Comfort & Counsel

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by Jacob Ninan

Sometimes we hear from people, after they have been disappointed that something they wanted did not take place, ďLet Godís will be done!Ē They are not very happy with Godís will; they would have very much preferred it if what they wanted had happened. There are two assumptions that are wrong here.

One wrong assumption is that what they wanted to happen was much better than what God has planned. Therefore, they are not too happy, and it is with reluctance that they submit to Godís will. But God is perfect in every aspect that is involved Ė in His knowledge, wisdom and power Ė when He chooses to do something and does it. It is in our ignorance of this that we assume that our will would have been better than His in some situations. No. He knows best, and whatever we can plan cannot be better than His will in any way at any time. If we imagine our way is better, that would be because we are ignorant of all the factors that go into His consideration when He makes a decision. We may be making a choice based on a limited understanding of things, while He has all knowledge of all things and He knows what is best for us. Once we realise this, we can stop feeling bad when our will is not getting done, and we can joyfully commit to God that we want His will and not ours to be done always.

Jesus tells us that if we want to follow Him, we would need to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Lk.9:23). We have to put our will on the cross and let it die, if we are to be able to do His will. We can do this cheerfully if we believe that His will is always better than ours.

Sometimes we are constrained by our short term view of things, and we are thinking more about what happens to us here on earth and not so much about what our condition will be in eternity. But God thinks about every aspect of our life. He thinks of what we need now and in the future in our life on earth, but He thinks more about what He wants to happen to us in eternity. For example, God knows that some treasures of eternity can only be gained through suffering on this earth. So He allows us to go through difficulties and tries to help us to become better people through them. When we are unable to share this view with God, it is quite natural for us to think that Godís will is not good for us.

Many people, especially many young people, are scared to come to God because they think they would then have to give up many things that they enjoy in life. But God is not against us enjoying our life because it is He Himself who has created all things for us to enjoy (1Tim.6:17)! It is when the things that we enjoy are going to harm us, either immediately or from an eternal point of view, when we go outside the boundaries God has set for us, that God warns us to not to go after them. He gives us such warnings due to His great love for us because He does not want us to get hurt.

The other misunderstanding that is hidden in the example we started with is that everything that ultimately happens must be the will of God. This is based on the false assumption that since God is almighty and in full control of everything, and since nothing can happen without His permission, what actually happens must be His will. This way of reasoning is completely erroneous because a lot of things that actually happen are evil, and they cannot be attributed to God! The answer some people give to this problem is that since God is almighty He could have prevented anything from happening, and if He has not prevented it but allowed it to happen it must be according to His will. But this would be true only if God is the only person in the universe with the ability to decide anything.

The fact of the matter is that while God is fully sovereign, in that no one can control what He chooses to do, and He has perfect liberty to whatever He wants, in two sovereign decisions He created angels and man with the ability to make their own decisions. Godís overall control remains in that He draws and holds the limits of what they can do. In that sense, what we have is only a Ďlimitedí free will. However, this also means that now God has to bear with angels or man making certain decisions that are not according to His will. And that is what they did, in fact. Some of the angels chose to become independent of God, rebelled against Him, and became demons in the process, and man chose to disobey God in order to have their own independent knowledge of good and evil apart from God, and lost their connection with God.

These two were consequences of Godís decision to give a free will to angels and man, which God had already anticipated. In the case of fallen angels He decided to subject them to eternal bondage, and in the case of man He chose to offer them a way of salvation through which they can get back to God.

In other words, everything that happens is not Godís will. Some of it is the result of sin (of angels or man) and is definitely not the will of God. Some of it is the result of our own wrong decisions or acts, or of someone elseís decisions independent of God, and not the will of God. It is wrong to attribute such instances to Godís will because that ends up in maligning God.

A third wrong concept about God is that He is almighty and so what He wills will definitely and automatically get done. This is also linked with the concept of predestination. But it is interesting to see from the Bible that many things that God has predestined do not happen automatically. For example, we see that God has predestined that those whom He has called to be His children should be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom.8:28-30). But the fact of the matter is that this does not happen automatically, without the cooperation of His children which is subject to their free will! This shows us that sometimes Godís will is simply His plan or what He has made provisions for, some of which He has made partly subject to the will of man. For another example, His desire or will is that all men should be saved (1Tim.2:4), but He knows very well that actually only a few are going to find the way that leads to life (Matt.7:14).

At the same time, we recognise that some of His plans, especially those concerning the bigger picture, are taking place slowly but steadily. God had made plans for manís salvation even before He laid the foundations of the world (Eph.1:3-14), and from the time man fell, God was taking one step after another towards bringing salvation. And, Godís plan of salvation was finally offered to man through the death of His Son Ďin the fullness of timeí (Gal.4:4). The final culmination of all things is also heading in the direction of fulfilment Ďin the fullness of timeí (Eph.1:10).

The way God has designed it, all His plans are already in place for Him who exists outside of time. These plans include the creation of man with a limited amount of free will, the possibility that man might misuse this freedom and sin, and also the act of justification, sanctification and glorification to restore man to the fullness of His plans. From our point of view, we need to make a distinction between what is really Godís plan for us and what happens because of the presence of sin in the world. And, if we really know God for who He really is, we will also trust that His will is always perfect and the best for any of our situations. ďBe transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfectĒ (Rom.12:2). In order to be able to that, what we need to do is to renew our mind more and more by meditating on the word of God and walking in fellowship with Him.

-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, February 2017

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