Our “time of grace” refers to the time we are alive to come to know Jesus. Is that fixed date really unchangeable? Or do our actions impact it?
The answer to your questions is yes. Yes, God controls when my life ends. Yes, my choices can impact when my life ends. This is a paradox (i.e., a seeming contradiction) of Scripture. We need to let both statements stand because the Bible teaches both.
Avoiding the ditches
Throughout history, many have fallen into the ditch by holding to one of those statements and denying the other.
On one side, Stoics believed that everything is predetermined and that we are merely actors on the stage playing our part according to the script. Many today believe that everything is inevitable because it’s been predetermined. This side denies human accountability in their choices.
On the other side, the Epicureans embraced the idea that everything happens by chance. Deists believe that God set the world in motion with the laws of nature and then withdrew after creation to let the world run its course. These ideas deny God’s loving care for his creation.
The perspective of God’s providence
Job 14:5 says, “A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” From God’s perspective, everything must happen as it does.
God’s care for creation extends to the smallest detail. Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matthew 10:29,30). If God were to remove his care and blessing, we would cease to exist “for in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
What a comfort to know, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9). What a comfort to confess, “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15). What a comfort to know that the One who holds our time in his hands also held the nails that showed his infinite love for us!
The perspective of human accountability
The previous point may leave us asking, “If everything has to happen as it does, then why try to eat healthy, seek medical treatment, or be concerned about how much sleep we get?”
Scripture’s answer shows that from our perspective, we can impact the length of our lives. Consider King Saul, Ahithophel, and Judas, all of whom committed suicide. Their actions shortened their lives, though God knew the actions they would take. From our perspective, all of us have seen those who abuse their bodies and health in various ways and shorten their lives. Yet their choices were not outside of God’s foreknowledge.
On the side of lengthening life, the Bible records that God revealed to Hezekiah that he would die. However, Hezekiah prayed and God extended his life by 15 years! God tells us that prayer changes things: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Certainly, God takes into consideration the prayers and choices of people and weaves them into his providence and care. He can say, “It all happens just as I knew it would.”
So, where does that leave us? We will care for our bodies as gifts from God to glorify him, while understanding that our times are in the hands of our loving God.
Have a question, ask it here!
Author: David Scharf
Volume 108, Number 12
Issue: December 2021
- Q&A: Do parts of the Bible teach works righteousness?
- Q&A: How can I overcome my struggle with lust and pornography?
- Q&A: How should I help my child struggling with same-sex attraction?
- Q&A: Should Christians pray to saints?
- Q&A: Is anger sinful?
- Q&A: How can parents encourage adult children who wander from the faith?
- Q&A: Does the doxology belong in the Lord’s Prayer?
- Q&A: Is God fair?
- Q&A: When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” what are we praying for?
- Q&A: How can I better manage what God has given me this year so that I glorify him?
- Q&A: What are ways to glorify God besides singing in church?
- Q&A: I have no special gifts, and I mess up all the time. Does God really need me?
- Q&A: How do I overcome the feeling that my life has no purpose and I don’t make a difference?
- Q&A: My friend died and was not a professing Christian. What do I say to the family?
- Q&A: How can my mother and I forgive my father for being unfaithful and causing my parents to divorce?
- Q&A: Why were demon possession, gifts of healing, and gifts of tongues more prevalent in biblical times?
- Q&A: Is Christianity the only religion that gives the certainty of heaven?
- Q&A: If people go to hell, isn’t it their fault because God gave them free will and they rejected him?
- Q&A: Why are the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension important for the disciples and for us?
- Q&A: Can you explain Jesus’ words to the wailing women he met on his way to be crucified?
- Q&A: What if spouses don’t “love” each other anymore?
- Q&A: Is it wrong to have a cross with Jesus’ body on it?
- Q&A: Is our time of grace really unchangeable?
- Q&A: I know that we are saved by grace apart from works, but how can it be that easy?
- Q&A: Are there degrees of glory in heaven as a reward for good works?
- Q&A: Do Lutherans take the Bible literally and teach millennialism?
- Q&A: Are there different interpretations of the Bible?
- Q&A: How can we be sure the Bible includes what God originally gave us?
- Q&A: Why does it seem like Christianity is so negative?
- Q&A: How can I explain how Jesus’ resurrection is possible and if the Bible is reliable?
- Q&A: Is it okay to live together if we are planning to get married?
- Q&A: How is the Bible God’s Word?
- Q&A: Were we “created to make a difference”?
- Q&A: Am I being judgmental if I point out someone’s sin?
- Q&A: Do I need to read the Bible to have a relationship with God?
- Q&A: Can a Christian vote for a political candidate who supports abortion?
- Q&A: Does God really care?
- Q&A: Does it really matter how God made the world?
- Q&A: Does God send people to hell?
- Q&A: Is death natural?
- Q&A: How can I forgive and forget?
- Q&A: Does God help those who help themselves?
- Q&A: How can we say that the Old Testament God is the same as the New Testament God?
- Q&A: Is Jesus the only way to get to heaven?
- Q&A: Doesn’t God want me to be happy?
- Light for our path: Does God hate us?
- Light for our path: What kind of comfort can you give someone when a loved one commits suicide?
- Light for our path: What does a submissive wife in a Christian marriage look like?
- Light for our path: Is it a sin to want to die from a terminal illness?
- Light for our path: What advice can you give about applauding in church?
- Light for our path: Can you please explain Matthew 5:20?
- Light for our path: What is karma?
- Light for our path: Can the devil personally be tempting me and a lot of other people at exactly the same time?
- Light for our path: Does the word Easter refer to Ishtar, the Babylonian fertility goddess?
- Light for our path: What role does emotion play in contrition?
- Light for our path: What does the white stone in Revelation 2:17 mean?
- Light for our path: Is the cross symbol now anti-Christian?
- Light for our path: Were Joseph and Mary engaged or married when Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy?