Does God force us to fulfil our individual assignments such that no matter where we run, we would still end up doing it?
Femi Osunnuyi: It’s sort of yes and no. Remember Jonah? You know, God told Jonah, “Go to Nineveh.” Right? So, we’re in Lagos now; Nineveh is like going to Accra, but Jonah then takes a ship and goes to Yaoundé – for some of you that don’t know your geography, Accra is towards the west of Lagos while Yaoundé is towards the east of Lagos. But by the time you get to the end of the book, guess where Jonah is – he’s in Accra. You know, there were some detours, and the form of transportation was changed a little bit – putting it lightly. But here’s the thing; when he was tossed into the ocean and the fish came, it wasn’t that the fish just put him towards Nineveh despite his will. When you read the prayer that Jonah makes, you see that he repents and acknowledges his sinfulness, asking for God’s grace and mercy. So, God was responding to Jonah’s change of heart by taking him there. So yes, he still did what God wanted him to do but it wasn’t like God took him kicking and screaming against his will – he eventually went there.
I say this because Psalm 14, Psalm 53, and Romans 3 all reiterate what I’m about to explain. For all of you that are seated here in church, at least most of you came here of your own will except your girlfriend or wife, and vice versa, blackmailed you to come in, but even with that, you came because of a reason. It wasn’t like there was a gun put to your head, so, we can say that all of us here came willingly. But the truth is that you didn’t really come on your own because the Bible says that the natural state of every human being is this: “No one seeks after God.” So, how is it then that you are here? Jesus says, “All that the Father has given to me will come to me”. Why? Because He will draw them. God doesn’t force us but draws us, and we actually say yes. It is the same way that the aroma of good food draws you, the same way the love of someone that you love draws you, the same way that music draws you – you know the Trybesmen song “Whether you like am whether you know like am, the thing be say you go still dey shake bodi” – you are like, “Why am I moving?” but it has not forced you; it’s just drawn you.
If we had the choice of charting the course of our lives, it would always end in disaster, so if we’re going to ever make anything good of our lives, God must chart that course for us and make us go on that course. But the way God makes us go on that course is not by causing us to go against our will, rather God acts on our will to ensure that we do that. That’s why the Bible says that all things, even the things that are undesirable, work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). It also says that those He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Christ – notice that He’s the one doing everything – He foreknew, He predestined, He called, He justified, and He glorified. So, from God’s foreknowing to His glorification, it’s all God because if He left it to us, we would not be where we desire and ought to be.
It’s the same in other aspects of our lives – God directs our lives. While God is not responsible for the sin that you committed, He uses the sin to teach you a lesson that puts you on a particular road that you would not have been on if you didn’t fall into that sin. God is constantly directing the course of our lives – “the footsteps of a righteous man are ordered of the Lord”. (Psalms 37:23)
But there’s a difference between that and the philosophical view of determinism which simply states that “What is going to happen is just what’s going to happen.” It almost makes us like robots or automatons and that’s not the way the Bible thinks. Neither does the Bible support full-blown liberalism which states that “We are all masters of our destiny”. If God left everybody to be absolute masters of our destiny, the world would have stopped existing thousands of years ago, we would have all killed each other! So, somehow, God works everything according to the purpose of His will whilst allowing us to exercise the freedom of our will and how that works out, I don’t know. In the same way, I can’t figure out how oil and water mix, or how Okra and rice and stew can come together, or how Ẹ̀fọ́ and Ẹ̀gúsí come together, or Noodles and Dòdò! 😅
Answered by Femi Osunnuyi, lead pastor of City Church, a gospel-centred urban church in the city of Lagos. Because of his passion for church planting and leadership development, he also serves on the Lead Team of Acts 29 and the Advisory Team of City to City Africa. He is happily married to Tosin and is father to Tofunmi and Timilehin.