What does it mean to say God is in control?
First of all, “God is in control’ is not a Bible verse. There are verses that do seem to proclaim that truth. Psalm 103:19 says, “The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.” And Isaiah 14:24 says, “The Lord Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.” But how does God rule and plan to carry out his purposes? How does God ‘control’ what goes on in the world.
This is a big question, and one could go on for weeks discussing all the various aspects of it. I want to consider just one small piece of this very big puzzle.
On the one hand, yes, Christians do believe that God is all powerful and is able to control everything he wants to control. But, on the other hand, Christians also believe that God has chosen not to control everything. God has chosen not to rule everything by power and force. God rules much of creation that way– the movements of the stars and the sun and the planets and the workings of chemistry and physics and all of that sort of thing is completely under control. It all runs with precision according to the plan God built into creation from the beginning. The laws of nature always work like they are supposed to work. Even the animals are programmed by instinct to know and do what they are supposed to do; and they do it.
But there is one part of creation that God does not rule completely. This is not because he can’t, but because he has chosen not to. That part of creation is you and me. God has chosen NOT to program us to move in strictly designated paths like the planets and the comets, or react in certain ways like the molecules. Nor has he created us to live only by our instincts, like the animals.
Unlike all the rest of creation, God has given us some freedom. God created each of us with a soul and a spirit; “in His image” the Bible says, so that He could relate to us and love us, and so that we could, in return, love him and live in that relationship. God wants our love and respect and attention to be freely given, and not forced or controlled, or programmed by instinct.
God, therefore, relinquishes some of the power that he could exert. Not all of it, of course. The Bible says that he still holds us in his hand and cares for us and directs us and that even the hairs on our head are numbered. But it is clear in the Bible that he has given us the freedom to return his love, to speak to him, to obey him, and to hear and learn his word. We are free to do all that; OR, we are free to reject it all. We are free to say ‘no’ to God and to go our own way.
God reaches out to us, and His love and promises are freely given. Jesus died for you and offers you a place in his home. But God will not force or control your response. God does not force us to stay with him against our will. God has not programmed us to obey the Ten Commandments. As C. S. Lewis once wrote: “There are two kinds of people; those who say to God, “Thy will be done;” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.” (continued…)