Free WillFree will is a very important thing. Without the concept of free will, God would have to take full responsibility for all the horrible things that happen. As things stand, God is of course only responsible for earthquakes, tidal waves, floods, droughts, hurricanes, volcanoes, avalanches, meteorites and all that kind of stuff. These 'acts of God' are built into His creation.
There is some debate about whether God actually consciously instigates each individual episode, or if He simply set a system in place which would produce the odd catastrophe now and then. However, whichever way you slice the mustard, the fact remains that if God had decided to give the earthquakes and such a miss in His creation plans many people would have been spared a violent and painful death.
So we can deduce from the nature of the universe we live in that God sees it fit that at any moment forces totally beyond our control will indiscriminately destroy us. Theologians have puzzled over this one throughout the ages, and the current thinking is that God has this system in place to 'keep us on our toes' if you like. If we felt more secure we wouldn't be in such a hurry to sign up to His insurance policy and tell Him how merciful He is all day long. So once again you've got to hand it to God for His marketing skills.
Anyway, getting back to free will, this is the God given ability that is behind the decisions that all organisms make. For example, when you find your self in possession of a chocolate cake, it is your free will that governs whether you divide it equally amongst the poor, jump up and down on it, scoff the lot yourself in an orgy of gut busting greed, or perhaps force it through the little gaps in the casing of some delicate and extremely expensive electronic equipment .
As I hope you can see, your options are virtually limitless, such is the splendour and wonder of free will!
So with free will your future is yours to control, and it will be totally up to you whether you end up sitting with our LORD singing songs in heaven, or cursing in agony in Hell as the flames lick higher.
However, there is a little problem with this setup, one that has occupied the minds of theologians for many a year. The problem is that while from our point of view the future is a blank canvas, from the LORD's it isn't at all. This is because the LORD is omniscient, which means He has unlimited knowledge, awareness and understanding of all things. 'All things' of course includes the things that will happen, as well as things that did happen but no one else saw.
So the LORD already knew everything you'd ever do a million years before you were even born! Not that the universe is anything like that old, of course - we know it's only a few thousand years old! Anyway, the point is that God knows who will be going to Hell and who will be going to Heaven. In fact, He knew exactly who would ever go to Hell before He even created the wretched place. Surely it must have been a bit depressing for Him to think of all those souls that would be burning for ever there whilst He was deciding just how hot the fire should be. Spare a thought for the LORD my brothers and sisters, and perhaps shed a tear for His mighty sadness.
The next thing we must take into account is 'God's plan'. I'm sure you'll have heard of this before; if not from a member of my church then perhaps in the street from some wandering nutter with bulging eyes. I'm not going to go into details about God's plan here; suffice to say He's got one, it concerns mankind and it's bound to be a cracker!
The one thing you can be sure of is that God's plan for mankind will surely be completed because God is a perfect all-powerful being. Perfect all-powerful beings do not go about making plans that fail; that would be distinctly imperfect!
But this is where free will really comes into question you see. If God knows everything that has happened and that will happen and has devised His plan (which is certain to be achieved), then this must take into account mankindís actions. Therefore everyone has a part to play in the great plan, one that God has tailored for them and them alone.
If this is the case (and logic dictates that it must be) then mankind cannot have free will, merely the illusion of such, because each individual must play out their part in God's perfect plan exactly as God perfectly intended - perfectly. Playing out a part as intended by someone else and following a path already drawn out is not free will.
I for one don't mind a bit though, and I just hope that my path leads to a huge pile of ice cream! Burp!