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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Stirring Up Spirits

Among those who believe in God there are different opinions about how or how much God's will determines what we do.  Some people believe that everything that we do is determined by God's will.  Others believe that none of our choices are determined by God's will.  Some believe that some of our choices are determined beforehand by God's will but others aren't.  And lots of people aren't sure or haven't really thought it through.

I'm one of the people who thinks that all of our actions are predetermined by God, despite some of the crazy, counterintuitive, mind-bending, and off-putting ramifications of that belief (at least at first glance).  (I explore this concept in depth in my forthcoming book from Gut Check Press, On Freedom and Destinie.)  Often when people hear this they picture God as a puppeteer who jerks people around like marionettes against their will.  But the way the Bible portrays this (even if it only happens in certain cases and not in others, as some believe) is that God achieves his will through our wills.  In other words, God gets what he wants by silently shaping what we want and then employing our own desires.

A good example of this is in the first chapter of the Book of Ezra.  The Jews had been in exile around Babylon for approximately 70 years.  Then Cyrus of Persia takes over after the Medes and Persians overthrow the Chaldeans of Babylon.  Early in Cyrus's reign Yahweh "stirred up [his] spirit" (v. 1, NASB) to decree that Jews should return to Jerusalem to build a temple for the God of Israel with their neighbors' support.  Lo and behold, God also stirred up the spirits of the clan chiefs of many of the Jewish exiles to go and do that very thing (v. 5).

In this case, we see that the way that God achieved his purpose of restoring his people to their promised land and restoring worship of himself there was by instilling that desire in the persons who could make it happen.  When Cyrus and the leaders of the exiles collaborated to make this a reality, they weren't being forced by God against their wills but rather were doing what they wanted.  Nevertheless, God was behind what they wanted, creating in them the desire to accomplish his purpose.

For more on the implications of this, read my book when it comes out this year.  (Don't worry; I'll let you know when it is released.)  But for now a fairly simple but very important application is to pray to ask God to "stir up the spirit" of ourselves and of the people we know to do his will.  If people's desires, including ours, are in God's hands, then anything can happen.  If we pray that God would put what he wants into our hearts and the hearts of our families, friends, church members, neighbors, and enemies, we should expect to see wonders beyond what we could ask or think.

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