Posted: July 17th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: fruit of the Spirit, God's character, Holy Spirit, patience, prayer, seeking God, surrender | No Comments »
Have you ever been stuck at a traffic light and felt like it was the longest red light in history? There’s one particular light between my house and my office that feels that way. So I timed it today. From the time the light turned red until it turned green again…it was 90 seconds. Not exactly an eternity.
Or have you ever walked out of your house, gotten in your car, started it…and then had to wait several minutes for whoever else is going with you? A few minutes can start to feel like half an hour pretty quickly.
Maybe you’ve told yourself you’re going to be more patient, that you’re going to stop yelling at your kids or your spouse or your c0-worker. And then you lose your cool again.
We could all use a little more patience, right?
Have you ever prayed for patience? I can hear someone say, “Be careful what you pray for! God will give you circumstances that require patience.”
And maybe that’s true. But I think praying for patience presupposes that’s what we actually need. Or that praying for it is how to get it.
Let me suggest something different.
Galatians 5:22-23 says: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Those are all character qualities we’d love to experience more of, right? But Paul doesn’t tell us to pray for those things. He very clearly says they are the “fruit of the Spirit.” We don’t work harder to get them. We don’t pray for them. They are a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in us.
We don’t need to pray for patience. We need to more fully surrender to God’s Spirit who lives in us. Then He will produce the fruit we desire. By the way, these aren’t fruits of the Spirit. They’re fruit. Singular. When the Holy Spirit is in control of us–He manifests His life in us and through us. And He is all of these things.
A few verses earlier, Paul says: So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
Do you need more patience? Or love? Or joy? Or kindness?
Then allow the Holy Spirit to guide your life. Surrender to Him.
You may not be patient, but He is. And He will be patient through you.
Posted: June 22nd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, faith, God's character, God's glory, God's will, God's word, Holy Spirit, Jesus, prayer, seeking God | No Comments »
Do you remember what opportunity cost is from your economics class? Opportunity cost is what you gave up when you chose one thing over another. It’s what you could have had. If you spend $3,000 on a Hawaiian vacation, then your opportunity cost may be the new deck or hot tub you wanted. When you choose one thing, you’re likely giving up another thing…and that other thing is the opportunity cost.
A number of years ago, I felt like God let me down. (To be honest, I still feel that way sometimes.) I felt like I’d trusted Him and prayed for things and He didn’t come through for me. Maybe you’ve felt that way. You’ve prayed and prayed, but nothing seems to happen. God doesn’t answer…at least how you wanted Him to.
Then you read a passage like the following and feel angry or cynical rather than excited or hopeful:
12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:12-14)
For a while now, I’ve tended to skim over those words, which is a nice way of saying I haven’t believed them. I’ve been like the person whose heart was broken by a lover and chooses to never fall in love again. If I don’t get my hopes up, if I don’t expect too much, then I can’t be disappointed again.
And that type of thinking carries a very high opportunity cost with it. In other words, what prayers might God have answered had only I asked?
As I read those verses again today, I was struck by several things…
The Greek word that gets translated “very truly” is identical to the Hebrew word, which is also identical to the English word. The word is “Amen.” In fact, Jesus uses the same word twice at the beginning of the sentence. “Amen Amen…” When used at the beginning of a sentence, it’s translated as we see it here, “Very truly.” When used at the end of a sentence, it means, “so be it” or “may it be fulfilled.” Jesus makes it clear that what He’s about to say is the truth, something we can count on.
Jesus then says “whoever.” Whoever. That means me. That means you. It’s not a select group of special people, it’s whoever believes in Jesus. They will do even greater things than He did. How could that be? Jesus says it’s because He’s going to the Father. So how does that help us? Jesus will intercede for us (Romans 8:34) and He will send the Holy Spirit to live in us (John 14:16), to help us and empower us.
Then Jesus gives us the reason He’ll give us what we ask for…so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. It’s not to make us rich. Or more comfortable. Or to give us lives free of difficulties and pain. It’s so that God is glorified. One definition of glorify is “to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged.” When our prayers are answered, God’s worth is made known.
Twice Jesus says we can ask for anything in His Name and He will do it. So what does that mean? In His Name. It’s to pray for what Jesus would pray for. It’s to pray for His will. Not ours. And that’s the hard part, isn’t it? To pray for what Jesus wants, not what we want. Sometimes (or is it most of the time?) it’s hard to know the difference. It’s easy to confuse our own desires with what we think Jesus desires.
