A God of Choice or Control?

Jesse Birkey's picture

God is one who values and promotes choice rather than control.


It seems like it’s getting harder and harder for people to maintain an unbending position that God is in control of everything that happens in the world.  To put it bluntly, it’s just so unreasonable for a myriad of reasons and we’re starting to accept it on a larger scale. 


So, I applaud if you’ve come to that position because it means you’ve begun to separate a God that is always good, from the evil that exists in the world (1 John 1:5).  But I wonder if it’s enough to simply stop at that revelation.  I think revelation must be lived in order for it to truly become revelation.  In Eph. 3:19, Paul informs us that experience is far greater than mere knowledge.


The kingdom and its principles are meant to be lived, explored, and uncovered.  The pearls must found, treasures dug up, and so on.  Ideas that never find their way into reality are worthless.  But I think we get the point.


God is a God of choice.  But it’s a layered cake.  I often find that while I believe God does’nt control, there are certain areas I feel more comfort in assuming he does.  I wonder how deep that rabbit hole is and how uncomfortable we can get as we fall. 


I’d like to put the spotlight on two specific things in which we typically find a lot of comfort supposing God does, in fact, control.  I was going to put them both in one post but it got long so I’ll post the second one next week.




We were on our way back to the station after dropping a patient off at the hospital.  As we bounced along, the EMT student riding with us told me about his involvement with youth at his church. 


“Yeah,” he said.  “I just have a feeling I’m gonna get roped into being a youth pastor or something.”


I frowned and felt something twitch in my stomach.  “You don’t sound too excited about that.  Do you want to be a youth pastor?”


He shrugged and gave me that—If that’s what God is calling me to do—look.


“Do you have a passion for youth?” I asked. 


He leaned forward.  “Yeah, I think so.  I like helping out.  My fiancé is a leader with the youth so I like doing that with her.  But I also want to open gym.”  He went on to explain the type of gym he wanted with way more passion than ever surfaced with the youth pastor talk.


I clucked my tongue.  “It sounds like you have some passion for youth.  But what if it’s not wrapped into a nice traditional package?  What if being involved in youth ministry doesn’t have to look like Wednesday night church or whenever youth groups meet?  What if, for you, it’s something else in which all of your gifts, abilities, and passions can be expressed?”


He stared at the opposite wall for a moment before turning to me.  “Do you think God called you to this job?”


I stared at him like he was an algebra II equation.  I felt my mind turn to mush.


Later on I sat in the apparatus bay by myself, still trying to figure out why the guys question got me so screwy.  There’s no question in my mind that God’s given me the skills, ability, and passion to do the job I do (firefighter/paramedic).  I find a lot of fulfillment in it.  But I wasn’t able to agree that God called me specifically to this profession…that I do what I do because it’s what God predestined.  Freedom to choose and a God of control were colliding inside of me. 


So I began to think of all thing professions in which the passion, gifts, and abilities God’s given me could be applied.  I came up with a list and I’m confident I could’ve found incredible fulfillment in any one of them.  Was it God’s design that I become a paramedic or am I a paramedic because its what I chose? 


I think that many times we say, “Okay God, what do you want me to do?” and he responds by throwing up a list of choices that feed the passions, gifts, and abilities he’s given us.  He then says, “Pick one.”  But for reasons beyond the scope of this blog, we only hear/see one of the options and decide it’s what God has always intended for us.  We can have great careers this way.  I love being a paramedic.  But it can also be dangerous. 


With this mentality there will eventually be a dirty little feeling that tightens around our hearts:  I’m Trapped.  It can breed all sorts of nasty feelings about God…the one we think put us in the cage.  Also, how do we manage when the profession we’re certain God called us to seem to hang beyond our reach? Why isn’t god giving me this job?  Is God good or not?  Does he want me to be happy or not?


The same mentality can also guide us to a career we don’t have any passion for.  Perhaps there’s no greater offender of this than the following statement:


God has called me to the ministry! 


The assumption that ministry = traditional church roles has given us many church leaders/workers who don’t have the passion, skills, or abilities to effectively and kingdomly (new word alert!) operate in those positions.  The average tenure of a pastor is three to four years.  Youth pastors typically last less than two.  Many end up leaving the ministry much more bitter and cynical not just towards people, but God.


*For many, these roles are legit options and they find fulfillment as their passions, gifts, and abilities are exercised.


I’ve found in my own experience that we seem more likely to do what we consider the right thing (what we think God has planned) and be miserable, than to risk choosing and find freedom and fulfillment.  It makes no sense to me and I’m not sure it does to God either.


All of this is why I don’t think I really know what it’s like to be free.  Over the last six years I’ve found an incredible amount of freedom but then things like this surface and I discover I’m still walking in some chains of misconception.


But one day I will have full revelation of what it means to be free and of the astounding God who allows it.  And so will you!


Sometimes it’s powerful to have someone give you permission for things.  So here it goes: 


In the name of Jesus, I give you permission to pursue the things that water the passions, gifts, and abilities he’s given you!


*One point to make here.  In no way do I think God “checks out” as we try to make choices.  In all things he’s ready and willing to offer wisdom that will guide us to what can benefit us and away from what can’t.  I just don’t think he’ll force us into anything.




Jesse and Kara Birkey


[email protected]






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