God’s In Control, Right?

RoadIf God is sovereign, and He has everything under control, and “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)” then… why pray? Why try to change the world? God’s in control, right? Why not just sit back, enjoy life, and watch God’s plan work itself out? Well, because we are God’s plan.

The Question

Some thoughtful people have brought up a very interesting question as a method of challenging or attacking Christians these days. It’s, “If God is sovereign, then why pray?” What they mean is this. If God controls the universe, and He will ultimately accomplish exactly what He wants to accomplish, then what good will it do to pray if we can’t change God’s plan? Why pray for anything if God’s already decided what will happen? Why pray for someone to get saved if God has already chosen whether or not they will end up saved? Well, it’s a very good question, and I believe it’s extremely necessary to ask this of ourselves in mind of our prayer life and our actions in this world in general.

I struggled with this question recently. I found myself with a list of daring prayers to pray, yet I felt like they wouldn’t really do anything. I knew not to pray with doubt, but I still found myself doubting my prayers’ importance, because I felt like God already had it covered and my prayers weren’t going to change anything. I hated it. I knew it wasn’t right and that it was hampering my prayer life, and I wanted to find the answer to my dilemma. I finally stumbled upon a blog post by John Piper on his ministry’s website, and it gave me everything I needed to know. In discovering this, I realized that John’s answer applies to everything we do; not just praying. Here’s what I found.

The Answer

If we are to assume that the outcome of our prayer for our neighbor to be saved is predestined by God, then what follows? Well of course, if the outcome is predetermined, then so is the prayer itself, for everything that happens is part of God’s plan. Therefore, since God has promised to answer our prayers (under certain conditions), and He planned that we pray for this person, then we can rest assured that He fully intends to follow up on this plan of His and see that the person is saved. For example, let’s say that all the pastors of the country said, “God’s in control, and He’ll accomplish His plan, so let’s stop preaching and see if people continue to be saved.” We would say that is ridiculous. That’s because it is. We can’t assume that preaching doesn’t matter because God is sovereign and will save who He wants. God’s plan is the preaching, and that is one of the ways He accomplishes His aim to save anybody at all. The same goes for prayer, and in fact, everything.

Does God Answer Prayer?

Of course, this whole idea assumes that God promises to answer our prayer. Not just sometimes, not just if He feels like it, but assuredly. This brings up another important question. Can we know whether God will answer our prayers or not? I believe we can. I believe that there are prayers that God is “bound,” in a sense, to answer. There are conditions that must be met, but we can be confident that God will answer certain prayers. Others He will not, or He at least has no obligation to, such as a prayer for God to give us what we desire for our own selfish gain. Which prayers will He answer, and how, you may be asking? I will answer those questions, but not now. I will include more details on this in another post soon to come, don’t worry.

God’s Sovereignty

Also, this idea assumes that God does indeed control everything. I believe this is the case. Verses like Prov. 16:4, Prov. 16:9, Prov. 16:33, and Prov. 19:21 all point to a fully sovereign God. Just reading the Bible in general tells me that my God has the world well in order, and He is not the least bit taxed by holding every little detail in place according to what His plan is. The Psalms speak of His mighty power over all. Just look at the beginning to this popular Psalm.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” – Psalm 139:1-6

Clearly, the Lord knows all things before they happen. But if you say that God doesn’t have complete control over what we do, and He only foresees what we do, then how does the promise of Romans 8:28 hold true? If God doesn’t control our individual decisions, then He ultimately doesn’t control the fate of the universe, and how then does He make everything turn out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose? This complication, along with hard evidence for predestination (Eph. 1:1-5, Matt. 22:14, Rom. 8:28-30, Rom. 9, etc.) points to a truly sovereign God. I respect those of you who disagree, because God’s complete sovereignty seemingly contradicts any freedom we may have in our choices, and that issue is a hard one to deal with. I agree that we make real choices, and that we are accountable for our actions. Those ideas are true and Biblical. But I cannot deny God’s sovereignty and predestination. It’s just so clearly spelled out in Scripture. Also, while some people think of God’s complete sovereignty as “bending” our wills to make us do things we’d rather not do, I don’t think that’s a very accurate way of looking at it. I think that if God is the Creator of our wills, then what they want to do is what He predestines them to want to do. I know it’s a bit confusing, but that’s what makes sense in my mind.

