FREE WILL, GOD'S WILL
Several years ago I was standing with a group of Christian friends when one of the group ask if we had heard that SO and SO was killed in a car accident. Most of us had not heard that news. Now the individual who was killed was a young 16 year old girl. After expressing various forms of sorrow, one of the group said, “Oh well Romans 8:28.”
Does anyone know what Romans 8:28 says? Let me read it for you. King James Version.
AND WE KNOW THAT ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD, TO THEM WHO ARE THE CALLED ACCORDING TO GOD’S PURPOSE.
Now the essences of this scripture falls on the fact that, “ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD. The words of the rest of the scripture are what I like to call “qualifiers.” They define to whom things will work for good.
It struck me as odd that someone would quote Romans 8:28 and then relate it to the fact that “Good will come in spite of this young girls tragic accident and loss of life.. Is that what this scripture really means? I questioned, “To whom will good come? This young girl? She is dead. It’s too late for her. And, WHEN and HOW is this GOOD come. Again, is this really what the scripture means. ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD… .”
I began an extensive study of this scripture, this is called an exegesis by the way, when you do an extensive study of a scripture. Have you ever done that? Try it. It can be quite interesting. I am still working on my study. Well, as part of my study I turned to other versions of the Bible to see how this scripture read elsewhere. The NIV reads like this: not, ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD, but rather, IN ALL THINGS GOD WORKS FOR THE GOOD OF THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.. .
Now one version seems to imply: “All things work together for good” while the other version seems to imply that “God is somehow working in lives and everything he does is for our good.”
We have two seemingly different understandings of what this scripture really is telling us. For me however, I still ask myself, “Ok, just what is God going to do to make GOOD come of this. To whom is it going to come, and when and how? It especially raises the question of, HOW DOES GOD WORK AND INTERVENE INTO OUR LIVES. What part of what happens to us is due to God’s intervention. Do we even know that He has intervened?
How many times do we say, “Oh well, I guess it was God’s will.” We prayed for a loved one to be healed, but he or she died anyway. We respond, “Oh well, I guess it was God’s will.” If we are going to accept everything that happens as being God’s will regardless of what we pray for, why pray.
A man prays for his wife’s healing but she dies. “Oh God, why did you let this happen to her?” And her death is blamed on God. This happens frequently. We blame God for those things that upset us. “How could God have let this happen?” So we sometimes blame God because something happens and other times we just give it up to God’s will.
HOW MUCH OF LIFE IS REALLY GOD’S WILL? How do we attach blame, or glory, or thanksgiving? “Thank you God for answered prayer.” OR “Why did you let this happen Lord?”
How often do we follow that favorite Christian saying, LET GO AND LET GOD! We finally step back and say, “OK Lord I’m finished” and then we step back and wait for the Lord to do something, to make something happen?
WHAT IS THE WILL OF GOD?
Not easy to answer actually. Let me explain why. Looking to certain scriptures we can develop a certain train of thought which affords us to have a certain belief. But at the same time looking to other scriptures that afford us an entirely different belief.
With this in mind I will share with you first, two viewpoints and then we will look at a third. Based on scripture – some people hold to the extreme sovereign view that God is in total control of ALL things that happen. We have absolutely no say in any of our actions, God controls our every move. Nothing happens unless God ordains it.
On the other hand, based upon scripture – some people believe that we have total free will. We can and will do anything we want totally independent of God’s will for us. We actually surprise God with some of the things we do and He needs to wait and see what we are going to do next.
These are the two EXTREME VIEWS OF SCRIPTURE. Now think about it. If on the one hand God is in total control of our every action, then it is He who causes us to sin and if that is the case how can He hold us accountable for our actions. No longer can we say, “Satan made me do it”, or “Oh I have sinned” when it was in fact God who made us do it. This is one extreme.
On the other hand, if we have total free will even to the point that God is surprised when He sees our capabilities and wonders just what are we going to do next, then God has no FOREKNOWLEDGE as scripture clearly tells He has. He is not all powerful as scripture says He is nor is He all-knowing as scripture says He is.
