Mrs. Hunter, my 2nd grade teacher, had it in for me. But it didn’t stop there. She was just the beginning in a long line of people who caused so much pain and suffering for me that at times it felt like my life (or at least parts of it) was ruined. Was God sleeping when these cold-hearted individuals seemed to lay awake at night, hatching plots of undeserved evil toward me? Could the free will of others prevent God’s sovereign “plan of good” for my life, according to Jeremiah 29:11? Could people have so much control over me that they alter my destiny?
Not according to Joseph. Sold, against his will by his mean-spirited, even murderous brothers, Joseph, the favorite son of his father, headed into Egypt in chains of slavery. Goodbye childhood dreams. Goodbye goals and plans. And that was just the beginning of a long line of people who had it in for him, even though he did nothing to deserve their evil treatment. Many years later, after watching his life unfold, what was Joseph’s response to his seemingly ruined life at the hands of others?
“As for you [brothers], you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen. 50:20).
Today we’re going to have another “man’s free will” vs. “God’s sovereignty” lesson. Where does free will end and the sovereign will of God begin? Just how much power does man have to usurp control over his own life or the lives of others?
Back in the beginning, in Genesis 1:28, God established the very beginning of something called the “Dominion Mandate.” This mandate loaned mankind a big property to rule—the entire earth! In the days of Adam, it was the literal earth, and people received literal pieces of that earth (called “allotments”) to take care of as part of the Dominion Mandate. Only the priests who served in Yahweh’s courts did not receive allotments of literal land, because the Lord was their inheritance.
Everything in the OT is a picture in the natural world of a corresponding lesson in the spiritual world. The Dominion Mandate is also a picture of the allotment that each person has been given on this earth to impact or effect change, authority, and power on their environment and lives of others. This is often referred to as “free will,” but it is more like “one’s fenced yard.”
In a very simplistic explanation, think of free will like this picture in the natural world: God is a land owner, but He needs people to take care of it, so He doles out allotments or parcels of His land. To one person he gives a tiny little condo and backyard in the city. To another, he/she gets a sizable property in the suburbs. But then another gets the ranch estate in the country baby, thousands of acres (think rulers)!
To each land tenant, God gives a different list of instructions in how He wants it taken care of, but that owner has a choice of complying with the requests or running it his own way. But in no way can the tenant venture off his parcel and take over any other land. He/she is confined to the dominion that has been given. This dominion will affect those in close proximity, but it cannot go one step beyond what is given. Consider the following verses:
For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Matt. 25:14-15
From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. Luke 12:48
I have made the earth with man…by My great power, and by My stretched-out arm, and I have given it to whom it hath been right in Mine eyes. Jer. 27:5
Jesus answered [to Pontius Pilate], “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” John 19:11
See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. Deut. 32:39
[God] does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. Daniel 4:35
This is a deep and complex topic shown at a very simple level, but hopefully you can see that people are given certain amounts of dominion or allotment during their time on earth, and they can reach no further. This dominion affects the lives of others, but only to the degree that God allows in keeping with His perfect will. I hope you find strength and encouragement, knowing that nothing that happens to you is beyond the loving control and sovereign plan of God.
All this is to say that no one can ruin your life. Not even your 2nd grade teacher. On the contrary, she is somehow part of the plan of good for your life, but only time will tell!