Is God In Control?

Is God a puppet master, the one who is in complete control of every detail and facet of your life, of the entire universe? 

Grace Wins Matthew Ward

Is God In Control?

It just might be one of the most misunderstood things we Christians say, especially when we come face to face with situations, not to our liking. The phrase seems to have become a slogan in which some Christ-followers find a strange sort of comfort. Your car breaks down, your employer wants you to indulge in unethical business practices, you or a loved one becomes ill or disabled, worse someone you love dies, and you just might hear a follower of Christ say, “God is in Control.”

Let’s reason together and discern an answer to the question: Is God in Control?
Today we are going to look briefly at a couple of examples from scripture that gives rise to the phrase “God is in Control.” Mention will be made of the doctrines of predestination and foreknowledge and how these notions support the idea that “God is in Control.” Then we are going to see that love cannot be controlling. We will discover that God is not in control, rather God is in charge, and what the means for you and I.

The simple reading of scripture supports the idea that “God is in Control.” For example when we read

Isaiah 45:5-8 (MSG)
I am God, the only God there is. Besides me, there are no real gods. I'm the one who armed you for this work, though you don't even know me, So that everyone, from east to west, will know that I have no god-rivals. I am God, the only God there is. I form light and create darkness, I make harmonies and create discords. I, God, do all these things. "Open up, heavens, and rain. Clouds, pour out buckets of my goodness! Loosen up, earth, and bloom salvation; sprout right living. I, God, generate all this.

God has no rivals. Everything good or bad is by the hand of God.

When we read:
Eccl 7:14 (NIV)
When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.

The inference here is that if you find yourself in good times or bad, those times find their source in God. Why? Because God is in control.

This idea of the controlling God can also be inferred from the New Testament.
Consider what the Apostle Paul and Peter wrote.

Ephesians 1:11-12 (NIV)
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

Note the word predestined. Predestination, many teachers of scripture understand predestination from the individual's point of view; God, before you were born, before creation, picked those who would be part of His plan for redemption.  God picked the ones that would be saved and the ones that would be damned through His foreknowledge, which means He knew what each individual would choose before the Creation.

1 Peter 1:1-2 (NIV)
To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:

Note the word foreknowledge. It means knowing something in advance before it happens. Therefore God knows everything that is going to happen before it does. [There is another way to understand the concept of foreknowledge. Foreknowledge refers to God knowing all possibilities for what can happen.]

From predestination and foreknowledge, you can conclude that God determines all future events by His sovereign will, therefore, God is in complete control of all events that have occurred, are presently occurring, and will occur in the future.

Dr. Lehman Strauss taught in his sermon series “Learning Through Suffering,” the following:

“We do not expect to understand fully the purpose for our trials until our Lord calls us home to be with Him. But we do know that He loves us too much to harm us and that He is far more concerned with our welfare than we are. God's choices are always right. He is capable of carrying out any project to a successful conclusion without the possibility of fault or failure. Nothing in His universe happens by chance or accident.”

Nothing happens by chance or accident because God is in Control.

Yet if we hold to this idea, then God is the author of the human tragedy, evil is God creation, suffering God’s idea, death God’s plan. Everything good and pure, beautiful and righteous finds its source in God. Everything evil and impure, ugly and unrighteous are of His design also. The disparagers of Christianity often note the illogical actions of the biblical story, they observe, “if you’re all-knowing, all-powerful, why in the world would you do what you did? “It seems your God contradicts Himself and makes plenty of mistakes.” If you listen closely to their arguments, they are very persuasive, because you have to do some incredible mental gymnastics to reconcile a loving God with a Controlling God.

Plucked from recent headlines: predator priests, God is in Control; abusive pastor, God is in Control; porn addicted parishioner, God is in Control. I think the critics are partially correct.  This idea of a controlling God clashes greatly with the scripture’s revelation that God is love.

1 John 4:8 (NIV)
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

“If God exercised total control over everything we do, we could not love God because love always requires the lover to freely choose to love. God relinquished power in order to give us the freedom to love.”

The relationship God desires requires reciprocity. Love is freely shared.

You can see this clearly in the Creation story, God gives the Adam and the Eve, a choice. Humanity exercise free will, they make choices, those choices have consequences. God knew all the possibilities but did not know the choice that would be made until it was made. That’s how I understand foreknowledge—God knows every single possibility, every single choice we can make, but does not know exactly what that choice will be until we make it. Love is a risk. Love makes you vulnerable. Love does not exert power to control. God didn’t know that the Adam would rebel, God knew the possibility that the Adam would disobey, but not the certainty of it.