If our prayers go unanswered and cause more frustration and disappointment than joy and hope, then it’s a good sign we’re not praying in the name of Jesus…we’re praying in our own name, for what we want. The answer isn’t to quit praying, it’s to seek God with serious effort (Hebrews 11:6) so we know Him better and have a better sense of His will and His ways. So we’ll know how to pray in His Name.
So let me ask you a question. Are you willing to believe Jesus is telling the truth when He says He will give you whatever you ask for in His Name? I fear the opportunity cost is far too high to not believe.
Posted: April 10th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, forgiveness, God's character, God's word, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, seeking God | 2 Comments »
Yesterday, my 17-year-old son and I took a fitness test. It’s the first step in the 60-day Insanity workout program. We’ll repeat the test every two weeks so we can chart our progress.
I thought the test was hard! My son outscored me on every exercise. My wife and daughter also took the test and I’m not sure I want to know how I compared to them. I’m okay coming in second, but I don’t want to be fourth! Of course the object of the test isn’t to compare myself to others. It’s to set a benchmark so I can see my own progress.
So this test got me thinking about spiritual fitness. What would it be like to take a spiritual fitness test? Not to compare myself to others, but to simply chart my own progress. Is their such a test? Does God give tests?
Yes, God does give tests. Here are a few examples…
Genesis 22:1-2 says:
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Deuteronomy 8:2 says:
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
John 6:5-6 says:
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
I Thessalonians 2:3-4 says:
For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.
Clearly, God tests us. And 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 says we’re also to test ourselves:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
So if our goal is to become more and more like Christ, it shouldn’t be too hard to measure our progress, right? Let’s take a look at Philippians 2:3-8…
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
When it comes to your relationships–how are you doing compared to a year ago? If you’re married, are you becoming less selfish? Are you valuing your spouse above yourself more than you used to? Do your interests come first or do your spouse’s interests more often come first? Do you look out for your own advantage or do you serve your spouse by meeting his or her needs?
When it comes to your character and your emotions–how are you doing? In Galatians 5, we see:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Which are more evident in you–the acts of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit? Would your spouse agree? Would your children? Your roommate? Your friends or co-workers?
If you test yourself and aren’t happy with your grade–hold on until tomorrow. There’s a very simple way to start improving your “score.”
I didn’t say it’ll be easy. Just simple.
Posted: March 14th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's word, seeking God | No Comments »
There’s something we have to understand about God before we can understand anything else. It’s a foundational belief on which all other beliefs are built. And if we fail to correctly understand it, we will misunderstand almost everything about God, ourselves and this life on planet earth. So here it is…here’s the thing we absolutely have to understand…
God is a lover and wants to be loved in return.
That’s it. That’s what we have to grasp. If we don’t, nothing else will make sense. Follow me on this for a moment.
Many people, including many or most atheists, look at the suffering in the world and either decide God doesn’t exist or that He’s evil. And I get that. I understand why they’d feel that way. Millions of people are starving to death. Others are being killed in wars. Women are raped. People are robbed and murdered. Children are abused. The wealthy enjoy life like the poor cannot. Governments are corrupt. The list could go on.
We don’t have to look very far to find enough evidence to conclude God either doesn’t exist or He’s not as good as we’ve been led to believe. I mean if God is truly all-powerful, then a good God would also put an end to suffering, wouldn’t He?
But if it’s true that God is a lover and wants to be loved by us, then free will is a must. And free will means just that–we are free to choose. I am. You are. The rapist is. Everyone is. We all get to choose how we’ll live.
We can choose to love or hate. Give or steal. Serve or be served. Sacrifice or act selfishly. Tell the truth or lie. And we can choose to love God or hate Him or ignore Him or whatever we want to do with Him. It’s our choice.
I suppose the response could be, “Well then I want no part of a God who places being loved over the suffering of human beings.”
And if that’s how you feel–that’s your right. You get to choose what you believe. But if God exists and wants you to love Him in response to His love for you–your opinion of Him or anger at Him isn’t going to change reality. In other words, you can choose to not believe in God because you don’t like Him, but it’s not going to change Him.
Personally, I believe God exists. I don’t believe He’s evil, but I do believe He’s hard to understand sometimes. I also believe He’s good–not based on the current condition of the world, but based on the fact that 2000 years ago, He was nailed to a cross to be punished in my place.
To simply put an end to suffering, God would have to put an end to free will. He’d have to take away our ability to choose, which would take away our ability to love…our ability to love each other or Him. And then it seems like we just may as well not exist.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:28-34)
I wonder how much suffering would end if we simply did our best to obey the two greatest commandments.
