Does God Manipulate People? The Truth About Destiny and Predestination

does god manipulate people - the truth about destiny and predestination

(This section is taken from the book, “The Destiny of an Overcomer.”)

Now that we’ve briefly examined some terms that surface with the idea of destiny, there’s another that perplexes some people, and that is the idea of “predestination.”

There seems to be a paradox between free will (where our destiny is self-directed or imposed) and a divinely-imposed destiny (where God directs and imposes our destiny). At the heart of this are verses like Romans 8:29 and Ephesians 1:11:

For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.

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.

Many people (who often side with the divinely-imposed destiny argument) read these verses as saying that the Lord is exerting divine influence over some to allow them to gain access into God’s family as Christians. This argument often implies (even if it isn’t said outright) that the Lord extends salvation to some, while at the same time leaving others to be eternally excluded. The implication of this idea is that the Lord decides who will and who will not receive salvation, and that certain members of mankind (who have been excluded) have no choice in the matter.

While this argument seems to make sense on the surface, in light of other scriptures that tell us about the Lord’s stance on free will, His character, and His driving desire, the idea of the Lord divinely choosing or manipulating who will and who won’t be saved can’t remain standing.

Let’s examine these three important areas:

The Lord’s Stance on Free Will

From the beginning of creation, the Lord has allowed all of mankind to make their own decisions. In the Garden of Eden, the Lord told Adam that he was able to eat from any tree in the garden, but that he “must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, and that if he did eat from it, he would die (Gen. 2:16-17). The Lord’s desire was that Adam wouldn’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but He gave him the choice to decide according to his own free will.

When Satan tempted Eve to eat the fruit and then when Eve, in turn, offered the fruit to Adam, God didn’t run in and slap the fruit out of Adam’s hand. He didn’t cause a bird to fly in and steal the apple from Adam, and He didn’t yell for Adam not to eat the apple. The Lord provided Adam with a choice. He could choose to obey God and live in constant blessing and communion with the Lord, or he could disobey God and reap the consequences. The spirit of this whole process is captured in what Moses told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30:19 about obeying the Lord when he said: “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Later on in the Bible, in First Samuel 8:6–22, we see how the people of Israel wanted to be led and ruled by a king (instead of being led and ruled by the Lord), and how the Lord granted their desire.

Just to paraphrase what happened in this passage of scripture, the Israelites told Samuel that they wanted a king. Samuel brought their request to the Lord, and He told Samuel to listen to their request. God said that the Israelites had rejected Him, not Samuel, in making this request to appoint a king to rule over them. In response to this, Samuel warned the people about the terrible things a king would do to them. Even with Samuel’s admonition, the Israelites wouldn’t change their mind. Samuel returned to the Lord and reported all of this, and in First Samuel 8:21, the Lord answered saying, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

The Lord honored the Israelites’ free will and right to choose for themselves with no divine influence or arm twisting, even though it was His desire to live with them, walk among them, be their God (2 Cor. 6:16) and lead them in “the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:24, KJV) as their King of Glory (Psalm 24:8).

The Lord honors our right to choose in every area of our lives, and this is true in terms of salvation as well. First Timothy 2:4 says that, “[H]e [the Lord] wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth,” and yet we know that many reject the truth and have perished, never having been saved. Since the Lord’s desire is for all men to be saved, and we know that many men still perish without having been saved, we know that the Lord honored their right and ability to choose, where they could accept or reject Him according to their own free will.

Just in the few examples that we have looked at, we can see how the Lord respects our free will and honors our right to make our own unhindered decisions in our lives (even if they aren’t in our best interests), and this is equally as true for matters of destiny.

Many arguments that put forth the idea that the Lord alters and dictates our future (and the decisions that we make) will often raise the idea that because the Lord knows something will happen, the event must now happen; that the event is somehow forced into occurring, as if the Lord’s divine foreknowledge would influence how the event will turn out.

As we have already seen that the Lord honors our free will, it is easier for us to see that the Lord is able to divinely know that something will happen, without divinely influencing its outcome.

The Character of God

In addition to the Lord’s stance on free will, His character also dictates His actions concerning our right to choose without Him forcing or manipulating us.

In First John 4:16 we see that God is love, and 1 Corinthians 13:5 states that one of love’s qualities is that it is “not self-seeking”. As the Lord is love, then, and love is not self-seeking, we cannot realistically entertain the idea that the Lord would divinely manipulate the outcome of our destiny or our personal choices to suit His purposes without our acceptance or consent, as in order to do so, God would have to be self-seeking.

Furthermore, in Acts 10:34, 35 we read that God does not show favoritism but accepts everyone who fears Him and does what is right.

