A theological conundrum is the concept of free will versus predestination. While the Bible teaches that we have the ability to make our own choices (we have free will), it also says that things are predetermined (predestined). Which is it?
It is both, presenting us with a delightful paradox. Though my mind somewhat grasps this as a holistic, unified truth, I am woefully unable to articulate it.
It helps a little to consider that one understanding of “predestined” is to “foreknow.” Another helpful consideration is to realize that God — who created time-space, exists outside of time — likely seeing the past, present, and future as a singular reality.
However, it is the book of Daniel that gives me the most help.
A prophecy is given about evil king Nebuchadnezzar. Because of his prideful arrogance, he will be struck with insanity until he acknowledges God (free will) and for seven years (predestination).
Free will and predestination are not mutually exclusive concepts, but opposite sides of the same coin.
In the story of Jonah, we see God’s sovereignty at work, with God exercising control over nature. Here’s what God does:
Furthermore, God’s sovereignty allows him to show mercy towards the people of Nineveh and not destroy them as he had originally planned.
However, God does not exercise control over Jonah, allowing him to do what he wants, when he chooses,and how pleases. Jonah has free will — and God does not interfere with that even though Jonah’s choices cause him a lot of grief.
God gives Jonah the freedom to mess up — or to do what is right. That’s how God rolls.
The next word picture for God, is him as the master and we as his servants.
With God as our master we see him as being in charge; he is the boss and directs our activities.
Extending this image to us, there is a need to follow directives, to listen to him and obey him. We do have a choice (free will), however, and can choose to not obey, but that would make us to be an unfaithful servant.
Also, there is also the reminder that we can only truly serve one master: God or something else: be it money, things, a job, a person or relationship, amassing power, attaining prestige, or even leisure.
[Matthew 6:24, Matthew 10:24, 1 Samuel 3:10, Matthew 25:21]