Basically, I believe that while we make choices God is working everything out behind the scenes, and we’ll never completely comprehend how it all works together. As the last line in the Psalm above says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” Yes, we have some form of free will. Yes, God has some form of complete sovereignty. Both ideas are true. But we’ll never fully understand how these two work in harmony together. All we can do is learn as much about our Lord as is possible for our weak human minds, and follow Him to the best of our ability until the end of our days.

What Now?

Besides prayer, this applies to everything we do in life. Whether we’re fighting for a cause, striving for holiness, or tackling what seems “impossible,” we must have the mindset that we are a part of God’s great plan, and we can change things for the better. While God’s doing all the behind-the-scenes work and making everything happen, we get to be a huge part of the performance that plays out all around us! We’re just lost sinners, yet God has chosen us to be the tools He uses to change the world. That’s pretty exciting if you ask me.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t matter or you can’t do great things. Don’t let yourself believe that your prayers are hopeless. Just because God has it all worked out doesn’t mean that what we do as Christians doesn’t matter. Our actions ultimately are God’s plan, and what we do today makes all the difference as to who we are and how we affect the world tomorrow. Also, remember that we’re only given today. We can’t change what we’ve done in the past, and we can’t live out our future right now. But we can do what God asks of us today. Let’s follow our glorious King and strive to serve Him, and let us always keep on our minds that we never have to worry about being excluded from His great battle plan; we are at the very center of it.

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9 thoughts on “God’s In Control, Right?

  1. Anonymous
    September 2, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I see you follow John Piper and I understand he believes the calvinist theology. Which believes God is in total control of everything, even a person’s will, desire, and choices that a Christian makes. So, you have to assume then that all the good things and choices a Christian makes is of God and not of our choices. You also would have to assume then that all the sinful/selfish things a person does is also of God’s choice and not of the person’s choices. A calvinist believes a Christian can’t stop from sinning until they physically die, so if God is in total control and sovereign, does God keep people sinning or is this the person’s choice instead?

    1. September 2, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      I think that it is the person’s choice, but God (ultimately) is still behind their every action. I don’t understand it completely, but it’s what makes the most sense to me in light of Scripture. We may question it, but Romans 9:20-21 says, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”
      Although this chapter is talking about election for salvation, I believe it applies to God’s sovereignty in general as well. Yes, we make choices, but God is still completely sovereign. If both ideas are evident in Scripture, I don’t think we should throw either one out. That’s just my deduction of how I think they fit together.

    2. September 3, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      God is sovereign, but He will not make us choose Him – For this “freedom of choice” is the very reason God has setup all of creation right from the start exactly the way He did. God owns everyone, because He has created everyone and everything, but His creation was created so that we could choose – choose to love good, or choose to love evil. God choosing us depends on our choices of what we are going to love, loving God (His goodness and righteousness), or choosing evil – by keeping our selfishness and staying evil, this is why God created all as it is.

      God has given all born from Adam’s seed the knowledge of good and evil, and God has created an environment with both good and evil in it. All this was created so we can know good and evil and experience good and evil. God will only choose the ones that choose GOoD, but the ones that choose evil, he gives over to the dEVIL.

      God choose the ones that choose Him. God has provided all that is needed to make this choice in every person born in the flesh. He has also made provision through Christ to fill everyone with His Holy Spirit to rid a person of all inbred sin if they truly desiring it.

      God has given this choice to every angel and to every human being. We have this life on this earth to fully search out and be filled with His goodness (pure agape love), or choose to stay a child of the devil and keep our sinful nature that we were born with.

    3. September 3, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you…” – John 15:16

      “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” – Romans 9:18

      “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. – Ephesians 1:4-6

      “Though they were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls…” – Romans 9:11-12

      Ultimately, we do absolutely nothing to gain our salvation. God doesn’t react to our actions and then decides to save us. The Bible says He already made that decision before the foundation of the world (before we could do anything that would merit or prevent our salvation). God chooses us, we do not choose him. Also, I do not believe that God lets us do whatever we want. He guides our every move, and while we do make real choices for better or for worse, none of this free will is outside God’s plan. Yes, we have freedom to choose evil or good, but none of those choices will ever be outside God’s ultimate purpose.

    4. September 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      Luke,

      I have found every person believes what they want to. People usually make the truth of God into what ever they want to make it by picking out just certain verses, but if they put those same verses in the context of the whole of scripture, they would have to come to a total different conclusion, but most won’t look that deep – because they don’t really want to, because their selfishness already found what they want to believe.

