Free will carries a burden of responsibility because choices have consequences. Although God made it easy for us to choose good [Deuteronomy 30:15-20], human beings have demonstrated throughout history that we’re incapable of making good decisions consistently. Either through ignorance or wilful disobedience, we repeatedly violate God’s commandments with our free will [Romans 3:23]. The conundrum is that God wants to bless us; that has been His desire from the beginning [Genesis 1:28]. However, we’re only entitled to God’s blessing if we do what He says [Genesis 2:16-17]. So, how does God reconcile our inability to obey Him with His commitment to bless us?
One way to resolve this tension is for God to compel our obedience. Had He chosen to do so, it’d be easier for Him to bless us. But that would have given God a problem. Scripture doesn’t just describe love as an attribute of God; it says God is love [1 John 4:19]. Also, love can only exist if the lover and the beloved are free to choose or reject each other. So, if God eliminated our free will and compelled our obedience, we couldn’t love Him freely. Additionally, He would be acting against His nature and denying Himself – something He cannot do [2 Timothy 2:13]. Moreover, without free will, no one can keep the greatest commandment [Mark 12:29-31].
This may all seem theoretical until we consider the implications of God trying to accomplish His purposes in your life without violating your free will. I grew up in a Christian home. My parents revered God and taught my siblings and me to be God-fearing. Yet, I still considered myself the master of my destiny. I made many decisions about my life without bothering to consult God. I was swayed more by cultural norms than the Holy Spirit. I heard about God’s providence and sang about His sovereignty every Sunday, but for some reason, I’d never seriously considered why God created me and His intentions for my life. So, while I didn’t pursue immoral goals, it never occurred to me to submit my will and ambitions to God as I schemed and plotted the course of my life.
I see some parallels between myself and Abraham’s grandson, Jacob. Raised in a God-fearing household by a father and a legendary grandfather who had personal encounters with God, you’d have expected Jacob to be a man after God’s heart. Instead, Jacob was a schemer and a hustler, ever looking to gain an advantage by hook or crook, often hurting others along the way. He took advantage of his brother, Esau, who was in a vulnerable place and got him to sell his birthright. Jacob would later plot with his mother, Rebekah, to con his father, Isaac and steal his brother’s blessing. He must have considered himself the master of his destiny as he plotted and schemed his way through life.
While Jacob didn’t surrender his life to God until at least his 40s, what’s evident in his life is divine providence bringing the purposes of God to pass despite Jacob’s bad choices. Sometimes we may erroneously think that God is just a level above us human beings. Such a thought is wholly inaccurate because God’s sovereignty is inexplicably beyond our comprehension and His ways are unimaginably superior to ours [Isaiah 55:8]. That is why no situation is irredeemable to God because He has infinite ways to accomplish His purposes. In a way I can’t explain, He factors in our bent, stupidity, weaknesses, strengths, good and bad decisions, and much more as His sovereign hand orchestrates the passing of our lives. Amazingly, He’s done that for every single person that’s ever lived because of His unwavering desire to bless us. That’s just a snippet of the goodness of God.
No one can miss out on God’s goodness since our existence is at His behest [Hebrews 1:2-3]. But there’s more, and experiencing it is a choice. However, once you realise that the God who created you and the universe, who knows every star there is by name [Psalm 147:4], loves you and desires your greatest good, how can you turn Him down? How do you say ‘no’ to the One who can course-correct your life and lead you into unimaginable blessings [Isaiah 30:21]? The ultimate revelation for all of us is to realise that God can accomplish infinitely more with our lives than we could. Such discernment necessitates that we give up trying to be the masters of our destinies and yield our lives wholly to God.
Some of us, like Jacob, made that decision later in life, so there’s a propensity to mourn the lost years. The devil, ever trying to derail us, will seek to remind us of our flaws and failures and delude us into believing God couldn’t possibly want anything to do with us. But don’t let him deceive you. God knows all about you: every thought, word and deed you’ve done or will ever do. Yet, He still sent His only Son to die for you. Nothing you do will surprise Him or change His plan for your life. He’ll pursue you and reveal Himself to you just like He did with Jacob because He wants to bless you [Genesis 28:12-15]. So, if you haven’t already done so, follow Jacob’s example; put God to the test [Genesis 28:18-21] and earnestly seek to encounter Him [Hebrews 11:6].
If, like me, you’ve chosen to submit your desires and ambitions to God late in life, don’t worry; you haven’t missed out on His best for you. You see, when you come to Jesus, He makes you righteous. And Scripture says the path of the righteous shines ever brighter [Proverbs 4:18]. So, your tomorrow is guaranteed to be better than your yesterday.