heart because we’re afraid of disappointment. Or we think we know better how to get them (and why doesn’t God agree?).

Maybe we’re just afraid God will look bad if He doesn’t come through for us in the way we expect. But since when are we God’s public relations agents? He can handle His own reputation. He just wants our hearts. Our obedience. Our complete dependence. Perhaps the ache you feel is God’s way of leading you to action.

God’s plans and our actions

You may be saying, “Here we go…another ‘God helps those who help themselves’ motivational speech.” But an active faith is about surrender, not control. God isn’t a vending machine. It’s not like you put in a dollar’s worth of effort, press the right buttons, and poof! — your desired outcome.

Before we can take action, we need to understand that in our own strength we are powerless:

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep (Ps. 127:1-2).

Friend, the sovereignty of God is freeing! Let’s not miss His heart in this. He invites us to rest in Him. It is because of His tender care that we can lay our burdens at His feet and both work and rest for His glory.

But it’s a both/and at play, isn’t it? Notice how God works through our actions. 

Who is building the house? Is God building the house? Yes. Are the builders building it? Yes.

Who is watching the city? God? Yes. The watchman? Yes.

We see a similar illustration in Nehemiah 4:15-18 when the workers trusted God to protect them from their enemies as they rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem; yet they held a weapon in one hand while working with the other. Recognizing that their ultimate deliverance was completely dependent on God’s protection, they still took steps toward ensuring their safety.

There’s a mystery here that we don’t have time to fully unpack, but God’s plans and our actions play out in a beautiful dance of faith resulting in the building of our character, changing of our desires, accomplishing His will on earth — all as we’re on an adventurous journey together. The risk of sitting on the sidelines isn’t being kept from what we want — though inertia can certainly result in empty-handedness — but it’s missing out on the fullness of life with Christ. If we keep our focus on seeking God’s kingdom, He’ll take care of all the lesser things along the way. God is for us, and He sees us and knows our hearts. And even if life doesn’t shake out exactly the way we hoped, we can anchor in the confidence that in Him we have all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

The benefits of walking by faith

Essentially, God’s sovereignty frees us to be good stewards of our time, money, relationships and talents without sweating the outcomes. Contrary to what the world says, our destiny doesn’t rest on our shoulders. Anxiety dies and boldness is born when we realize that for the believer, nothing is in vain. Whether we fail or succeed, walking by faith always pulls us to deeper intimacy with the Father. This intimacy gives us the courage to reject sin and access the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians should be the boldest of all people, living with this confidence:

…for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them (Acts 5:38b-39a).

A couple of years ago I had the chance to learn this firsthand. God brought to my attention the opportunity to intern at Focus on the Family, and I felt it would be the perfect next step for me. I applied for three different internships and was rejected without even an interview. Yikes.

Over the following week, the story of Jacob wrestling with God crossed my path five times. God used the passage to challenge me toward persistence in a few specific areas. I felt prompted to call the internship coordinator and ask how I could better position myself for opportunities like this in the future. I learned a valuable lesson about cover letters and resumes that day. After a few edits, I was put back in the running for all three positions. It was wild! I had a round of interviews and then a second round of rejections. But this time it didn’t sting as badly. I knew I had done what I could, but God was not opening the door; instead, He was teaching me about surrender and redirection. I applied to work at a ministry in the national parks. Days before accepting a position at Glacier NP, Focus on the Family reached out with another position they thought matched my skillset. In a whirlwind of events, I accepted it.

We’re so quick to say, “God closed the door.” And sometimes that’s exactly what happens. But other times, God is asking for persistence. Rather than giving up, it often requires more faith to put ourselves on the line and pursue a desired outcome knowing we could be publicly disappointed, but trusting God enough to leave the results in His hands. 

Trust God and move forward

In every area of life, God promises we will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13). Remember, God wants us to know His will. He’s not out to trick us or hide from us. He is so incredibly personal, and He will make His way clear to us — but sometimes He does so as we move forward in faith. As a friend of mine says, “It’s easier to steer a moving car.”

That said, there are many times God asks us to wait and be still before Him even when it seemingly doesn’t make sense. This call is all over the Bible! But be willing to consider: Is your stillness motivated by laziness and fear, or faith and wholehearted trust?

In the meantime, if you’re feeling lonely, invite people over for dinner. If your job is draining you of joy, consider that the ache might be there to lead you elsewhere. Spend some time dreaming with God. Maybe He’ll ask you for stillness and faithfulness.  But maybe He’ll prompt you to apply for a job that lands you a new career — or a character-building rejection.

Either way, trust that God is bigger than your fear and disappointment. Maybe He wants to teach you to trust Him when you’re doing all the right things and change still doesn’t come. Or maybe He wants to bring change — and He’s been waiting for you to notice.

Copyright 2024 Olivia Feller. All rights reserved. 

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About the Author

Olivia Feller

Olivia Feller is a recent Purdue grad with a head full of big dreams and heart full of whimsy. She can most likely be found booking her next plane ticket, sunset paddleboarding, or playing spoons like her life depends on it. A native of the flatlands of Indiana, she adored exploring Colorado during her internship with Focus on the Family and is thrilled to be traveling with another ministry in the coming season. She is passionate about travel, interior design, and sharing the hope of Jesus, especially to those with chronic pain.

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