This is the third installment from my little book, Suggestions From A Searcher.
C. God’s Will Revealed For You (In Particular)
God wants to have a relationship with every one of His children. God wants us all to serve as we are able. God wants us all to follow the Golden Rule. That is His will for all His people. What about you, as a unique individual? What about His plan for you, specifically? Is there a definite plan for everything in your life? If so, how do you know what it is?
Dr. Friesen has studied the concept of God’s will for an individual and concludes that the traditional view that God has a particular plan for each individual for each individual decision is not clearly supported by scripture. In other words, he does not believe that God has a detailed, pre-ordained script for your life. Instead, with free will, you have opportunities to walk with God and follow His moral will as He goes about accomplishing His sovereign will. You also have choices to not live that way, despite God’s invitation. We have flexibility because we have the right to make choices, good and bad. In making those choices, however, it is altogether fitting and proper to seek God’s guidance.
1. Predestination versus Free Will
I have struggled with this issue. On the one hand, I want to believe that God had a special plan for me. On the other hand, I want to believe that I am free to make choices. Let me briefly relate my struggle.
The idea of predestination troubles me for two reasons.
One reason is that we know from scripture that God gave mankind a lot of freedom. If that were not so, we would be pre-programmed robots and we know that is not the case by both experience and logic. Dr. Joseph Sittler was a favorite professor of mine in seminary. I once asked him about predestination. He said he didn’t worry much about it. “When I get up in the morning, I have to decide which socks to put on. Even if it is pre-determined, I still don’t know which socks I am predestined to put on, so whether or not I am really making the decision, I think I am making it and still have to go through the decision-making process. So, why worry?”
The second reason has to do with fairness. It is illogical to be responsible for choices we make if we are not truly making the choices. It would be unfair of God to operate us as puppets and then hold the puppets responsible for behavior controlled by Him. How could there be sin without free will? I believe in both sin and free will. Free will gives us the ability to sin. Free will also means we can choose to draw near to God.
However, I can’t ignore that there are references in scripture to certain things being predestined. Liz Hand, a member of my Sunday School class, pointed out to me that predestination can make sense if you remember the timelessness of God. His knowledge is not limited to the sequence of time. He is outside of time. He invented time. For God it is already determined who will be saved because He knows already how we will make our choices. However, that does not mean we are not actually making the decisions. Even acknowledging that God knows everything, I still don’t think He is making the choices for us. The reason God already knows is that God is timeless. We don’t know what decisions we will make because we are not timeless. We live finite lives moment by moment. We get up in the morning and make decisions about how we will live each moment. God designed His creation to allow us such freedom.
It doesn’t make sense to me that there is only one specific plan for my life because then the first move off course would ruin that plan so I either blew my whole life in an all or nothing gamble or I didn’t. What are the odds of any imperfect human making all the right choices? Don’t bet on it! Rather, I believe it is more a matter of going with the flow — God’s flow. Many paths can follow that flow. The important thing is to go the right direction. I guess I am saying that I do not believe that God has just one perfect plan for my life. Dr. Friesen says that is not Biblical, and based on my experience and my reading, I agree.
Actually, it gives me more peace to believe that there is not just one script to follow because I, for one, need more chances. I have blown many opportunities. What if….? I believe that even having blown opportunities, I can try, try again. I can ask for forgiveness and I will be forgiven. I can again seek to make decisions as a man after God’s own heart because of my relationship with the Almighty God, and maybe next time I will be ready for another task God has for someone to do in His sovereign plan. Then I can be aware of that task and, like Isaiah, say, “Here am I! Send me.” Isaiah 6: 8b.
So, should I feel less “special” because God does not have a detailed plan for me but instead lets me make choices? No! I should feel more special because He gave me that opportunity. Wouldn’t you rather be invited to a event than to be ordered to attend? Teenagers talk a lot about wanting parents to trust them and parents do need to give their children increasing freedom as they grow up. God, our Heavenly Father, loves us as His children and, accordingly, does not force us to do His will. Yet, as children look to their parents to learn how to live, and often need advice, I believe God wants us to look to Him when we make choices. By what means does He advise us?