Finally in Revelation 3:20, we see an overall picture of the character of the Lord in the sense of His respect for our right to accept or reject Him. In this passage of scripture, the Lord is pictured as standing at the door of every person’s heart knocking, that He would be allowed to come in and fellowship with anyone who would open the door to their heart. The Lord is not using His power to invade our hearts against our will, but is respecting our desires and our will to choose whether we want Him in our lives.

The Lord’s character ensures that He will always respect and uphold our right to make our own choices without Him forcing or manipulating us. And as Malachi 3:6 says, the Lord does not change, so our future decisions are guaranteed to be respected. If we turn away, choosing to follow our own desires, the Lord may pursue us out of His love for us (as we will see later), but He will never force our destiny upon us, or divinely ensure that we just happen to arrive at the place He desires us to be if we reject Him.

The Lord’s Driving Desire

Where the Lord’s stance on free will and His character govern the way He interacts with us in our lives, it is the Lord’s driving desire for us to walk in a relationship with Him that fuels and gives shape to our representation of Him and the fullness of our potential.

Above all else, the Lord’s desire is to walk in an intimate relationship with us. He longs to speak to us as He spoke to Moses—hand-to-hand, eye-to-eye, nose-to-nose, and foot-to-foot—as a friend (Exodus 33:11).

The Hebrew meaning of the word “friend” in that passage refers to “a neighbor, companion, associate, or lover,” which brings to mind thoughts of the Lord being very close to us (even in proximity) and personally involved in our lives.

The Lord desires us to have a real, vibrant, and transparent relationship with Him. He has never wanted us to be mindless minions, just following along a path to accomplish a destiny that He is forcing us to follow. He has an individual destiny for each of us, but He has always wanted us to choose Him, and to choose to follow the destiny He has available to each of us out of our own free will and the love that we have for Him.

If He were to exert His divine influence over us, forcing us into a relationship with Him, there wouldn’t be any real intimacy.

In Isaiah 29:13 the Lord says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”

Can you sense the Lord’s pain inferred here? Can you hear how the Father’s heart breaks when we do things mechanically without our hearts being near to Him in a close relationship?

If the Lord forced us to make decisions and follow a destiny plan that ensures that everything lined up with His own desires, it would destroy the intimacy. In fact, many who believe in the idea of predestination (where our life’s events are already decided and we have no choice in the matter) often view the Lord as a divine dictator-type which effectively disables our ability to be intimate with Him. Those with this mindset believe that it doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do, think or don’t think, believe or don’t believe, say or don’t say, as they feel that, “God is going to do what He’s going to do, no matter what I do or don’t do!” They see their lives as divinely predetermined, which isn’t so good if things aren’t going well.

Of course, if the events of their life were going to happen to them regardless of the choices they made or didn’t make, their need for intimacy with the Lord wouldn’t be as great. In light of this, it would be easy for some to just accept the Lord for the benefits of salvation, thinking that in the “right here and now” of their lives “what will be, will be” and that knowing the Lord in a deeper way “wouldn’t really benefit” them much more than getting a ticket into Heaven and out of hell. As a result, when faced with a challenge or trial, they may not seek the Lord for His divine deliverance because “God may have brought it all on.”

This is dangerous, particularly if taken to the extreme, because someone believing that everything bad that is in their life is due to the Lord’s ordaining it may lead to a flippant lifestyle, and a refusal to take responsibility for their actions or choices. After all, if we don’t have a choice in what happens, how can we be responsible?

Oh Lord, forgive us if we have had any outlook or viewpoint that would hinder our relationship with You. Father we know that You love us, and have called us according to Your great purpose—to know You personally and individually. We know that You love us and have a destiny plan available for each of us, if we choose to accept it. Lord, in this day and hour, with the harvest being so ripe, let us not take on a passive attitude assuming that “whatever will be, will be.” Instead, let us press on and press in to You and the destiny and call that You have on each of our lives, to make a difference in Jesus’ name for the glory of Your Kingdom.

The Lord’s desire is that we would all be reconciled to Him through Jesus (2 Cor. 5:18), as He sent His one and only Son to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). And if He “did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also give us all things” (Romans 8:32), including our will to choose without having our decisions, paths or destiny divinely manipulated or forced upon us? The Lord honors our free will according to what we want, even if He knows it isn’t in our best interests.

He loves us so much that He allows us to make our own decisions, and that includes the path we take in life and the destiny we choose.

Know that the Lord loves you. He will try and warn you, direct you and guide you, but He will not force His will on you, as He desires a real relationship of intimacy with you above all else.

*Taken from “The Destiny of an Overcomer”

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