There’s a lot of garbage going on in the US right now. I don’t really wanna talk about all that, get into politics, social justice, whatever. You’ve probably already got enough opinions being pushed at you. I’ll say this: look to the Scriptures, to God, use logic, do the research, and make sound judgments based on facts (use the Word of God of course).
Anyway, now we can move on. In this time of darkness, we ought to remember how good our God is. We ought to remember that He is still, and always will be, the kind, loving Father He is to His children.
Don’t get me wrong, He is a righteous judge that will pour out His righteous wrath. But, for His children, He has declared us innocent before Him by the blood of Jesus Christ. And, so, our hope is great. Our hope, in fact, is an eternal hope, a hope in an everlasting city, in an everlasting God. We are but travelers looking forward to a better home.
At the time I’m writing this, June 6th, it was just this week that I believe God answered me in my prayers, or at least seemed to begin to in a significant way, over something I have prayed about for some time. I have probably never prayed for anything else like I have prayed for this, coming before God as a weak child begging his Father. I came before God on my knees, time and time again, and I begged Him.
To be honest, I wept. I wept before God, I think on more than one occasion. I came before God praying in a somewhat similar fashion to Daniel in Daniel 9 I think. I came asking God, telling Him I have not earned it, and the person I pray for has not, and so we are both unworthy by our own lives and deeds, but by His grace and mercy may He do what I ask. Not because I deserve it, or anything of the sort.
I’ve been reminded by Paul Washer that to appeal before God for something, we ought to appeal on the basis of His own merit; our own merit is nothing. We ought to appeal on the basis of His character.
And so I begged God, knowing He has declared Himself merciful and in light of the things He has said in regards to answering His children and giving them good gifts (Luke 11:5-13, 18:1-8; Matthew 7:7-11, James 1:5-8).
I kneeled before God, I wept, I pleaded, I asked as a helpless child, as one who could do nothing, ultimately. Only God could do what I asked. And what I asked for was the life of a friend. I begged God for the soul of a friend from high school. I pleaded with Him to save her life.
It didn’t go down how I expected it to, as usual, but I think He very well may have answered that prayer with something like, “I will, my child.” It may not have been accomplished that night, but she seems to have at least been started down the road towards that. And my Father did not possibly answer in such a way because He owed it to me, or anything like that. But, rather, because He is good and loving, and He is a kind, kind Father.
A few weeks earlier, the end of May sometime I believe, a guy I was friends with some time ago died. I had spent a fair amount of time with him throughout middle school and high school; he had been in my grade. Then, all the sudden, I heard he had been in a bad car accident. He didn’t survive the surgery.
This was a guy I had talked to a fair amount before about God, Jesus, the Gospel, etc. He had been an atheist, but at some point before his death he had become more like an agnostic I think. For the sake of eloquence and fluency, we’ll call this friend of mine Brandon. I had discussed God with him after he had a shocking experience. He told me how he was struggling with something and he wanted to turn his life around. I talked to him a fair amount, but it never really ended up going much of anywhere, at least anywhere good as far as I know.
His viewing was the first viewing I’ve ever been to I think. It was odd, saddening, to see his lifeless body there as pictures went by on the TV screen and music played. Many there likely comforted themselves with the thought that he’s finally resting, that they’d see him again one day, something like that.
But, as I sat there, I had no such comfort as that. I could not reassure myself with words like that, at least not in good conscience, in truth. Unless Brandon had some dramatic experience with the Savior before he passed, an experience I know nothing of, then Heaven does not hold his soul.
With things like this in my mind, among other stuff, and my thoughts on my other, yet to be saved friend, I think some sort of desperation took over me. And maybe I get the times and scenarios mixed up some, but the thought crushed me of my other friend ending up like Brandon. The friend I had prayed for, been praying for. I sobbed, I begged the Lord, I cried out to Him.
I asked Him to help my unbelief. I prayed things like, “‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24b).
