Quotes from Yoda, "Star Wars" -
"Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will."
"Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view."
"Try not. Do or do not, there is no try."
"The Butterfly Effect", Excerpt from Wikipedia - The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another location. The butterfly does not power or directly create the tornado, but the term is intended to imply that the flap of the butterfly's wings can cause the tornado: in the sense that the flap of the wings is a part of the initial conditions; one set of conditions leads to a tornado while the other set of conditions doesn't. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which cascades to large-scale alterations of events (compare: domino effect). Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different—but it's also equally possible that the set of conditions without the butterfly flapping its wings is the set that leads to a tornado.
Matthew 26, Verses 14-16 - Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.
Exodus 4, Verse 21 - The LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.
Romans 8, Verses 26-30 - In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
Matthew 6, Verse 26 - Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
Excerpt from Chapter 3 of "The Faith Once For All", by Jack Cottrell - A second relational attribute is divine sovereignty, which has to do with the way God rules over His creation. God's sovereignty may be concisely summed up as "absolute lordship". It is equivalent to kingship or dominion: God has absolute dominion over all things; he is the God of gods, King of kings, and Lord of lords (Deut 10:17; 1 Tim 6:15-16; Rev 19:16). He is "the LORD Most High over all the earth" (Ps 97:9), the "great King over all the earth" (Ps 47:2). He rules over all flesh (Her 32:27), all mankind (Dan 4:25,32), and all nations (Ps 22:28). "God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne" (Ps 47:8).
Do we have free will? The answer is yes and no. According to Wikipedia "free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded". We are certainly impeded by so many things that our decisions seem to never be without constraint (I cannot think of one totally free example), but certainly mankind believes in some element of free will. Our systems of justice reflect that. When someone commits a crime, that someone is held accountable; we believe they chose to commit that crime. If someone were to forgive you, or give you a nice gift or a hug, you would ascribe that action to the person's good will. Our systems of justice and good will come from God's laws and Word, and so yes I believe we all have a certain element of free will in our decision-making and doings. The discussion of free will in some sense is beyond philosophical debate - it is common sense and everyday perception this thing we call freedom.
So then how does God act in this world? Well, he determines things as the Father directly and indirectly, and the Holy Spirit inspires us into action or certain thought, and the Son intervenes on our behalf. And so He may meet us when we bottom out and get on our knees, or ascribe control over our action through other people or directly, or He may answer someone's prayer; He may even harden a heart. In the case of Judas in the New Testament and also Pharaoh of the Old Testament, God uses them to accomplish His will - and He acts upon them or sets them up for certain action. But for the thousands of free actions, free thoughts and free heartfelt feelings these two had up until that intervention, they had already arrived into a debased state; so God made a final decision and forced certain outcomes via these persons. It was not against their will, but in accordance with their typical will that they acted to turn against Jesus and reject God's warnings.
According to mathematics, a butterfly can flap its wings and affect something entirely different on the other side of the planet. God can act directly, but also through butterflies. We have less freedom than we realize; we are certainly constrained in many ultimate ways. Most of our biological functions work automatically, we are bound by the laws of physics and reality, and many of the choices we make are repetitions from the past or ingrained by patterns within our minds and hearts. It may be rare that we choose to eat something new, unless we are a person that tends to eat new things; we may give gifts and hugs, but we will likely be the type of person to give gifts and hugs. Some Christians also believe we are predestined to become followers of Christ and that we have little choice in the matter except to be compelled to do so. I do not know if I agree or disagree with that form of predestination, but yes many things are predestined in our lives. And it is important what we ingrain into our minds and hearts. Also, the spiritual world that lies above our physical world has more influence than we usually perceive. I do believe we are sometimes surrounded by angels, the army of God. And I do believe in the present-day existence of demons. Is there any free will or freedom left for us?
God resides in Heaven and exists outside of the constraints of time and space - another constraint to us humans. He "knows" what will happen in our futures; He also "predestines" certain things to happen; He "allows" us to make choices when He wills us to choose. Prophets have received inspiration about what is to happen in the future, but sometimes that prophesy comes with a choice and the future is not fixed (e.g. return to God or continue to act in wickedness). God always determines the building up or destruction of kingdoms. God's kingdom always has the ultimate rule and can decide for us or constrain us whenever it is willed by Him. The loops of cause and effect, or of action and consequence are ultimate in God's kingdom; these are binding laws and they have influence in our world. And so, even when men or women have choices in matters within their sphere of influence, their decisions do not go unchecked by God - if not checked in this life, then the next (but their is also grace). Evil doers are given over to debased minds, and those who strive towards Godliness realize blessings - it is all for God's purpose. God's sovereignty triumphs everything, but He has assigned to us the ability to have a bit of freedom ourselves - it is a part of how were were created in His image (we are soiled versions through Adam). We are more than just a summation of our instincts; our Father looks after us like a child, and I think we have the freedom of a child. "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?"
ps.... This is my best effort in a highly debated topic. I am not an authority figure on this subject and I may have erred in some way in my teaching and devotion to the subject; I tried not to do so. I am one who has reflected upon the nature of things more than the average person, and that is all I can offer in my message above.
Dear God, Thank you for making me in Your image - with some freedom. You are sovereign and influential/ultimate in outcomes we normally assign to ourselves. When something good happens we often praise our good will and good works; when something terrible happens we tend to question the meaning in it all, asking you, "Why God?" Today I know why and it's for 2 reasons: (1) because you do not intervene in every little thing, and (2) Your direction is in accordance with Your ultimate purpose for Your creation. If you dictated control over every aspect of my life I would have no control or freedom over my decisions in any way. I thank you for cause and effect, action and consequence, heart intelligence and logic, and laws of biology and physics; these are all of Your Creation. To be constrained to all these things makes for an interesting life if I really think about it. How it stretches one's imagination to think of Heaven or reality without time and space! You are certainly wondrous and I appreciate the sovereignty You have exercised over my life - from the faintest whispers to the stumbling blocks and exclamations. There are so many mysteries and wonders to Your ways and Your works. May I always abide in Thee and share the long-lasting life with You in Heaven. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.