You’ve got the power! (Do you know how to use it?)
Apart from God Himself, your will is the single most powerful thing in your universe. It has the power to choose heaven or hell as your ultimate destination and a heaven-infused life versus a hellish one down here. Like a fire hose under maximum pressure, it holds such power that it can send you careening all over the place, unless you learn how to get a good grip on the thing and attach your will to His grace and truth.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live. Deuteronomy 30:19 ESV
The Power of Our Wills
Your will is powerful! God has gone on record with “heaven and earth” as witnesses that He has given to no one else but you the power to choose life and death, blessing and cursing (the Deuteronomy passage quoted above). It is “set before” you every day. In every situation, at all times, you and you alone have this stupendous power over your life.
There has to be a catch. Otherwise, all of us would be living the dream. That’s just not happening! Perhaps it’s time to check the fine print on the offer and see what the deal really is.
One thing we need to note right away is that in giving this power to us, God had to “step back” and create room for it (us) to operate. If you give a friend the keys to your car, you retain ultimate responsibility for all that follows, but he has immediate authority over the car. If your car is a Ferrari, watch out! He may not even take you along for the ride. In that case, he’ll be fully on his own with something he probably is ill-equipped to handle. Yet, that is just what our God has done. He has given us “earth suits” with immense capabilities and turned the keys over to us.
We can even say “No” to God! Think about it. The most powerful Being in the universe has given all of us the ability to say no to Him and make it stick. He wants to bless all of us at every turn, He desires to save all of us from that final speed bump at the end of the road, but we are juiced up on Self and barreling along in our Ferrari, keeping His Hands off the wheel and our feet on the gas. That’s a formula for disaster. And even God cannot stop us from crashing and burning. He has given true freedom of choice to us.
The Problem of Our Wills
There’s a good reason why the Lord didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We are all “stuck” with having to choose between good and evil, right and wrong, blessing and cursing with every choice we make. No one can “opt out” – this is our moment by moment moral responsibility. Through our ancestral parents we are born into this whether we like it or not. We have to choose. Even not choosing is a choice.
The great problem is that we are always operating under conditions of insufficient knowledge. We don’t know what right and wrong truly are in every situation. Neither do we always know which decision will produce consequences of blessing down the road, or summon the curse. These would be problems enough, but to make matters much worse, our entire perspective is skewed. We have become “as gods” in our own little worlds, seeing everything from the warped perspective of Self. What seems best for me and mine isn’t necessarily the best.
These are insurmountable obstacles! In Christian terms wrong choices don’t simply produce mistakes, they are sins – sins of thought, word or deed, of things done or left undone, whether known or unknown to us. Sin left unchecked always produces death. Sins are notoriously hard to remedy, but being sinful is even worse. Yet, that’s our pre-conversion condition of being centered exclusively on Self, riddled through and through with a fallen nature which interprets all of life from our own self-serving perspective. How do you escape that?
This does not mean that we can’t get some things right. Obviously, people all over the world make lots of good choices, including trying to overcome their natural tendencies to selfishness, or the world would be in much worse condition. Anyone can make a right choice at any time. That is the power we have been given. To make a right choice and to make it stick we need two things which we have sometimes, but not all of the time:
1) Sufficient knowledge of what the best choice truly is.
2) Sufficient motivation to carry it out. Learn about our Two Most Powerful Motivations at our website.
Clearly, none of us have these two necessities working for us at all times. For this reasons St. Augustine and many of the Reformers insisted that our will is not genuinely free. It is hopelessly shackled by our sin nature and by the inescapable limitations of our imperfect knowledge and faulty motivation. Of our own “free” will, none of us can save ourselves. None of us can even ensure our earthly happiness. Or avoid bone-headed failures. And as they say, even our good intentions can “pave the way to hell.”
The (not so level) Playing Field
Suffering and wrong choices are never God’s fault. He is not the Author of evil. He never makes any wrong choices. He is perfectly loving and thoroughly right in all of His ways. Giving freedom to us and to the angels, even those that fell, was the right choice. His love cherishes our freedom. What’s more, His love can only grow in us if we are free. How did things go so wrong?
All suffering, sin and evil are the result of three things:
1) Free will – our choices. Here’s where the rubber meets the road each and every day.
2) Real world – our consequences. Every choice has a consequence for good or ill, for better or worse, to summon the curse or bring the blessing. This is called the law of sowing and reaping.
3) Real devil – our enemy. Even the angles were free to choose. Some chose to rebel along with Satan, who then deceived us into joining them in the Great Rebellion. Now they are seeking to “devour” us through our own wrong choices.
Learn more about Sovereignty and Free Will at our website.
On this field of play there are three typical conditions of the will:
1) A strong will. Having a strong will is what we ordinarily call will power. These people make choices and make them stick. We generally admire those who have a strong will, but the source for this is Self. It can be just as firmly fixed on something we know is wrong, as on something we mistakenly think is right. The Bible calls it being stubborn and stiff-necked.
2) A weak will. What seems to us like a weak will, is actually a strong will in disguise. It too is powered up by the fallen nature, but unlike the “strong” will, this person cannot (or will not) make a choice and make it stick. The Bible calls this being double minded. Both those with “strong wills” and those will “weak wills” keep God out in actual practice, even if they know Him by faith.
3) A yielded will. This is the one we want. Now that we know Jesus as our Savior, we can freely choose to surrender and submit to His leadership over our lives as Lord. This is called having a willing spirit.
The Coach’s Game Plan
It’s time to go back to the fine print and see the rest of the Lord’s statement on that fateful day when He set blessings and curses before His people as their sovereign choice. In Deuteronomy verse 19 He told them about the power He was giving them. This is immediately followed in verse 20 with His strong “recommendations” for what they/we should do with this incredible power. These two verses should never be separated!
19 I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live 20 and may love the Lord your God, obey His voice, and cling to Him. For He is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 AMP
Did you catch that? In order to “love Him” and reap the blessings, we have to “obey His voice.” That means listening for the inner leading of the Holy Spirit as well as for His voice coming to us through conscience and the written Word, so that we can abide in Jesus and live by His ways (“dwell in the land” we have been given). To do that His “advice” is that we “cling” to Him. How do we cling to God? By calling on His Name!
Call on Him whenever you need help with your choices or with your motivation; whenever you need help resisting temptation; above all, whenever you begin to falter at trusting and obeying Jesus. These are moments of decision in daily life that we all face. All of us need Jesus to help, save or rescue us in the midst of them. What do we have to do to get His help? Call and cling!
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 ESV
Free will only works for us, if we keep it attached to the One who gave it to us. Jesus is our Tree of Life. Now that we know who He is, we should be “feeding” on Him for all we are worth, rather than the Tree of (our own) Knowledge of Good and Evil. As we learn to look to Him for guidance about our choices and call on Him for help to see them through, we enter into the life that has been promised to us, a life of purpose, passion and peace.
This New Life doesn’t work by will power, but by will submission. As we choose to believe in Jesus, we choose to trust what He tells us (in His Word and by His Spirit) and we choose to follow Him. Whenever we believe in Jesus enough to trust Him with everything and everyone, the Holy Spirit empowers us to walk with Him in yielded obedience. This is genuine spiritual health. It is also our one true offering to God. To paraphrase my mentor, Francois Fenelon:
God has given us one thing that is uniquely our own – our wills – so that we can have something of value to offer back to Him.
Learn more on True Spiritual Health at our website!