It’s overwhelming to think about the all-knowing and all-powerful nature of God. It makes you wonder just how much control we really have over our lives since God already knows everything that will ever happen. Does that mean that my choices are already scripted? Do the choices I make really direct my life? Are we merely characters in God’s book or has he just already read our story?
These are tough questions. Even when we look at scripture the answers are not clear. Our exercise of free will through choice was evident in the first sin, and in every sin that followed. Our selfish nature tempts us to sin, and sin is nothing less than disobedience to God.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.James 1:13-16
Biblical prophecy, however, shows us that God has a clear plan that he will fulfill and God’s plan cannot be thwarted by anyone. How do we reconcile these two apparent opposites? To be honest, I find both choices to be discouraging. If my choices are what dictate my life, what if I make a mistake or a wrong choice? It places tremendous pressure on every decision I make. But if I am merely an actor in God’s play, what is my purpose? Moreover, how can I be guilty of sin if that is the role I was given to play. This creates apathy toward all of the choices I make. Maybe instead of an either/or answer there is instead a delicate interplay between both of them.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.Psalm 32:8
When God formed Adam and placed him in the garden, He forbid Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God didn’t move the tree or place a guard in front of it because he wanted Adam to choose to obey. God already knew the choice he would make, but he didn’t try to control his choice. Man’s choice didn’t change God’s plan, but it forever changed his relationship with God. We still suffer the consequences of that choice, and we continue to reap the consequences of every act of disobedience since.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,Deuteronomy 30:19
God wants us to learn from the consequences of our choices. Consequences allow us to understand why we should choose to obey. God refines our character through our mistakes, our poor choices, and our suffering. Only then will we be able to align our choices with God’s will. When I thought about the purpose of free will within God’s divine plan, I realized that God is our GPS. He has the power to re-route us back to his plan regardless of the choices we make.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.Proverbs 19:21
Just like we set our destination and allow the GPS guide us, we determine if we will be in relationship with God and if we will accept his guidance. We can only expect to arrive at our destination quickly and safely if we listen and obey the directions provided by the GPS. There may be times when we may miss our exit or accidently turn at the wrong intersection. There may also be times when we ignore the GPS, deciding to go our own way for our own reasons, like stopping for food. Regardless of why we left the correct heading, when we want to return our GPS re-calculates to bring us back to the proper route. However, when we are determined to follow our own heading we shouldn’t blame the GPS when we end up lost. But if we are too proud to admit we needed the GPS to guide us we will remain lost. God is always willing and able to re-route us from anywhere we’ve strayed. We are only truly lost when we reject God’s help. None of the choices we make change the destination or the path that leads there. However, our choices will determine if and when we will arrive at our destination, as well as the wear on our vehicle along the way. Will we choose to listen to God and obey or will we try to go our own way?
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.Isaiah 30:21
God grants us free will to make our own decisions which shape who we are. I can make those choices on my own, but God will hold me accountable for them. Even if I do everything in my power to force my will, ultimately it is God who determines if my plans succeed or fail. Only God knows the plans in store for me, plans that makes use of both the good and the bad. God never misses an opportunity to turn our failure into his success, but I will only learn of his plan if I choose to follow where he leads.