In Christ; abundant life! John 10:10b

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Exercise Your Freewill

by Marilyn Roberts

She stood before me with tears flowing down her face. “How do you keep from getting angry with God?” she asked. “I mean, He’s supposed to be this great and loving God. So, why doesn’t He intervene in my problems? I don’t understand.”

She had referenced an event in my life of which she was aware. She asked me her questions because she saw that I was not angry with God. In her mind, I had every right to be. When I answered her, I heard these words, “It’s a choice.”

Freewill is an aspect of our lives we sometimes ignore when it comes to God. Her question and rationale were based on the premise that we play no part in what happens in our lives. However, according to what we read in Scripture, this is contrary to God’s design.

Let’s look at the story of Adam and Eve. God had given them dominion over everything in the garden, and nothing was withheld from them except one tree. “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17, NIV).

Now, if I had made the garden, this tree would not have been in it at all! My garden would be Utopia; in which nothing there could ever cause harm. However, God placed this tree in the middle of the garden for a purpose. Unlike the “created angels,” God gave “created man” free will. He could make a choice. He could choose to believe what God had said, or he could choose to do whatever he wanted to do.

Satan disguised as a serpent, deceived Eve causing her to believe that God’s words were not true. “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (Genesis 3:4-6 NIV).

Freewill, the right to choose; quite a concept! God had supplied everything that was needed “… for life and Godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), but still, He also gave Adam and Eve the free will to choose.

Moses sent out twelve spies to Canaan. Ten saw what they perceived as insurmountable odds;  (Numbers 13:31, NIV), “… We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”  and (verses 32-33, NIV), “…The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. … We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” But two of the spies chose to believe what God had said and exclaimed, “If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Numbers 14:8-9, NIV). God had made a promise to Moses and the children of Israel to bring them to a land of milk and honey. He even told them beforehand about the giants in the land (Exodus 3:17); but the children of Israel had to choose to believe God.

This story confirms that although God has given us a promise, the choice is still ours. We have to choose to hold on to that promise and believe it even when things seemingly are against us! Remember the words of Jesus, “In this world, you WILL have trouble….” (John 16:33) How we respond to trouble and ultimately to God is the key to victory. Just because our Lord has given us the promises of His provision and ensured His faithfulness to us doesn’t take us out of the process to the desired outcome. We must do our part.

And that’s the rub. It seems that most of the time, we want God to do everything! He said it, we believed His Word so why didn’t it come to pass the way we thought it would?

Remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3? It’s a classic example of God’s prerogative to do things differently. These precious men of God were going about their business of serving both God and the king. Then the king makes a rule that forces them to make a choice.

“Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace” (Daniel 3:4-6, NIV).

For just a moment, put yourself in their shoes. If they choose to disobey the king, they will die a horrible death by fire. If they obey the king, they will disobey the God they serve who said, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3 (NIV). When these men were called on the carpet, their words were quite striking, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18, NIV).

Now, if I were God, that statement alone would be enough for me. I would have swooped in with all my glory and rescued them. But God allowed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be thrown into the fiery furnace and then He did something unexpected. He got in the fire with them!

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:24-25, NKJV) You know the end of the story, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego got out of the furnace, “… the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them” (Daniel 3:27, NKJV).

When things aren’t going our way, when we find ourselves in uncomfortable, unbearable situations, when we are experiencing circumstances beyond our control, that’s when our Lord jumps in the fire with us!

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NKJV), “… For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper…”

I wish I could say that life with the Lord is always smooth sailing and that everything always works out the way we want. But that’s not true! To believe so contradicts John 16:33 that we mentioned earlier. Life experiences are a conglomeration of victories and defeats. But what separates Christians from the world is we have hope! We don’t live without our Lord’s peace!  Nor do we live without His constant help in our lives! I’m a living testimony that even in what we would seemingly categorize as defeat, God works things out for good! He doesn’t always outright deliver us, but He doesn’t abandon us to life’s harsh realities. He gets in the fire with us to bring comfort strength and help in the time of our need.

The news reports have highlighted a group of people who refused to accept life’s reality. Pop culture has dubbed them as “snowflakes”; people who have a meltdown at any hint of things not going their way. Don’t be a “Snowflake Christian”! God is with you; He will never leave you. He is your Helper! Let Paul’s words encourage you to exercise your free will and make a choice to trust  God no matter what.

“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, He does in us—He lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best! We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise! So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18, MSG

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