Obviously we need to find some common ground that disproves these extremes but still holds to scripture. In his little booklet, “The Will of God” the Rev. Leslie Weatherhead puts forth this understanding of God’s will. FIRST is God’s Intentional will. SECOND is God’s Circumstantial will. And then THIRD is God’s Ultimate will.
What this says is that God has a will for us that He INTENDS to happen. But because of the CIRCUMSTANCES of our failure to seek and fulfill His will He needs to alter His will to a Circumstntial will to correct for our mistakes. However in the end, His ULTIMATE WILL, will prevail and He will accomplish all things.
Now Rev. Weatherhead gives an example of this. However, even though I accept his three positions of God’s will I have difficulty with the example he has provided. And this is how we end up having so many interpretations of scripture. Rev. Weatherhead states that God’s Intentional will is that people would have listen to His Son Jesus Christ when He was on the earth. However, instead, they crucified His son and therefore because of these CIRCUMSTANCES God’s INTENTIONAL WILL could not be carried out.
Now for me, and perhaps I am wrong, this is a poor illustration of God’s three position will. Why do I say this? Because I don’t believe God’s INTENTIONAL WILL, was that people followed Jesus, even though that should have been done by the people. God’s INTENTIONAL WILL was that, in fact, Jesus was to be crucified. That was His intention. Turning to Matthew 20:28 we find these words: THE SON OF MAN CAME NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO, BUT TO MINISTER, AND, TO GIVE HIS LIFE A RANSOM FOR MANY.
So I put before you this example. God’s INTENTIONAL WILL is that Jesus Christ should die on the cross and those who believe in Him shall have everlasting life. God’s CIRCUMSTANTIAL WILL is the fact that because of circumstance of human nature not all people will believe in Him and therefore it is God’s circumstantial will that they not have eternal life in His kingdom because they remain in their sins never having accepted forgiveness through Jesus Christ. AND in the end God’s ULTIMATE WILL, will prevail.
So, what is God’s Will. God’s Ultimate will is that we walk in His will. (But that won’t happen.)
Can you imagine living in a world where everyone walked in God’s will and was truly led by the Spirit. A world where no one walked in the works of the flesh. And what are the works of the flesh. Galatians 5:19-21 explains:
NOW THE WORKS OF THE FLESH ARE EVIDENT, WHICH ARE: ADULTERY, FORNICATION, UNCLEANESS, LEWDNESS, IDOLATRY, SORCERY, HATRED, CONTENTIONS, JEALOUSIES, OUTBURSTS OF WRATH, SELFISH AMBITIONS, DISSENSIONS, HERESIES, ENVY, MURDERS, DRUNKENESS, REVELRIES, AND THE LIKE.
Can you see that it is because of all of these, and more, that God’s Intentional will is not being fulfilled and that His Circumstantial will must carry on instead. We create the circumstances when we do not follow His will.
What about LET GO AND LET GOD. No. We cannot be passive in life. We can’t set back and say ok God I’ll wait to see what YOU do next. No. Make your intentions known to God. Listen for the Spirit. God will be persuasive in guiding you but you can’t go off on your own and fail, and then ask God where were you? Or, simply invite Him to join you.
It isn’t God’s will that someone should die. It isn’t God’s will that you smoke three packs of cigarettes a day while your wife sucks in second hand smoke and develops cancer. It isn’t God’s will that your friend is addicted to drugs. And then you blame God if you had prayed for healing for him but he refused help. God gives us free will to make life’s decisions and this perhaps is the biggest lesson we must learn. God is not making all the decisions, we are. This is called life. All of those works of the flesh that were listed in Galatians have an impact on our lives. These are all apart from the will of God and God does not necessarily intervene into our free will unless we invite Him and it is even more difficult when we pray for God to intervene in someone elses life if they are not willing to yield to Him.
But God can and will be persuasive in fulfilling our prayer requests but He will not force His will upon someone or coerce them unless it is essential to the necessity of completing His Ultimate will or purpose.
We need to remember that this is life and living. Things will happen that we don’t like but God will work with us when we call out to Him but God also extends to us our own free will. Faith and trust and belief and prayer are what bring the two together that “We may have life and have it abundantly.