Posted: February 5th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: adoption, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, God's character, God's love, God's will, God's word, grace, sin | No Comments »
My wife, Robyn, and I have never adopted a child, but we have many friends who have. A very good friend of mine and his wife adopted a little girl a number of years ago who has had some developmental issues. Parenting her has been very difficult at times and she continues to be a challenge.
If I asked my friend, “If you would have known then what you know now–would you still have adopted her?”
I’m pretty sure his response would be something like, “No doubt about it! She’s our daughter.”
I’d like to think I’d be able to answer the same way. And I’m very grateful it’s how God would answer. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul said:
In love, He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will–to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the one He loves.
That’s a mouthful, I know, but let’s look at what Paul reveals to us about God’s heart toward us. In the previous sentence, we see that God chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. Now we see that He predestined us to be adopted into His family. Before you and I even existed, God chose to adopt us.
Was God surprised by our sin? Did we catch Him off guard? Did He have some regrets once He saw how we behaved?
Of course not. He saw all of our days before we took our first breath. He saw our selfish acts. He knew our evil thoughts. And yet, He adopted us anyway. Despite all of our sin, He made us His sons and daughters.
And He didn’t do it grudgingly. It was “in accordance with His pleasure and will.” God was pleased to adopt you. It was His will. He wanted you. He chose you. He adopted you. He made you His child.
And He has no regrets, because He already saw how you’d turn out. And so the result is “the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.”
Think about that. God knew all about our sins and failures. And He adopted us anyway…by grace. And because we were adopted by grace and because He already knew all about us beforehand–there’s no danger of Him giving us back. We weren’t adopted because of our goodness. We were adopted in spite of our badness.
IT’S BY GRACE!
You are God’s child. In love, He predestined you to be adopted. And it was all by grace that was freely given to you in Christ.
If you have been living under a cloud of guilt and condemnation, then it’s time to start walking in the truth. You don’t have to be afraid that God is displeased and disappointed with you. You can live confidently in God’s love, because your Father has seen the worst about you and adopted you anyway.
Posted: January 31st, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, faith, forgiveness, God's character, God's word, grace, heaven, Jesus | No Comments »
According to Merriam-Webster, an “opinion” is: a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter.
One person’s opinion on a movie may be very different than another person’s opinion. I’ve heard many people rave about the film, Les Miserables, but also know several women who walked out part way through the film. Same film. Different opinions.
You and I have opinions on all kinds of matters. I think football is the greatest game ever invented and soccer is boring. You may think just the opposite is true. Neither of us is wrong. We just have different views.
You and I also have opinions about ourselves. I may think you look fit and healthy, but you may think you need to lose ten pounds. I might think your new hairstyle looks great, but you might hate it. Neither one of us is necessarily right or wrong. We just have different opinions, right?
But what if your opinion of yourself is different from God’s opinion of you? Is your opinion equal to His?
Ephesians 1:4 says:
“For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.”
Holy and blameless. Does that describe you?
You may be tempted to say it doesn’t. After all, you know all the things you’ve done wrong. You’re well aware of the mistakes you’ve made and the sins you’ve committed. You know how selfish you are. You can think of so many times you’ve been unkind, angry or impatient. So, holy and blameless? No way.
And yet, God says in Christ you are holy and blameless. Before the creation of the world, before you’d taken your first breath, before you’d done anything good or bad, God chose you to be holy and blameless in His sight.
But how can that be? Knowing all that you’ve done wrong–how can God see you as holy and blameless?
Because you are in Christ. And Christ is in you. And God sees you as He sees Jesus.
Maybe you don’t see yourself as holy and blameless. But God does.
So whose opinion matters more? Yours or God’s? And if your opinion of yourself doesn’t line up with God’s opinion of you…who needs to adjust?
One last thing–if you have never placed your faith in Christ, then you need to know God doesn’t see you as holy and blameless. Read Ephesians 2:1-6 and you’ll see that you are an object of God’s wrath. Your sin has separated you from Him. And a holy and righteous God cannot let sin go unpunished. Either you will have to pay for it or you can receive the gift of forgiveness Christ offers. It’s a choice we all get to make.
Posted: January 28th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: God is good, God's character, God's glory, God's love, God's will, God's word, grace, heaven, Jesus, marriage, money, pain and suffering, Relationships | No Comments »
I realized a number of years ago that I really don’t want to walk by faith. That’s a problem because God says things like:
“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“And without faith it is impossible to please God…” Hebrews 11:6
Walking or living by faith means I won’t always see how things are going to work out. That’s a really uncomfortable place to be. And I don’t like being uncomfortable. I suspect you don’t either.
