Most people can accept that God is sovereign over everything, the casting of lots, the waves, the movement of the weather, the stars, the winds, even every hair and when I die.
But what about the actions of men? Is God sovereign over those? The Bible says yes -
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.In the middle of Paul's one sentence doxology on the grace of God in saving us (Ephesians 1:3-14), he includes this line.
We have obtained an inheritance in Christ. How did this happen? We were predestined to it. What does predestined mean? It means that the end, the destiny (of the inheritance) was determined. It was planned. Were we predestined according to God's foreknowledge of our actions? No, we were predestined according to God's purpose. His plan is the determining factor.
Not only so, but Paul describes this God who predestines according to His purpose: [he] works all things according to the counsel of his will. How many restrictions are upon the word "all" here? And who works all things according to His counsel? Where is free will here?
Romans 11:36 is another one (as Colossians 1:16)
36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.From God, through God, and to him, are all things. Same thing. We existed from God. But He's not a God who has released His hand, but we act through God. To what purpose? To His glory.
And a fuller passage, still a doxology -
34At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,Nebuchadnezzar, a king, realizes that it's really not him who is ruling the kingdom, but it's God. (v.34) And God has reigned, is reigning, and will reign, forever, no matter who is on the throne of Babylon.
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, "What have you done?"
But what does that mean?
v.35 - God does according to his will in heaven and on earth. None can complain, none can question.
What about the "will" of men? Does God look down the hallway of time in order to see what I'm going to do and then go and do that? No, "all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing," my wills, my desires, your wills, your desires, counted as nothing compared to the King of the earth.
Finally, the reason why this is such a source of hope for us -
28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,
Why can Paul make such a broad promise? That, all things work together for good. He doesn't only say that "all things end up for good," but he says that "all things work together," actively. And why is this a promise? Because it is the underlying assumption that God's hand is behind every molecule, every thought, so that they work together for good.
This is what allows Joseph to say to his brothers, "you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20). The "it" in "God meant it" is feminine, and the only other feminine noun here is "evil" (ra-ah). God meant that evil (their sin), for good.
So when we face trials, tribulations, evils, and struggles, we can be confident that the Lord sits enthroned in heaven, unsurprised. He knew this was coming, He planned it before the foundation of the world. It acts according to His good purposes for His glory and our good.
All things, for good.