How Surfing Helps Harmonize Sovereignty and Free Will

Since it’s another arctic day in Michigan with a -25 wind chill, I thought I’d write this blog in a way to help you think warm thoughts. 🙂

Surfing can teach you a lot about our relationship with God.

While I will prove that statement in this blog, I write it from secondhand experience. I spent three years in southern California while going to seminary and while I frequented the beach, I never attempted to surf. I almost did once… but chickened out. I guess I saw the Jaws movies too many times. 🙂

Now that I got my confessional out of the way, onto the meat of this blog.

God’s sovereignty vs. humanity’s free will. How to harmonize these two biblical truths has been debated for centuries. Some folks elevate God’s sovereignty to the level where they believe He is in complete, meticulous control of everything to the point that some folks in that camp question whether or not human beings actually have free will. Others swing the pendulum in the opposite direction and elevate our free will to the extreme.

So who is right? How do you harmonize God’s sovereignty and humanity’s free will? Not just in theory but in the real world? Consider this analogy….

If you want to surf in the ocean — and do it well — there is work you have to do. You have to exercise and get it shape. You have to buy the right surfboard and wax it. You need to take lessons or get mentored by someone so you can learn how to recognize a “surfable” wave as well as learn how to “pop” up off your board without falling off of it. Then ultimately, you have to drive out to the beach, get out of your car, and paddle on your board out into the ocean.

Those are all of the things you need to do. Those are your responsibilities. Those are the things in your control. Those are your roles.

Well, actually there is one more thing you have to do at that point: wait. Wait for the wave to come.

Those are your roles.

God’s role: wave-making. In The Purpose Driven Church Rick Warren writes: “Surfing is the art of riding waves that God builds. God makes the waves; surfers just ride them. No surfer tries to create waves. If the waves aren’t there, you just don’t surf that day! On the other hand, when surfers see a good wave, they make the most of it, even if it means surfing in the middle of a storm.”

I think where human beings — you and me — get in trouble is when we confuse our roles with God’s roles. We screw things up when we try to be wave-makers. That is something only God can do. And we screw things up when we neglect the things that God requires us to do to prepare ourselves so when the wave comes, we are able to ride it and make the most of it.

I currently live in Michigan so my opportunities to surf this coming summer are zero to none. But that isn’t really what this blog is about anyway. As a husband, father, pastor, son, and friend to the various people in my lives, what are the things I am responsible to be doing in preparation for what is ahead… and am I engaging in these roles to the utmost of my abilities? And what are the things that only God is responsible for? And is there anywhere where I am confusing those two things?

I need to ask myself those questions, and I hope you ask them too.

***Please join us this coming Sunday at The Eastside Vineyard Church. We are continuing a brand new 6-week series titled “God is Good… All the Time???” This Sunday’s sermon is titled, “The Center of  the Center.” In other words, how should the Cross re-frame what we believe about the nature and character of God? January 26th. 10:30am. More info at*** 


About Dan Kopp

In 2010 Dan and Kellie felt the call by God to plant a church somewhere in Macomb County, Michigan. Several months later The Eastside Vineyard Church launched and currently meets inside Shelby Jr. High in Shelby Township. This blog began in the pre-launch phase of the church and has exceeded 50,000 hits. Thanks for reading!
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