I’m told there is a sign on a dirt road in the Australian outback, “Choose your rut carefully, you will be in it for the next fifty miles.”
We get confused about our choices. Some are inconsequential but we bite nails and lose hair over them. Others matter far more but we shrug, and act as though we are blindfolded. So, when do our choices in life matter? Are there conditions to the inevitability of our predestination?
One extreme view attributes our individual destinies to random chance. In this case our choices make some difference but are prone to being shunted into different ruts by chance.
Another extreme says that our destiny is determined by fate. It is inevitable, an assigned rut leading to an inescapable ending. It views us as robots, programmed without real choices. If our outlook on fate is a positive one (that it will lead us to good things) then we are in danger of laziness and carelessness in our choices because we think they do not matter. Fate might be another word for “god” or it might be faceless, solidified chance.
The most interesting Bible word that speaks to the question is prohorizo, which is translated “predestined” or “pre-ordained”. The Greek word horizo gives us our word “horizon”. So prohorizo means to pre-set a horizon or boundary. As we look at the two places where Paul uses the word (where the idea of predestination comes from), imagine yourself on a very high mountain with a crystal-clear view to a distant horizon.
Whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Rom. 8:28-30)
In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Eph. 1:5-6)
The picture is of a beautiful land called sonship. (Sonship here has nothing to do with gender, so let’s adapt Paul’s statement and use “adoption”.) Fixing our hope on Christ starts our journey as adopted children of God (Eph. 1:11-12). Adoption becomes legal when we accept Jesus by faith. We receive the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15-17) but adoption is only completed when we arrive at the land on the horizon: Christlike maturity—conformity to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:23).
It’s a beautiful destiny, but not inescapable—we must choose to accept it. Even when we accept it, it’s not a downhill journey. We often face a slog against the gravity of human nature and Satan’s schemes. Both suggest an easier life and quicker satisfaction. So, how can we possibly press on for a lifetime? Jesus showed us how to do it. He kept His eyes on the glorious horizon of closeness to His Father. And He lived entirely in partnership with God. In human families children are expected to grow up and become independent of parents. In God’s family, as children mature they become closer to the Father, more in tune with His will and receiving His grace to live it now and into eternity.