To be truthful, I have had for a long time ingrained in me this idea that God would not give good gifts to me, or at least things that seem good to me, like in the short, if that makes sense. That, although I know Him to be good, something I hope to turn out a certain way will instead turn out completely different and thus bring me through some sort of pain. As I hoped for some relief or joy or comfort or something of the sort on the horizon, there would be this thought that it could not be. That God would take it away. That, even if I was to have something so incredible for a moment, I would have to just wait a bit for God to snatch it from me.
It is like a great fear instilled within me that something is too good to be true, or what I desire is something God would never give me, or at least not for quite some time. It’s like a time of joy can only last so long before the pain sets in and this thing is taken. It’s like if I pray for something and hope for His answer to be yes, then I have already doomed myself to His answer being no.
I think I’ve largely been able to recognize the unbiblical nature of these thoughts and this kind of mentality ingrained in me. I even have a paper pinned on a wall in my bedroom that says, “Enjoy Life! It’s okay. God does give us stuff we want. Don’t just throw stuff away because it might not be beneficial, because there’s that potential you see.”
Now, at first glance and taken with barely any context, one might think these are the words of some heretical Prosperity Gospel preacher like Joel Osteen or T. D. Jakes. But these were the kind of words I needed when I wrote this down probably between a year and two years ago.
With many, the devil may try to twist minds to believe God is a lovey-dovey, soft, nice, happy Grandfather in the Sky that just wants to give us whatever we ask for and want. With others, I think he’s twisted their minds to believe God just gives pain and trials to His children.
Now, pain and trials are good gifts! They build character and train us up to be more godly (James 1). In fact, we’re supposed to be joyful when we face different trials (James 1:2). One of the things I have thanked God for more than once is the trials and pain He has brought me through. So, stuff like that can most certainly be considered good gifts.
But not everything is like that. We can see in verses like 1 Timothy 4:1-5 and 6:17 that God has created things for our enjoyment. We can see in the Creation account in the beginning of Genesis that God created everything and it was good. Furthermore, we can see that God even said “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
This is all to point to God and say, “Praise Him. He is good.” God works in mysterious and incredible ways, and brings us through a lot of stuff, but He also provides us with many good gifts besides the pain. But, even living a life marked with pain, like Paul the Apostle, we know our hope is not in this life and our treasures in Heaven will far outweigh any pain we face here on earth.
The Apostle Paul wrote this:
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?2 Corinthians 11:23-29
And he also wrote this:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.Romans 8:18
We are not promised a comfortable lifestyle in this life, but we do know our great God and Heavenly Father is very good to His children.
And Peter said, ‘See, we have left our homes and followed you.’ And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.’Luke 18:28-30
If you look closely at the passage, you can see that Jesus not simply promises great reward in the afterlife. Jesus promises reward “in this time.” This doesn’t mean an easy life, or riches, wealth, health, etc. But it’s a promise for this life, not just life after death.
The way I’ve heard it explained is kinda like this, while you may even be disowned by your family, you have a far greater family in Christ. Though you may sell almost all you own, God can provide what you need miraculously, even if it’s not what you think you need. And even if you go unto death, that is how Christ might deliver you (Philippians 1:19-20).
So in these times, I want to remind you that God does give good gifts to His children. This doesn’t mean He gives you whatever you want and all the earthly things you can “name and claim.” But He does bless us, sometimes with pain, sometimes with trials, but also sometimes with incredible miracles, amazing answers to prayer, and the like.
Our Heavenly Father truly does love us and truly is good.
For the unbeliever, recognize that there is a God that loved the world enough to send His Son to die (John 3:16). Jesus Christ, God in human form, took the punishment men deserved and died on the cross, rising from the dead three days later. At heart, humans are evil and sinful (Romans 3:9-12), and the punishment for that is death and torment in Hell (Romans 6:23, Revelation 21:8). But,
if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.Romans 10:9b
And recognize, that you cannot be saved by your own doing or best efforts:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.Ephesians 2:8
To God be the glory forever and ever, He is good and mighty and strong. Blessings to you my brothers and sisters. Praise to the One, True, Holy God Almighty forever and always, amen.
All direct verse quotations are taken from the ESV
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