God’s Sovereignty & Our Free Will
When considering God’s will, some of the questions I frequently get asked have to do with inevitability. Will the Lord’s plan always be accomplished? Can we mess it up? Do we have a choice in what our lives can be? How much of God’s plan will He actively impose upon us, and how much will we be able to choose for ourselves?
These are some of the questions we all face when seeking God’s will—especially in terms of the decisions that are important to us. In order to better understand the Lord’s sovereignty and our free will, we need to take a look at two major aspects of the Lord’s plan: that which He has determined will happen and that which He desires to happen.
God’s determined (sovereign) will is what will absolutely be done … His inevitable, unchangeable, purposeful, and comprehensive plans which will bring Him great praise and glory. We must understand that God doesn’t make these types of plans exclusively for world events or nations. He also makes such plans for you and me (Ps. 139:16). In Ephesians 2:10, the Bible reveals that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” The Lord actively prepares each of us for certain assignments and gives us unique gifts with which to make an impact on this world for Him (1 Cor. 12:7).
God’s desired (permissive) will is where you and I live each day. God gives us choices so that we can exercise our free will in obeying Him. He also does so in order to test our hearts, to see whether we truly acknowledge Him as our God. His desired will is His personal involvement in our daily lives and His direction in our decisions. Therefore, whereas the Lord’s determined will is inevitable and unpredictable apart from what He’s revealed in His Word, the Father’s desired will for your life is knowable in the circumstances you experience. And it requires you to make a decision about who He is to you.
The most important thing for you to remember is that God is fully invested in His whole plan. If you’re seeking God and have a heart to do His will, you’re promised He will show you what to do. Jesus Himself said: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:7–8). As your heavenly Father, God wants you to ask, seek, and knock so that He can give, reveal, open, and provide what’s good for you (Matt. 7:11).
So even when you’re not clear which choice to make—if for whatever reason He keeps His will concealed—you can take comfort in the fact that, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). The Lord takes responsibility for directing you through the fog. He will move heaven and earth to show you His will in His timing … and in the days to follow, we’ll take a closer look at just what that means and the many ways He does so.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;Psalm 139:16 NIV
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10 NIV
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.Matthew 7:7-11 NIV
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.Philippians 2:13 NIV