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God is in control?

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This was a meme posted on a private discussion forum I was on with fellow church members during a discussion about a choice we had to make. My immediate, gut reaction was not one of “yeah, that’s right! Praise God!” that maybe many think I should have had. No, it was more of a “Hmmmm, not sure about this…” moment. It just didn’t add up for me.

I’m often finding myself commenting on some memes, just because I analyse what they state and come up short in my mind (see my previous blog on pride, for example). This is one of those that somehow shouts out to you a ‘truth’ that you want to grab hold of, but it really has little practical application, once you think about it. For instance, if your teenage child came to you at exam time and said they really didn’t want to revise and proclaimed this to you: “If God wants me to succeed, I can’t mess it up!” I think I could safely say you’d be quick to reply something like: “If you’re not going to be properly prepared for something, God ain’t gonna just bail you out!”

Wouldn’t you?

This could lead to a huge blog and/or debate about the sovereign will of God, which is a many-layered theological concept that has many differing views across it. I shall not go into length here, but if you apply this thinking to anything you do, your belief is actually more akin to an Islamic fatalism ‘if Allah wills it’ worldview. We Christians feel differently about this, otherwise we would not pray about things or intercede for others’ needs – we are asking God to do something he hasn’t done yet, so we believe we can affect and change his will. If you really think you cannot change his mind on things, then you deserve the label of ‘Hyper-Calvinist’ and you may as well just stop praying altogether. Look up the account of Abraham bartering with God over Sodom in Genesis 18 if you’re still not convinced.

One way such thinking can lead into problems is with ‘prosperity preaching’ that leads to a selfish Christian who thinks that nothing can harm them or go against their own desires and pursuit of things ‘if they only have enough faith’. This view of God’s will being discussed here leads to those who have plenty adopting the concept that God wants them to have wealth, and never consider any other reason for their fortune, like having certain privileges borne from their background. Or consider that God might have intended to allow them wealth for them to use for more than selfish gain.

Another way (again, selfish) is to see problems in the world as ‘beyond our control’ and leave it up to God to sort out, when he has commanded us in scripture repeatedly to get our hands dirty and take action to help others and change things around us when we can (a lot of this is symptomatic of the dispensationalist worldview).

Yes, I admit that what this meme may convey is that in ‘the grand scheme of things’ God has an overarching plan, and my life is in his hands and will not fall apart, but in my everyday living, my decisions, I still have a responsibility to act reasonably and soberly, and not do anything to jeopardise what goodness might come my way. It’s called free will, and it is what we invoke when we wish to defend God against the “your God is cruel and uncaring!” jibes of others. He gave free will to Adam and Eve, and he gave it to you and me. We can mess things up for ourselves.

Grace be with you.

[Cue for my favourite theological joke again (worth repeating): A hyper-Calvinist fell down the stairs. When he go to the bottom, he said “Thank God that’s over!”]

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