God has “chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Does that mean we have no will? Does that mean we are ultimately really His “robots” doing His will without a will of our own?
If so, prayer becomes irrelevant, obedience becomes impossible, and God’s invitations lose importance. Biblical commands can ultimately be ignored, as they will or will not be obeyed as He decides. Praying for any result is pointless, as that result has already been determined. “Come unto me” becomes an irrelevant statement, as “coming” is not something we can choose to do.
Yet these are just three obvious problems with a complete removal of the will of man. The centuries-old debate of “God’s Will versus Man’s Will” seems to get off to a difficult start.
What if, though, the Bible clearly teaches both? Maybe the emphasis on God’s Will is meant to help us choose to glory in a great God who gave us grace just because He wanted to, not because of our merit! (Romans 9; I Corinthians 1) Maybe also, He is trying to encourage us to “walk worthy” of His choosing us. (Compare Ephesians 1-3 to Ephesians 4-6.)
On the other hand, maybe the emphasis on our will is to show how much we need His grace, because we have made and do make the wrong choices! (John 3; Romans 3) Also, maybe God is trying to emphasize our responsibility of doing His Will and sharing His willingness to extend grace to others! (Romans 10:9-15)
After bad times came to Job, what could he have done differently? The only thing I can think of is be slower to speak. Should he have put up with people talking bad about him? I think so. Should he have moved or run away to a place where everyone agreed with him? No.
He had a time where, no matter how much he repented or tried to change his position, he was going to suffer. The only right thing to do was to take it patiently. “…but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” (I Peter 2:20)
Many prophets in the Bible seem to have had less influence, not because their message was less true or they were too direct in how they gave it or they were less likable people. Rather, their influence was simply based on how their listeners responded to the Word of God.
In other words, the message was a constant, as was the bold way they delivered it. The “variable” was the readiness of the people to listen and obey God.
If we are going to speak for God, we must understand that this “variable” does not cause the message to change. It also should not cause our bold, fearless delivery of the message to change.
Recently, I was invited to speak about what God says about disciplining children. Because of my concern with how the truth would be received, I instead taught generally about child rearing. What I said did not make any enemies, but I avoided teaching some things I know God teaches. Because of this, after the meeting, I felt as though my message had differed from God’s message.
A few days later, my friend helped me realize that my only option is to echo clearly what God says, regardless of who is listening. Sometimes, like Jeremiah’s listeners, the audience will refuse to hear and obey. Other times, like John the Baptist’s, many will respond.
The important truth I learned was that I cannot change God’s message to increase my influence and stay true to that message. I must choose the constancy of God’s message over the prospect of more influence!
I often see the “little” things God does even more clearly than the “big” things. So it was with our recent trip to get my new passport. Although God perfectly orchestrated the whole trip and left us feeling overwhelmed at His goodness toward us, the memories that are clearest in my mind are ones that some might call “little” things. To us, though, they were clear statements of the loving care of our Father!
For the last part of our journey home, we needed to catch two taxis. We had a total of 62.9 yuan left from our trip. This was much less than we would have planned to bring for those taxi rides, so we prayed that God would help us to make it home. He did! What was especially exciting was that we spent exactly 62 yuan on those two taxi fares!
Also, the second taxi ride was from a friend’s house back to our house. Taxis are very rare in that residential part of town and that time of night (almost 10 pm). We decided, therefore, to pray that God would send us a taxi. He did, of course, and when we arrived at the gate there was our taxi, with no apparent reason (other than our prayer) for the driver being there! Once again, God had answered us instantly. He is so good to us!
While studying obedience in the Bible today, I was amazed at how often obedience was connected with God’s voice! Obedience happens when we hear first, then do what we have heard. Hearing, therefore, is a prerequisite to obedience. That is one reason it is so important to read the Bible. Through reading God’s Word, we can hear what God wants first, then do it.
Ezekiel has been teaching us about bitterness…
You see, bitterness is like vegetables. It starts as something you don’t want to swallow. In the end, if you don’t “swallow” the bitter-tasting thing that God sent your way, it will affect everything else in your life in an especially negative way. For instance, if you choose to leave vegetables in your mouth for hours on end, you won’t be especially happy or pleasant to your parents or little brother.
And…if you leave a “bad taste in your mouth” for hours (or maybe years), you won’t be especially happy or pleasant to your Heavenly Father or your Christian brothers.
A little advice I learned from Ezekiel: When bitter-tasting things come into your life, SWALLOW QUICKLY! Don’t let bitterness take over everything!