I like being comfortable and I always want to see how things are going to work out. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t want to see how things are going to work out–I want things to already be worked out. I don’t want to trust God to supply what I need. I want to already have all I need. Don’t you?
And yet, that’s just not the way life works. I used to hold onto this fantasy world in which God’s sole objective was to make my life more comfortable, to make my circumstances more enjoyable, to meet all my needs and most of my wants. But since that’s not real life, I’ve had to work on letting that fantasy go. It hasn’t been easy.
But when we let go of the fantasy that a loving God would never allow pain or difficulties, we’re faced with a world in which tornadoes wipe out whole towns. Some babies are born with severe birth defects. Businesses fail in spite of hard work. Loved ones die in car accidents. Investments decline in value. Cancer takes family members from us. And “bad” people seem to have it better than the “good” people. And we’re faced with a God who’s willing to let all that happen.
Is there any hope? In this life, I mean. For those who follow Jesus, we know there’s the hope of heaven. But what about now? Are there any guarantees? Is there anything I can count on when the bottom drops out of life?
The second verse of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Would I love to live in a world without pain and problems and broken dreams? Absolutely. And that day is coming. I don’t believe God has given up on His plan to live on earth with us in a world free of pain and problems and death. (Read Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22–the first two and last two chapters of the Bible.) One day, God will restore creation to its original design.
Until then, we can experience His grace and peace. They are ours in abundance and are found in a relationship with Him through Christ. God’s grace and peace aren’t dependent on circumstances. They are available to us when everything around us is crumbling.
Grace and peace are available to us, but I believe we can short-circuit them by continuing to focus on our circumstances rather than on Jesus. I can get my eyes so firmly set on what I see happening (or not happening) around me, that God begins to feel far away, uninvolved and uncaring.
We can choose to see our circumstances through God’s eyes–that’s walking by faith. Or we can choose to see God through our circumstances–that’s walking by sight. Only one of those ways yields grace and peace.
God’s grace and peace are yours, but sometimes you have to battle to receive them…and battle to keep them. And we’ll look at that tomorrow.
Posted: December 18th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, evil, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's will, God's word, pain, Sandy Hook | No Comments »
Why didn’t God stop what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Surely He saw it coming. He saw how disturbed the killer was. He saw the planning. He saw him driving to the school.
Couldn’t God have prevented the murder of innocent children and teachers?
Did God not care? Is He really not as good as we’d like to think?
How are we supposed to think about all this?
Let me answer by asking another question: where do you think God should draw the line in stopping evil or sinful behavior?
We’d probably all agree we’d like to see God stop the murder of innocent children. We’d also like to have seen God stop what happened on 9-11. And we’d sure be okay if God had stopped World War II and the extermination of six million Jews.
We’d also like to see God stop the rapist and the child molester. And the drunk driver who crosses the center line and kills a mother and her baby.
But what about a burglar or bank robber? Should God stop them?
What about shoplifter? Maybe you don’t feel so strongly about that…unless of course it’s your store. And does it make any difference if it’s a homeless person shoplifting food?
What about the guy who’s about to cheat on his wife? Or the mom who’s always yelling at her kids? Should God stop them?
Should God stop the teenage girl who eats too much? Should God stop the bully who relentlessly teases the weaker kids on the playground? Should God stop the guy who keeps looking at pornography on his phone?
Should God stop you when you’re exceeding the speed limit or texting while driving?
Should God stop you when you’re being lazy or unkind or selfish?
In other words, should God just make us do stuff?
Where would you like God to draw the line? Should He stop other people or you too?
It fascinates me that God doesn’t demand His own way. He doesn’t make me choose what’s right or best. He doesn’t make me seek Him or trust Him or love Him or obey Him. He wants me to, but He doesn’t make me. And He doesn’t make you.
I believe God wants to be wanted. So He lets me choose whether or not I will come to Him and do life His way. And He lets you choose, too.
That means He also lets everyone choose.
“Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone. The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity.” (Psalm 37:10-11)
Posted: November 7th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, disappointment, discouragement, election 2012, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's will, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed with the result of the presidential election. My candidate lost. Actually, my preferred candidates weren’t even running. So I’m feeling disappointed along with at least 57 million others. But there are over 59 million people who are quite happy with the outcome today. Many of whom would profess to trust God, work hard, have strong marriages and love their children.
The results of this election, like others, cause me to step back and once again examine some of my core beliefs. For example, as I followed the election results last night on Twitter (I never even turned the television on), I couldn’t help noticing how many people kept encouraging others to pray for the outcome of the election.
But pray how? What exactly am I supposed to ask God to do?
