God made humanity in such a way that we are responsible for our actions (we are not pre-programmed robots). What we do each day has real consequences. For example, if I choose to run a red light, there's a good chance I will get a much-deserved ticket.
In a way that is at least somewhat difficult for most of us to understand (myself included), God's sovereignty goes hand-in-hand with man's responsibility. This is the manner in which God designed it. These two truths may seem like opposites to us, but they are not. The fault is with our limited minds, not with God's design.
Sometimes God overrides man's plans with his own sovereign goals. Actually, this happens all the time, but we likely are not aware of it. When we look in the bible we see it again and again. For example, Abraham tried to come up with his own offspring (Ishmael), but God intervened with Isaac. Later, Pharaoh attempted to kill the Hebrews, but God freed them and then drowned the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. King Saul attempted to murder David repeatedly, but God stopped him every time. Later, the Babylonians took most of the Israelites away from Jerusalem and into captivity. God intervened by using the Persians of all people to enable the restoration of the temple.
In God's ultimate act of sovereignty, he directed the execution of his son to bring about salvation for humanity. While the religious leaders just wanted Jesus dead (as did Satan), the Father directed the actions to bring about redemption for his people. God was ultimately in charge. Peter said the following at Pentecost in Acts 2:23-24, "...this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it."
God is sovereign.
In light of his sovereignty I have trouble in my mind reconciling the impotency of his church. I'm referring specifically here to today's church in the West. Due in large part to man's traditions, the church does little more today than perpetuate itself (and it's not even very good at that). The entrenched professional pastors, worship services, and expensive church buildings have done much to stifle the vibrancy and life of the saved. Each Sunday millions of Christians attend a religious ceremony (or two) in order to hear a religious expert give a lecture. Most of these believers see this as the most important part of their religious week. Ugh.
Quite honestly, I just don't understand it. Why would sovereign God allow his church to become so impotent? Part of the answer to this question certainly has to do with man's responsibility for his own actions. We know, for example, that the church in Laodicea had all sorts of problems. And yet, God has a history of overriding man's sinfulness to accomplish his own goals and desires. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Despite this, it often seems like the "gates of hell" are prevailing against the church. I have a deep desire to see a church here in the West that stands for truth, loves the poor and needy, shares the gospel unashamedly, and lives holy lives that stand out to the world. Instead we see a church that looks largely like the world and generally does little of significance.
Why would God allow this to happen? I do not understand.