During a men’s meeting at church recently, our leader began a question with the phrase, “Because God knows everything that is going to happen to us…”, and I stopped him to point out that not all Christians believe that. He was perplexed by my objection, as if I was doubting God. After a brief discussion, we simply left it that there are two points of view among Christians, but I’ve been pondering how to address what I think is a serious misconception among believers.
God certainly knows the future that He has ordained. Scripture relates God’s future through the promises He made through the prophets and He will make every promise become reality. Although that aspect of God knowing the future is sure, His knowledge of our individual futures is necessarily less certain.
God tells us in Deuteronomy that He has placed two paths before us, blessing or cursing…life or death. He asks us to choose life! God doesn’t see our futures as fixed and determined. He asks us to choose which future we will implement. He has the power to pre-determine our futures, but that is not His method. He has predestined us all to be able to be in His kingdom, but He doesn’t force us. God defers using His power over us, because He prefers to draw in willing worshippers…those who choose to follow God.
Our men’s group is studying a book titled Experiencing God which is all about how we interact with God. The author’s central premise is that every believer must experience relationship with the Lord so we can discern the purpose He has for us. The book is filled with anecdotes about people who face different potential paths for their lives and how their choices affect their future. Aligning ourselves to God’s will is like repentance. We turn away from the future we would create on our own and follow the Lord’s direction to a different future.
This ability to affect the future of every individual is foundational to a Biblical worldview. My Scripture reading this morning was Luke 18 which begins, “He (Jesus) was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus goes on telling a parable about a widow pestering a judge for a favorable decision and getting it by wearing the judge down. Jesus concludes by saying, “Now shall not God bring about justice to His elect who cry to them day and night.”
It’s the power of prayer. The clear implication of presenting our requests to God is that an outcome looms before us that can be changed if God hears our prayer and acts on our behalf. If God responds to my request in prayer, my future becomes different than it would have been without prayer. There would be little reason for having a relationship with God if it wasn’t one of give and take and continuing transformation.
Scripture also makes it clear that God doesn’t depend on the obedience of any individual to achieve His purposes. We see this in the book of Esther when she is called to act on behalf of her people. Mordecai tells Esther in Chapter 4 verse 14, “If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish.” Esther had to make a choice with two very different futures arising from her decision. Notice however that although Esther’s future is uncertain, God’s plan and purpose is always secure. He will call another if He must to achieve His greater purpose apart from Esther as an individual. Consider also the potter lesson in Jeremiah 18 where God says, “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.” Clearly God’s plan for the future of nations, as well as individuals, is flexible.
Another aspect of this matter is if God knows every man’s future, it implies that the future is unchangeable and that we don’t have any real control over it. That would mean God is in control and responsible for what happens. One of the primary objections of atheists I try to evangelize is that God is in control and has therefore predetermined all of the evil, sorrow, disease, war, and wickedness that exists in the world. If such evil is an inherent aspect of God’s control, why would you worship such a God? And if God orchestrated all of these evils in His creation, how can He righteously judge our sin?
The Biblical answer is that God created a very good world as described in Genesis, but that man rebelled and corrupted God’s creation. Instead of living in the fellowship and protection of God, Adam and Eve were thrust out into a hostile world to fend for themselves independent from God. From that time, mankind grew so rebellious that God had to implement the great “do-over” we call Noah’s flood. Man’s sin is the cause of evil and is a shaper of history. The world is not as God wants it to be.
Scripture says that God loves us while we are still sinners. God saw a future for each of us when we were in that condition, but He didn’t want that future for us. The Gospel allows any sinner to choose life by accepting Christ as savior. That choice changes our future and draws us into a relationship with the Lord that changes us continually.