Perhaps one of the biggest questions I'd like to ask God is why in the world He gave man a free will. He's omniscient, He knows everything. He knew that Adam and Eve would choose to sin, introducing sin into the human bloodline and the effect of sin upon His creation. He knows us and our tendency to choose self over Him, the easy way out over the way of the cross.
I understand the concept that He wanted a family of voluntary lovers, not of robots. I get that. But I still think giving us a free will is pretty risky business. After all, what if we mess the whole thing up?
For instance, what if Mary had told the angel Gabriel no? What if she had used her free will to bow out of God's plan for her to be the mother of our Lord? What if Joseph had told the angel that he didn't care about this whole "she's a virgin and pregnant with the Son of God" thing? What if he had chosen not to participate in the whole scandalous situation?
I look at events in our life, recent events. I see the meticulous details that God wove together to make His will happen. Yet, I want to break out in a sweat when I think how necessary it was for the individuals involved to obey God, how one person's disobedience could have messed everything up.
My son-in-law and daughter had been our associate pastors/youth pastors for over ten years when they came to my husband, the senior pastor, saying they wanted to leave our church to plant a church of their own. They told him where they wanted to go. My husband had the audacity to tell them no. To tell them it wasn't the time and it wasn't the place. Now, I know that authority is a dirty word in our culture. Because some have abused authority, we run away from that word and from anything that smells like submission, But, my son-in-law, though it wasn't easy, submitted to my husband's decision. He trusted God to deal with my husband if he was wrong in not letting them leave.
In the meanwhile, we were pastoring two churches, one in Portland, Oregon and one across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington. On Sundays we would drive to Vancouver and have church then hurry back to Portland and have church. A year or so after my husband told my son-in-law no, God have him a dream of him letting our son-in-law go. He knew that he had to obey God. So my son-in-law and daughter started taking training and preparation for church planting and started driving hither and yon to see if God would reveal to them where He wanted them to plant a church. The only problem was that over ten years before God had specifically called them to Portland, and God hadn't changed His mind.
My son-in-law convinced himself that he couldn't plant a church in Portland, since my husband and I already had a church in Portland. He feared that it would be too divisive, a breeding ground for a church split. So, he began to pray and asked God that if He really wanted him to plant a church in Portland He would confirm it through my husband . My son-in-law made a list of things he felt my husband would have to do and say before he felt right to plant a church in Portland, and he laid the list before the Lord. The least likely item on the list was that my husband would choose to merge the Portland and Vancouver churches into one church and move our ministry to Vancouver. And that's just what happened. My husband came to my son-in-law with a plan to merge the two churches to Vancouver and to give our son-in-law a year to form and train a team from our church to start a church in southeast Portland. They discussed details of how our church would spiritually and financially cover the new church until it got on its own feet. When my husband was done with his proposal, my son-in-law showed my husband the list that He had written down and given to God. My husband had covered each item on the list without having seen it before.
As advertising went out into south east Portland for the opening Sunday of my son-in-law's church, a young man who had wandered away from church and from a vibrant walk with God saw a Facebook post about the new church. This young man had godly, praying parents who had been praying for their son. The first day of the new church, their son went. He's been there ever since and is active in serving God and ministering in the children's ministries and the mission's outreaches of the church.
Meanwhile, my youngest daughter was living in Missouri, and was a part of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. God began dealing with her about moving back to Portland and about getting involved and helping in the new church, which she did.
The young man and my youngest daughter, both in their thirties, had sought God for so long to bring the right person into their life to marry, that they both had pretty much given up on the idea all together. They both decided that the single life wasn't so bad after all, and poured themselves into their jobs and their ministries at church.
Can you guess the end of the story? Yes, that young man and my youngest daughter will be getting married this May.
But here's where the whole scary tapestry of God's will and our will to either listen and obey or not to, could have unraveled. What if my son-in-law had told my husband, "I quit!" and just stomped off and did his own thing in spite of my husband's wishes? What if, when God gave my husband the dream to let my son-in-law go, he had ignored the dream and just decided it was the pizza he had eaten the night before? What if my husband had just stuck with what we were doing, and not decided to make a huge change and take a big risk by merging two very different congregations into one church? What if he had refused to leave Portland and go to Vancouver? What if my son-in-law hadn't listened to God to wait until he had a green light to plant a church in Portland? What if he had impatiently decided one place is a good as the next and started the church somewhere else? What if whoever decided to post to Facebook about the new church starting up in southeast Portland hadn't done it? What if my future son-in-law hadn't listened and obeyed the promptings of the Holy Spirit to "go check this new church out"? What if my daughter, who was well established in Missouri, hadn't obeyed God's promptings to move back to Portland? Do you see how there were many, many, many individual acts of obedience that were necessary to the answer to the cry of my daughter's heart to meet the man God had for her? Not to mention, necessary to my future son-in-law getting back on track in his walk with God and to the couple of hundred people who have made decisions for Christ through the ministry of Hope City church.
My point in all of this? Our obedience, or lack thereof, just doesn't affect us and God. We are intricately connected one with another, like a tapestry. Our acts of obedience can have life changing consequences for others. The scary thing is, so can our disobedience. I think we need to handle the power of our free will very carefully. I sure wish Adam and Eve had, don't you?
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