MOST PEOPLE say that they believe in "free will." Do you have any idea what that means? I believe that you will find a great deal of superstition on this subject. The will is saluted as the grand power of the human soul which is completely free to direct our lives. But from what is it free? And what is its power?
THE MYTH OF CIRCUMSTANTIAL FREEDOM
No one denies that man has a will — that is, a faculty of choosing what he wishes to say, do, and think. But have you ever reflected on the pitiful weakness of your will? Though you have the ability to make a decision, you do not have the power to carry out your purpose. Will may devise a course of action, but will has no power to execute its intention.
Joseph’s brothers hated him. They sold him to be a slave. But God used their actions to make him a ruler over themselves. They chose their course of action to harm Joseph. But God in His power directed events for Joseph’s good. He said, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good" (Gen 50:20).
And how many of your decisions are miserably thwarted? You may choose to be a millionaire, but God’s providence is likely to prevent it. You may decide to be a scholar, but bad health, an unstable home, or lack of finances may frustrate your will. You choose to go on a vacation, but an automobile accident may send you to the hospital instead.
By saying that your will is free, we certainly do not mean that it determines the course of your life. You did not choose the sickness, sorrow, war, and poverty that have spoiled your happiness. You did not choose to have enemies. If man’s will is so potent, why not choose to live on and on? But you must die. The major factors which shape your life cannot thank your will. You did not select your social status, color, intelligence, etc.
Any sober reflection on your experience will produce the conclusion, "A man’s heart deviseth his way: but THE LORD DIRECTETH his steps" (Prov 16:9). Rather than extolling the human will, we ought to humbly praise the Lord whose purposes shape our lives. As Jeremiah confessed, "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer 10:23).
Yes, you may choose what you want, and you may plan what you will do; but your will is not free to accomplish anything contrary to the purposes of God. Neither have you any power to reach your goals but that which God allows you. The next time you are so enamored with your own will, remember Jesus’ parable about the rich man. The wealthy man said, "This I WILL do: I WILL pull down all my barns, and build greater: and there I WILL bestow all my fruits and my goods. . . But God said unto him. Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee" (Luke 12:18-21). He was free to plan but not free to accomplish; so it is with you.