"Anyone who thinks they are in control is deceived."
I said those words in response to something my wife had said. We were discussing some of the amazing turns our lives had taken over 40 years of marriage in the ministry. We had many moves and interesting outcomes in strange settings, like Africa. Our trail of serving God's word to his people had included curious situations: our childhood experiences among Pentecostals, our time of serving a network of house churches, evangelizing during the Jesus movement, witnessing the Lord's workings during the charismatic renewal among Baptists, Episcopalians, and Catholics, pastoring congregations in need of rebuilding, and learning the important role of persistent prayer despite resistant circumstances or stubborn people. Yes, even religious people can be stubborn. There is nothing quite so obstinate as a religious mind that clings to tradition. It's like cement - thoroughly mixed up and firmly set.
I have a belief that we live in a mysterious balance, walking a tightrope. God's pre-determined purpose holds one end of the rope; our free will and mixture of right or wrong choices holds the other end. Beneath is a chasm of disaster; ahead is a land of opportunity. Nothing is guaranteed except the passage of time. Live or die, succeed or fail, if we have placed our faith in the Lord Jesus, we are his.
This concept highlights undeniable human reality: we have free will. This notion flies in the face of fatalism, whether you call it predestination, Calvinism, or the universe's random chance. What we do with our free will is our choice. No one made me marry my lovely Lana, yet the Lord prepared her for me, and me for her, and caused events that led us to one another. I am convinced by many similar situations that there is a dance between God's divine will and our human desires. It is not an either-or situation; it is both-and. In a sense, God needs us to discover his will for our lives and he needs us to voluntarily agree to do it, once we know it.
I don't agree with theological fatalism, whether Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. God didn't build robots, he designed humans. We can make good choices or bad ones. We're flawed but made in his image. Being like God, we have intellect, imagination, free speech, desires, the ability to choose - and amazingly - the ability to defy our Maker. Of course, the Lord does say, "The way of transgressor is hard," yet, "The meek (wiling, obedient) will inherit the earth." Our choices have consequences. Willful ignorance or a hardened heart is sinful. Sin makes people stupid. Stupid people harm themselves and hurt people around them. Thankfully, doing the right thing brings rewards. "Say to the righteous, it will go well with them."
Don't think because you had upper class parents, or education or fame or fortune, that your life will be easy. There comes a time when a good mom or dad is no longer credited to your account. We become responsible for our own behavior. I know my father's hard work and inventiveness gave me certain rewards, but after a while, I was on my own. I know my mother's prayers gave me an advantage, but now I'm on my own. I'm accumulating predesigned privileges and blessings from God that flow out of my regularly sowing my faith, my prayers, and my good deeds. God is a rewarder! His kind intentions toward me and you include substantial concealed opportunities, if we are faithful to listen and to seek Him.
-- Ron Wood is a writer and minister. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.touchedbygrace.org. The opinions expressed are those of the author.Editorial on 03/13/2019
Print Headline: Fate versus faith