“God does not control us. He does not give us free will then take it away. He offers us blessing and cursing, life and death (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). He gives us options.”

Free will, free choice, cannot be controlled. God gives us choices and calls on us to choose the way He knows is best” Greg Boyd

“God has chosen not to be in control of everything going on in this world. In Christ, we find a God who deliberately gave up the power to control everything in order to save the world through sacrificial love (Philippians 2).”  “God did not create us to be puppets, but in Christ chose to draw us to Himself through an ultimate act of sacrificial love. That is why Jesus said, “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw people to me” (John 12:32). In Christ, God chose to draw us to Himself through sacrificial love, rather than coerce us through power. 

God does not control us, nor does God control everything that happens.  Instead, God is in charge. There is a huge difference between being in control and being in charge. The one in charge is the responsible party. If we take the idea of being in charge and put it into the business world we clearly see the difference. Quicksilver is a brand you might recognize. Dave Turner is the CEO, the chief operating officer of this Huntington Beach corporation.  Dave is not in control, but he is in charge. Dave is not in control of his employees, he is responsible for their behaviors. Dave is not in control of the market, he is responsible for leading the company through the ever-changing market dynamics. Dave can influence, Dave can work towards creating a climate of success, Dave can create opportunity, issue directives, hire and fire, promote, demote, but he does not control the business. Dave is in charge of the business. Dave is responsible for the business. Dave is powerful but he is not in control.

Some defenders of the faith might criticize the idea of God being in charge but not in control because it dilutes God’s sovereignty.  I personally think the notion enhances is sovereignty.

Reason with me here:
Isaiah 46:9-10 (MSG)
I am God, the only God you've had or ever will have— incomparable, irreplaceable—From the very beginning telling you what the ending will be, All along letting you in on what is going to happen, Assuring you, 'I'm in this for the long haul, I'll do exactly what I set out to do,'

We can read about the beginning in Genesis 1 and 2. Everything is righteous. That is exactly how the end will be, everything renewed in righteousness (Revelation 21:5). What God set out to do in the Beginning, He will bring to pass.

When you throw free will into that mix, by creating humanity in your own image, you take the risk that love will not be reciprocated. We read about that in Genesis 3. The rest of the biblical story is God working with people to set things right, time and time again, people exercise their free will in ways that seemingly thwart God’s will. Each time God initiates another tactic to get people back to the Garden. Nothing any of us does will collectively keep God from doing exactly what He set out to do. It just seems humanity has the propensity for putting in roadblocks to walking according to God’s way. God puts in a work-a-round every time.

Romans 8:27-29 (MSG)
[God] knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son.

That God can allow free will and still accomplish what He set out to do, make Him incredibly more all-knowing, all present, all powerful, than a puppet master God who can only control.  Get rid of that idea that God is in control, it makes God out to be a monster. Instead rejoice that God is in charge and no matter what choices people make, some will find themselves back in the Garden because they choose to respond to the love of God expressed to us in Christ.

Now let’s bring this down where we live.

Not everything that happens to us, in us, for us, against us, is God’s will. Jesus told us to pray that the Fathers will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).  Why would we be asked to pray if God is in control? No need. Every day we exercise free will and make choices. Those choices co-create the future with God. Because of poor choices, evil choices, people suffer. Yet even the worse of choices God somehow will still bring members of humanity back into right relationships with Him, with Others, the Earth, and their very selves. 

Evil and rebellion and egoism do not have its source in God. God in His sovereignty can walk you through the worst. If you survive the worst, God is so powerful that out of the evil that befell you, He can actually use that evil to do something good (Romans 8:28). If you don’t survive the ordeals of this life, Jesus has given you great and precious promises of life eternal.

Is God in control? No. But God will accomplish what He set out to do. You get to choose if you will align yourself with His will or reject it. You get to be a co-creator with God of the future. Use your free will wisely and you will get through and finally make it home.

Finally Home  Mercy Me

God is not in control. God is in charge. God is not a puppet master. Jesus revealed to us that God is love. God’s “awe-inspiring, miraculous and mysterious, all-knowing sovereignty means while I make my choices and they have consequences, a life consecrated to God means that he can take my fumbling weaknesses and still use them for his glory. It means that when people wrong me and the consequences of their decisions fall upon me, I will suffer but I don’t miss out on his favor. That no matter what happens to me  He is able to make all things work together to bring whosoever desires, forward, back to the Garden.”

Nothing will thwart God plans for redemption, for salvation. I encourage you to align yourselves with God the God who loves you too much to control you.


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