      So, do you really desire to believe that God picks and chooses who is a winner in Him and who is a looser – is that a just, fair and loving God. Do you really think that God wants to keep most of the world sinning and it is by His choice to keep them in sin – when Christ died for the sins of the world and not just the elect. Do you really think that God wants to have everyone come to Him and He calls everyone to Him to be saved from their sins, but it is His intention to keep most people in their sins? What kind of double minded God to you think we have?

      Have you dug a little deeper into God’s truth to find out why He blesses and gives mercy to some and to others He has their hearts be hardened. The truth is, God shows His mercy to the ones that decide to search for His goodness and mercy, but for the ones that don’t search for His goodness, God gives over to the devil to be hardened even further. The truth is, God gives to everyone the desires of their soul. If they desire evil and want to believe lies, then that is what God lets them have through the devil’s work, but if anyone desires and searches out His goodness, then those are the ones that He shows His mercy to.

      Matt 5:6-10 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. NIV

      2 Thess 2:10-12 – They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. NIV

      Like I said before, everyone believes what they want to believe is truth. Be very careful what you make your foundation of truth. If your truth is God’s truth, then you will live and love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. But if your truth is actually the deceptions and/or delusions, then you will stay in bondage to your sin and die in those sins as a result.

      Every person acts on what they believe the truth is – EVERYONE. If they desire and search out God’s real truth, then that real truth will truly set them free from all their sinful nature. If they desire the deceptions of the devil for their truth, then those lies will keep them ensnared in sin and the result will be to “Still, Kill, and Destroy” any true life of Christ in them.

      Most churches believe the Great Delusion, because they refuse to love God’s real truth.

    5. September 4, 2012 at 10:12 pm

      I agree. A lot of people use the Bible to make their false truth look like real Truth. But you have not proven that that is what I am doing. Your second paragraph does not warrant any opposing argument, because it’s claims are not Biblically based. I have tried to give you a Biblical foundation for what I believe. Take a look at the verses I posted, and let me know what you believe the real Truth is in light of those Scriptures (as well as the rest of the Bible of course).

      I agree that God gives righteousness to those who desire it (under certain context). But that doesn’t mean that predestination isn’t true. God predestines the salvation of certain people before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5). Then, within His plan, some believers desire to be more righteous, and He aids them in this desire. Sinners who desire righteousness and as a result become saved were predestined from the beginning to be part of the elect, and God accomplished His plan in saving them. Nothing here removes predestination. When God reacts to our actions and saves us, that was part of His plan before the foundation of the world as well. God is God. He knows all and everything is within His plan. Read Romans 9 for more information on election. Please understand that I do not wish to be unloving in this discussion, but I do want to explain why I believe what I believe.

    6. September 5, 2012 at 6:24 pm

      Predestined doesn’t mean a person that is predestined toward God’s kingdom gets into God’s eternal kingdom. Everyone that is in the church, being sanctified, is predestined for heaven, but that doesn’t mean they will get there. People can choose to jump off God’s boat anywhere along the way and keep from being fully sanctified. Predestined for a Christian, just means that their destination is God’s eternal kingdom – that their destination that they are to strive for is God’s eternal life and kingdom. It doesn’t mean they have made it to that destination.

      Also, you will see in scripture that the ones that are predestined are the ones that God foreknew. Those God foreknew, He predestined. If God didn’t see them from the beginning of time making a choice to follow Him, then they also won’t be predestined or having a destination of heaven.

      God requires us to choose. Why, because to love someone you have to choose to love. Without love being a choice to love – then love has no value. God never intended to make robots, but to have us do His will out of a full love for Him. This is what is so valuable to God and this is why He had to create our environment to allow us to choose between good (GOD) and evil (the devil).

      If a person doesn’t understand love having to be a choice, then that person can’t understand God, because God is love and who ever comes and obeys Him and is to become like Him, this must be out of a pure love for Him. This is why the greatest commandment is to “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” If we do this, then we will be living a holy and righteous life, not out of fear, but out of a pure love for God – a pure love for everything good.

      The ones that don’t grow to love God with all their being, will not end up being compatible with God’s eternal kingdom and will not enter it, because there is no place for self love, which is sin.

    7. September 5, 2012 at 7:20 pm

      Michael, I can see that this discussion is turning into a battle, which is what I don’t want to happen. I don’t think that either of us will budge on our beliefs, and that’s why I propose that we stop arguing and leave each other to study God’s Word for ourselves and come to our own convictions. Thank you for your thoughts.

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