Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, April 22, 2024

Puppies, Sovereignty, and Children

What do these three have in common? My life today. What does a normal person do when they are getting ready to drive 2 1/2 days home from vacation? Get a puppy! He is an alpha male German Shepherd, and we named him "Brady," the G.O.A.T. But in between the chaotic times (Brady can find bear poop faster than anyone I have ever seen), I have been thinking about how to teach our children about God's sovereignty.

This question was prompted by a sermon Robin listened to. A friend of mine preached a sermon on the sovereignty of God. His point was that this is a doctrine that our children should understand as early as possible. That way, when life happens and bad things come, they will be able to know he is in control and his best is our good. Is this the right emphasis?

On the one hand, I would agree that it’s a central doctrine that our children need to learn at an early age. God is sovereign, meaning that he is King and that he sits in heaven and does what he pleases (Ps 115:3). Our sinful tendency is to make God small and us big. I have watched a lot of young adults walk away from Christ because they are disappointed in him. Their God is too small (with apologies to J.B. Phillips).

On the other hand, if the primary emphasis is on God's sovereignty, God can become viewed as distant, cold, and unresponsive. Our children can start to view him as dispassionate and uninterested in their lives.

This is one reason why I love the combination in the Lord’s Prayer in which we address him as our “Heavenly Father.” He is not our “daddy,” as Josh McDowell used to emphasize. He is our father in heaven, and as such, our children come to recognize his glory and majesty and magnificence and sovereignty. But he is also our father, and our children come to recognize his closeness and love and compassion.

I am somewhat uncomfortable separating the doctrines of God as our heavenly father. I am uncomfortable separating the doctrine of God’s sovereignty from his love. It seems to me that if we can help our children understand that God is a loving father who is supreme over all, then we have a balance they can understand. Both doctrines are equally important, and both are clearly taught in Scripture, and I'm not sure they should be separated from each other as we teach our children about their heavenly father.

Of course, as our children pray to their heavenly father, we adults need to remember that Jesus is our loving Sovereign. He is powerful enough to create all things, sustain all things, and breathe life into his creation. And he is just as loving as he is powerful.

And so we pray to our “heavenly father.”