A gentleman called me recently to discuss the idea of men having free will. He believed that if a person can choose his own destiny, then he is working against God's will. Therefore he believes that a concept of free will is at odds with the Biblical teaching that God is all-powerful. When asked, he stated he doesn't believe that we are all robots, but that our choices are limited to a narrow field. If God wants us to be good, then we have no choice but to do good deeds.
I believe he approached the problem from the wrong direction. Instead of asking if a man can thwart God's will, a better question is "Does God want us to choose?" If God does want us to choose, then our choices (good or bad) cannot be against His will. However, if God doesn't want us to make a choice, then any choice (good or bad) on our part would violate his will.
The Bible does say that God wants everyone to be saved. (II Peter 3:9) God doesn't want any person in this world to perish. However, the Bible also says that everyone will not be saved. (Matthew 7:13-14) Does this mean that God cannot do what He wants to do in all cases? Does this mean God is not all-powerful? May God forbid such thoughts!
God has created a world where His children can choose whether to follow Him or to rebel against him. The Scriptures are full of admonitions to make such a choice. Joshua urged the children of Israel to choose whether to follow God or idols. His family had already decided to follow God. (Joshua 24:15) Moses told the children of Israel to choose life and live. (Deuteronomy 30:19) Even in the New Testament, we are told to test everything, holding on to the good and avoiding the evil. (I Thessalonians 5:21) If a choice exists, then we must conclude that some people will make the wrong choice. If it is not possible to make the wrong choice, then no choice existed in the first place. As we already read in Matthew 7:13-14, we see that not only will people make the wrong choice, but most people will rebel against God. The reason is clear, it is easier to rebel than it is to follow.
Paul told us to work out our own salvation. (Philippians 2:12) We must decide. God will help us. He will point us to the right pathway. However, God is forcing each of us to make up our own minds. Have you ever wondered why God placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the midst of the Garden of Eden? If that tree did not exist, then mankind would have never sinned because there would have been no way to violate God's Law. However, if we could not sin, then why bother? How could you know if you could run a mile if you never leave your chair? How could we say we truly love God, if we never had an opportunity not to love Him?
Think about the example of the children of Israel. They were God's own specially chosen people. They were to be His light to heathen nations around them. God protected them, gave them their own special law, and gave them every advantage you could think of to encourage them to follow His will. Yet, time after time, the Israelites chose to rebel against God and bore the consequences of their choice. (I Corinthians 10:1-12) The Israelites were not forced to obey God. God gave them a choice and they made the wrong choice.
We are faced with the same choice and we need to learn from the example of the children of Israel. Do we follow God or do we cut our own path to destruction? The choice is yours ... and the consequences of that choice are yours.