Partnering with the Lord

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:16-17

Being co-heirs with Christ means a kind of partnership with the Lord. It is certainly not an equal partnership, as we are God’s children, but it is a partnership nonetheless. Over and over again, God gives us an important part to play in the activity of His Kingdom on earth.

God could do everything for us but He knows that would be disempowering. Instead, God does things with us because He loves us. God could sovereignly present the gospel to people, and sometimes does through encounters and dreams, but He likes to partner with us in sharing the gospel. He wants to use the Church, His Body, to spread the good news of Jesus.

God could sovereignly heal people, and sometimes does, but He likes to partner with us in healing. He likes to work through His children as they lay hands on the sick and pray for healing.

God can sovereignly deliver people from demonic oppression, and sometimes does, but He likes to partner with us in deliverance. If we are being bound by bitterness and resentment, Jesus invites us into freedom by calling us to forgive. When we do our part and forgive, God then moves in and sets us free from bitterness.

If we experience heavy oppression from the enemy, God will partner with our brothers and sisters in Christ who pray for us to help us get free. He wants to empower not only the people praying, so that they discover the authority they have in Christ and the power they have in the Holy Spirit, but also the person receiving prayer. He wants all of His children walking in the authority and power that was purchased for them in the death and resurrection of Christ.

With God there is a constant back and forth. This life in Christ is a dance as we follow His lead. If we don’t understand this partnership, we’ll either think everything is all up to God or all up to us. Both extremes are found in the Church and both views fall short of capturing the truth. Sometimes God is waiting on us to move and sometimes we must wait on the Lord and His timing.

This is why intimacy with the Lord, listening to His voice, and ongoing interaction with Him is so vital in our Christian life. Otherwise we fall into legalism. Each situation requires that we follow His lead. And He may not do what He did last time. He may not direct us the same way He directed us last time. It’s case by case. This is what it means to “keep in step with the Spirit“(Galatians 5:25). It’s a dance. And as we learn to dance with Him, it’s beautiful.

God Is In Charge

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:19-20

Passages in the Bible like this one are why I tend to say, “God is in charge” and not “God is in control.” I do believe in the sovereignty of God and that, ultimately, He is in charge. But saying that God is in “control” of everything starts to attribute all the evil in the world to God. John makes clear here in 1 John 5 that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” The enemy has his evil tentacles in everything.

This truth is why I don’t understand when people equate “born this way” with “it must be God’s will.” If sin has infected all of creation (Romans 8:20-21) and if the enemy has his evil tentacles in everything, why would we assume that things can’t go wrong in the womb?

Lots of things go wrong in the womb, and we shouldn’t attribute them to God. Miscarriages happen, still births happen, kids are born with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. None of this is God. This is result of the fallenness of creation and the work of the evil one who loves to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

We have to separate, “I was born this way,” from, “God intended this for my life.” We were born into a war against an enemy that doesn’t fight fair (Ephesians 6:10-18). And the womb is not some kind of safe “home base” that is precluded from warfare. Am I saying that things happen in this world that God doesn’t want to happen? Absolutely!

How can I say that?

1 Timothy 2:4 says that God our Savior, “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” This is what God wants. This is His will. And yet, many people don’t come to a knowledge of the truth. Many people aren’t saved. What God wants to happen doesn’t happen. Our sin and the schemes of the enemy resist God’s will. God’s word is sent out but the enemy and the condition of our hearts affect whether that word gets planted and bears fruit. Jesus taught us this through the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23).

Because of the freedom that God has given humanity, He allowed us not to be robots. We have the ability, because of that freedom, to enter into an authentic love relationship with God. But that also means it is possible to resist what God wants. We have misused this good gift of freedom, and it has led to all manner of evil.

All of creation was given this kind of freedom. The natural world has a similar freedom that we were created to have. And because we who were supposed to rule over creation (Genesis 1:28) gave away our authority to the enemy (Genesis 3), the freedom that was given to the natural world has also run amuck (Genesis 3:17-18).

Christians have become way too passive because of a poor understanding of God’s sovereignty in the world. We’ve accepted far too much as “God’s will,” and as a result have both blamed God for evil and embraced that which was not God’s intention as “God’s design.”

This sort of passive spiritual shrug-of-the-shoulders combined with statements full of resignation (like “It is what it is”) reveal how subdued and domesticated the Church has become. This milieu of resignation has left the Church even more vulnerable to attack from our enemy. The more we embrace the enemy’s work as if it is the Lord’s work, the more weak we become.

All People

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. 

1 Timothy 2:1-6

Paul urged Timothy to pray for all people.

Why?

Because God wants all people to be saved.

How?

Through the one mediator between God and humanity, Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

What this reveals is that in this broken and fallen world, God’s will is not always done. Jesus gave himself for all people and God wants all people to be saved, and yet not all people are saved. This is why we were taught to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”(Matthew 6:10). We have to pray that God’s will be done on earth because it’s not always done on earth. His will is always done in the heavenly realms but not always on earth.

Why?

Because there are forces that resist God’s will being done on the earth. Ephesians 2 lists three forces that push against God’s will being done on earth.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. 

Ephesians 2:1-3

The three forces that push against the will of God being done on earth are: 1) our flesh–our old self riddled with cravings, desires and thoughts that are sinful; 2) Satan (a.k.a. the ruler of the kingdom of the air)–the one who works in the hearts and minds of those who are disobedient (see Ephesians 6:12); and 3) the ways of the world–the collective societal deception and disobedience that the enemy uses to create corporate strongholds of lies and unbelief.

God did not create humanity to be marionettes. He gave us the freedom to be in an authentic love relationship with Him. Yet, we continually abuse this freedom and usher evil into the world. When we sin and rebel against God, we hand the authority God gave us to rule (Genesis 1:28) to our enemy, and he uses it to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). This is why what God wants to happen on the earth doesn’t always happen.

We have to stop blaming God when hard things happen. We need a better understanding of His sovereignty that factors in human freedom and the forces at work against God’s Kingdom coming to earth as it is in heaven.