Man was given free will—to choose to follow God or not.
Story: Shannon Carroll
Have you been told that God gives you ill health, sickness, or disease? Do you believe that he kills, maims, and destroys…perhaps “to teach you something”? That sounds a lot like the devil to me (John 10:10).
No, please allow God’s own word to reassure you: he does not wish you ill health and he doesn’t bring disease to you or to those you love. (Hint: Do we ever see Jesus doing that?) God is indeed good, and as the epitome of a good Father, he really does want the best for you! Romans 5:8 tells us God has always loved us, even while we were sinners!
Jesus warns that our traditions can make his word have no power or effect (Matt. 15:6). As a fairly well-traveled minister and pastor, and coming from another country and culture, there is one of these “traditions” that I subscribed to and that I’ve come across often, which had terrible consequences of shipwrecking the faith of many in his goodness. (Hmm, I wonder who might be behind such a malicious plot?) My intention here is to help those and restore faith in his goodness and to raise awareness here; a study, if you thoughtfully proceed.
The often flippantly uttered “God is in control” statement forms a fundamental understanding of much of the well-meaning Christian world, but this often well-intentioned phrase has hurt and destroyed the faith of many who find it impossible to reconcile the understanding of a good God with all the disease, death, pain, and destruction that this controlling God is either “causing” or “allowing.”
“Why would God allow this?” “What monster would do this or allow this?” they rail, as many reject God completely. Good questions indeed that deserve a response.
A few other questions to consider:
Why do many insist that God controls all things when he can’t even control them? He didn’t control Adam. He didn’t control Cain. So, who exactly does God control?
Was God controlling the storm that Jesus rebuked? Did God make everyone sick that Jesus healed? Was Jesus undoing God’s will and thwarting his control?
Does God make you drive the speed limit?
Does God make you always act out of love?
Did God send the church into all the world with the good news and does he then go and kill those lost people with natural disasters to prove how good he is?
Do the new heaven and new earth look like this Earth? Wouldn’t this Earth look like heaven if God was in control?
Friends, I’ll give a shorter response, and then follow with a longer and deeper one. In short, God, creator and supreme sovereign, gave the Earth to man (Ps. 115:16, Ps. 8:4-6, Gen. 1:26-28). He gave man the ability (and responsibility) to choose light or darkness, life or death, dependence or independence. God is not controlling all earthly beings and things. God is indeed good. We can suffer the results of natural disasters or accidents when we or others make mistakes. Or, we can choose contradictory ways either ignorantly, or defiantly. We are “destroyed for lack of knowledge,” choosing not to walk his well-advised prescribed path and then absolve ourselves or others by blaming everything on God. Convenient. (“It’s the women you gave me.” Sound familiar?)
Truth is, just like Adam, Eve, and Cain, you and I get to choose. Sometimes, like Abel, we get to experience the results of others’ evil, or ignorant, decisions.
We get to choose to respond to his goodness and choose the abundant life he desires us to experience by following his prescribed path.
For those many who might have struggled with this and perhaps heard this their whole lives and who want to dig a little deeper into this, I proceed to unpack more.
Trying to reconcile the “sovereignty” of God with his omniscience, omnipotence, and his unconditional love, there are a few absolute truths one must take into account. It’s important to understand that there are actually things God cannot do.
Yes, you heard me right: there are things that the almighty creator of all CANNOT and will not do. For starters, being truth personified, he cannot lie. He cannot fellowship with darkness, he cannot be evil, he cannot be unfaithful. There are absolutes in his nature that he has sovereignly chosen and forever declared himself to be.
“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Num. 23:19.)
So, stop and think about what this actually means: when he says something, it’s settled! His word is his bond (Ps. 119.89). He can’t lie. If he gives anything, it’s done, it’s GIVEN; impossible to be deceitfully taken back. He can’t say, “Oops, sorry, taking that back…made a mistake, I was only joking, didn’t mean it.” Understanding this truth is the foundation for trusting in God’s integrity (such as having faith in his word).
Then, it’s very important to understand that mankind has free will. This vital truth alone has been attacked and will stir religious spirits because it’s an essential truth.
Love for man, and relationship with us, has always been God’s motive! (John 3:16-18). But love cannot flow between two individuals without them each enacting their free-will option of personal choice to do so. Without their free will to choose, it’s not love at all; it’s slavish, mindless, and heartless obedience, much like a programmed robot. (This is another one of those “pause and consider” points.)
By placing that one single tree among countless good ones in Eden and giving that one single instruction to trust him not to eat from just that one tree, God essentially gave mankind the ability, and responsibility, of choice.
By GIVING mankind a free will—in other words, the ability to choose—we all get to choose to trust him or not. We each choose to believe and receive his unconditional love for us and then freely choose to respond by loving him with all our hearts in return! (1John 4:8,10,16,19 and Eph. 3:17-19).
So, then we read, and believe, that God GAVE the Earth to mankind. “The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s, but the Earth he has given to the children of men” (Ps. 115:16).
Mankind, through Adam, in turn, handed his “limited time lease” of this world over to Satan. (This is why the devil could tempt Jesus by offering him the kingdoms of the world. If it wasn’t the devil’s to give, it would be no temptation.) So, for this age now, this entire creation is under the influence of another “god,” Satan, who Jesus calls “the prince of this world” (John 12:31 and John 16:11) and “the god of this age” who blinds the minds of those who don’t or won’t believe (2 Cor. 4:4).
Yet, Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8; Col. 2:15). Believers get to choose to enact and enforce that victory as Jesus did, by his bequeathed authority and instruction to his followers (Luke 10:19 and James 4:7).
So, these are just a few of the things God has given mankind, to each one, you and me, that he will, and must, honor.
You get to choose to trust him, his word, his unconditional love for you, or you choose not to. You get to choose to walk in his well-advised way, to experience the abundant life he desires for you (John.10:10), or you choose not to trust him and follow your own path to the destination of your own choice (Deut. 30:19).
Understand this powerful New Testament truth: Jesus, the word of God, in the physical flesh body of Jesus, that one of Nazareth, showed and demonstrated the character, nature, and will of God the Father for all mankind (John 14:8-10, Col. 1:15, Heb. 1:2,3).
The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John show us four perspectives as witnessed through the eyes of four very different men.
So, when we observe Jesus’ love, his forgiveness, his compassion, we see the invisible God now in tangible and observable action! (Note, for example, not once did Jesus “teach” anyone by making them sick or breaking their leg! He was the one who brought forgiveness, healing and deliverance. Acts 10:38).
Hearing, processing, and assimilating these immutable and foundational truths of God in your heart addresses perfectly this gross misunderstanding that has caused many to hate and reject our good God, the only creator, lord of all, who loves you without condition and paid for your liberty from sin so you could share in his righteousness (2 Cor. 5:17-21).
No matter your past, he’s calling you to reconciliation, never counting your sins against you! He freely offers complete ransom, redemption, a future, real hope, eternal peace! See why Jesus calls it “good news?”
Rest assured, God truly loves you and wants the best for you. His call to each and every one is to choose to enter and walk in fellowship with him. It’s offered to us freely as a gracious gift, accepted simply by faith (Rom. 10:9, 10, 13).
How you respond is your choice.
About the writer
A native of South Africa, Shannon Carroll served as a medic in the military before attending bible college and mission school. He later moved to Eustis and became lead pastor of LakeHaven Church, where his passion is to see people experience God’s life-transforming power. Visit lakehaven.tv.