“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases”
When was the last time you thanked God simply for being able? I can’t imagine anything more disheartening and depressing than believing in a God who lacks the power to fulfill his purposes, whose energy wanes in the heat of battle or whose strength diminishes in a moment of crisis. Good intentions notwithstanding, if God can’t carry out his plans and can’t fulfill his goals and can’t keep his promises, I’m not sure I want anything to do with him.
The apostle Paul consistently celebrated the ability of God and his limitless power to act on behalf of his people. Typical is this doxology in his letter to the Ephesians:
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).
Or again, in his letter to the Romans:
There’s one more in the book of Jude:
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).
Our God is ABLE! Unlike the pathetic impotence of the false deities excoriated in Psalm 115:4-8, our God is limitless in strength, unending in power, omni-competent in all things. He is, declares the psalmist (v. 3), “in the heavens.” Indeed, “he does all that he pleases!”
Let’s unpack that statement for a moment, giving due weight to the implications of each word and phrase.
First, our God, the only God, is in the heavens! In other words, he is transcendent over all, supreme in majesty, unparalleled in splendor. He rules over the earth, sovereign and supreme in all its affairs.
Second, our God, the only God, does! Again, unlike the lifeless idols who lack life and power and energy, our God, the only God, is active and involved in all that he has made. He is not passive or idle. Our God is immediately and intimately engaged in all of life. Not so much as a sparrow falls to the ground, said Jesus, apart from the will of our heavenly Father.
Third, our God, the only God, does all that he pleases! He will not fail to accomplish one thing he purposes to do. Whatever he plans, he fulfills. If it is in the heart of God to attain a goal, he will utilize every essential means thereto and bring it to pass. If God has decreed, will it not come to pass? If God has purposed, will he not pursue it to its proper consummation. Yes, indeed, he will!
Fourth, God does what he pleases! He is free in his sovereignty. He is not conditioned or controlled by anyone or anything outside himself. I’m thrilled and relieved to know that God will only do what I please when it is pleasing to him. My aim in life and in my prayers of intercession is not to bend his will to my good pleasure but to shape and fashion my will to his.
Fifth, and finally, God does what he pleases! You need not fear what he does, for all he does is an expression or reflection of his good pleasure, which is to say, an expression of his moral character. God’s sovereignty is not casual, flippant, arbitrary, or ill-advised. God’s pleasure is the fountain and standard of God’s purpose.
So celebrate with me the God who is able! Let us labor to fill our minds with the revelation of a God who is both mighty and merciful, a God who is both gracious and great, a God who not only intends to do good things for his people but is infinitely strong and capable and powerful enough to pull it off.
My prayer is that you (and I) be stunned with the majesty of this God, that you be left breathless in his presence, dazzled by his strength, trembling in your spirit because you’ve seen something of this God who works tirelessly and relentlessly on behalf of those who trust in him.
And why is this important? I’ll mention only three reasons, although countless others could be cited.
(1) Your spiritual growth is governed by the greatness of your God. If your God is small, you will be too. If his power is limited, so is yours. It’s important that we know and celebrate the God who is able because your spiritual maturity and conformity to the likeness of Jesus himself will always be in proportion to the greatness of the God you know. Those who worship a diminutive deity will forever remain spiritual pygmies.
Henry Scougal once said that “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love” (The Life of God in the Soul of Man, 62). If you want to learn what’s most important about a person, take note of what’s most important to that person. What do they most admire? Whom do they most cherish? What monopolizes their time and energy? If our God, the only God, the God who is able is the one for whom we seek, to whom we are passionately devoted, in whom we have invested our lives, the “excellency” of our souls will be known by all.
(2) According to Daniel 11:32, “the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” The knowledge of this God who is able empowers the soul, energizes the heart, strengthens the will, exalts the mind, inflames the spirit, and moves our hands in ministry and mercy to others. Ignorance, on the other hand, immobilizes.
(3) Finally, and most important of all, this is what you were created for! We exist not simply to think about God or to sing about God or to obey God or to fear God but to glorify him by enjoying and rejoicing in him forever. But your delight in God will only be as deep and intense as your knowledge is accurate. You cannot enjoy someone you don’t know.
So, if your doubts and fears are fueled by skepticism concerning God’s ability to pull off what he has promised, I encourage you again to meditate on this glorious revelation: unlike every idol, over against the best intentions of men and women, “our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases!”