“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”
A popular question people ask me when I talk about purpose is, Pharaoh! I’m often asked what choice Pharaoh had since it was God who hardened his heart against God. And that is a very important question, because there are a lot of people out there today who believe God made Pharaoh that way and therefore could make them follow a particular path that they do not want to follow.
“How does this apply to the every day person? After all, I’m not Pharaoh.”
Good point! This is how it affects all of us. If God could harden a man to do things against the man’s will, even damnable things, what stops God from doing the same to you and I? Do you see where I’m going? What if you’re the next Hitler or the next Abacha? How could you stop it and change course?
People are already asking these sorts of questions.
“What if I was destined to be poor and can do nothing about it, just like my father and his father before him?”
In the same vein, some are asking, “What if I was made a homosexual by God and fighting it is just fighting His will?”
Many have even gone as far as accepting a situation they cannot change as God’s will. Many are embracing their poverty, their sicknesses and their moral decadence and perversion on the basis of this question of Pharaoh’s fate. Some believe God made them so and will accept them just the way they are, and there are still those who doubt that God will accept them that way but yet agree that He made them so.
If that be the case then what happened to the power of choice and freewill?
If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll see that the real basis for accepting such a fate is embedded in a defeatist mentality. After endless struggles with one’s personal demons and still no assurance of victory, the frailty of human minds takes the easy way out and begins to embrace what they could not change.
Some argue their point with scriptures taken out of context – What about the scripture that says: ‘For the wicked are RESERVED for the day of death, they shall be brought out on the day of wrath’? (Job. 21:30) First I need you to understand this, God didn’t say He made them wicked; He only RESERVED them for Judgment. In other words they won’t escape judgment.
What about Proverbs 16:4? ‘The Lord has made all for Himself, Yes, Even the wicked for the day of doom’? I would advise you read it along with the next verse so that it becomes clear.
“The Lord has made all for Himself, Yes, Even the wicked for the day of doom. 5 Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.”(Proverbs 16:4-5)
So Proverbs simply repeats the same idea as Job that God makes sure no one who CHOOSES to be evil escapes the consequence of his actions if he refuses to repent.
And interestingly, the very purpose God created Pharaoh for is one to covet if we only knew and understood it. In Exodus 9:16 we are told the very purpose God created Pharaoh. “But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that my name may be declared in all the earth”.
Now who wouldn’t want that for himself or herself? We misunderstand Pharaoh’s purpose because we make the mistake of using his experiences to interpret his purpose instead of using his purpose as a yardstick to measure his experience.
It might surprise you to know that Pharaoh was not the only one God used to show His power and make His name known. There was Israel. In them God’s power and name was made known;
“Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power known.” (Psalm 106:8).
There was David and there was also Joshua. (1 Sam. 17:46; Joshua 4:23-24).
How come they both had the same thing said of them and yet Pharaoh experienced judgment while the others experienced mercy? Was it because he was not a Jew? Far from it, for we have the testimony of Naaman the leprous Syrian general, he was no Jew and yet God made His name and power known by healing him (2kings 5:1-15). The difference in experience lies in the choices of each person. One chose a hardened heart, and the others chose faith and a willing heart.
So why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart if He really gives people the power of choice?
It is based on the principle of choice as seen in Romans 1:21-24: “Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. THEREFORE God also gave them up touncleanness, in the lust of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves” (see also 2 Thess. 2:9-12).
God will only give you what your heart (or actions if you may) has constantly chosen. If your actions ask for Him to harden your heart, He will. For actions speak louder than words.
Here is a good place to remember the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower: “The history of free men is never written by chance but by choice – their choice“.
We are a product of choices, not nature (genes) or nurture (upbringing, past or environment). Certainly genes and culture often influence very powerfully, but they do not determine. Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In these choices lie our growth and our happiness though genes and experiences may determine the size of that space. The key point is, there is still a space there and it is in the use of that space that the opportunity to enlarge it exists. Anytime your outcome in life is a function of some past weaknesses or bad experience, you dis-empower yourself and empower those weaknesses to continue to mess your life up.
Again, yesterday holds tomorrow hostage. Only today can negotiate its freedom.
I have written this piece for those who have fought endlessly without any sign of victory and are beginning to doubt if God has destined you for dishonour. Be encouraged and press on to God’s best for you. It doesn’t matter how long you have struggled with change and failed. Your struggle is no proof that God has destined you to fail. Remember, it is always darkest before dawn.
“The rich and the poor, the Lord made them both, He did not make them so.”
~Dr. ’Tunde Bakare~