I saw some who were encouraging prayer even after the polls had closed. And these didn’t seem to be requests to just pray for our country. These were people asking for prayer to effect the outcome. Were they wanting God to miraculously change votes that had already been cast?
But even if the polls hadn’t yet closed, how exactly am I to pray when it comes to an election? “God, please make my candidate win?” What exactly am I asking when I pray that way? Am I asking God to stop some people from voting? That would certainly work. Am I asking Him to motivate a bunch of apathetic people to drive themselves to the polls and vote for my candidate? That would work too.
Or is what I’m really asking, “God, please change the minds of about 2 million people who live in Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Nevada.” Because that would have completely changed the result of the election. Apparently though, despite many prayers along those lines, God did not answer.
There are those who will say today, “Well, God is in control. This was His will.”
Okay, so what does that mean? When we say “God is in control” or “It was just His will”, what exactly do we mean?
Two states, Maine and Maryland, passed laws that now allow same-sex couples to marry. Was that God’s will? Is God in control in Maine and Maryland?
Then we have states like Colorado and Washington that voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. How does God feel about that? Do we know? Can we just write it off as, “Well, God’s in control. It’s His will.”
God is in control. It’s His will.
What does that mean?
Hurricane Sandy slammed into my hometown of Brick, New Jersey last week. As I write this, that area is again getting hit with a nor’easter, a major winter storm with rain, sleet, snow, high winds and coastal flooding. Is God in control of that? Is it His will for people there to continue suffering? And by the way, before you decide to get political and blame it on how people in the “blue” states vote–two of the counties with the worst damage from Sandy, including Ocean County where I grew up, are “red.”
My friend, Jeff, continues to battle colon cancer that has spread to his liver, lymph nodes and lungs. My friend, Michael, doesn’t want a divorce, but his wife is going ahead with it anyway. My friend, Mallory, has lost both of her kidneys and is on dialysis three days a week, which makes it difficult to find a job.
Was it God’s will for Jeff to get cancer, Michael’s wife to divorce him and for Mallory’s kidneys to fail?
Why are some people healed and not others? Why does God seem to miraculously intervene in some situations and not others? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Why are some babies born healthy and some with brain tumors?
Why does something so obvious to us–like a need for healing or a certain outcome in an election–seem to go unnoticed by God? And if He sees, why doesn’t He do anything? Is it that He’s uncaring? Unwilling? Unable?
As I continue to reflect on questions like these, I’m coming to some conclusions…
- There’s a lot I don’t know or can’t explain and I’m just going to have to be comfortable with that. God is just way too big for me to “figure Him out.”
- It’s very easy for me to place my trust in the wrong things, like money or a politician. Only God can be trusted.
- But even though I believe He is trustworthy, I’m confused by the things He does or doesn’t do. He could change the course of a storm, but doesn’t. Or maybe He sometimes does and I’m not aware of it. He could heal a young woman’s kidney, but doesn’t. Or maybe even more confusing–someone who lives a healthy lifestyle dies at the age of 35, but a two-pack-a-day smoker lives to be 85.
- I believe God is in control, but I don’t believe He always exerts that control. Look, God spoke the entire universe into existence, so of course He’s in control. But it sure seems to me that He has chosen to let some things (or most things?) just run their natural (or unnatural?) course. Storms happen. Some cells go rogue and become cancer. Stupid people drive drunk and sometimes kill others. And God doesn’t step into to change those things from happening. At least not always.
- God lets us choose. That applies to you, to me and to the other 7 billion people on earth today. We can choose to seek God, or not. We can choose to love others, or not. We can choose to be generous or greedy. We can choose to exercise or eat donuts or both. And at least as far as I can tell, God doesn’t often step in and make us do something we don’t want to do. So that means if 59 million people want to vote for one candidate and 57 million want to vote for the other one, God lets that happen.
- So yes, it’s true that God is in control, but it’s also true that we get to choose how we’ll live and who we’ll vote for and we get to then reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). At least in the United States, we get to choose our leaders, which means we also get to choose the consequences of the decisions our leaders make. That sure seems to be the pattern God established with the nation of Israel. If the king was good–and by “good”, I mean he sought God, obeyed Him and led the nation to do the same–then God blessed them with His protection and provision. When the king was bad and led the people to turn their backs on God, then He allowed His people to experience the negative consequences of their choices.
I don’t have all this figured out. But when it’s all said and done, I’m convinced that God is passionately in love with you and me. He demonstrated that on the cross. I believe it’s always better to seek God and obey Him than it is to go my own way. But even that doesn’t guarantee I’ll always experience a comfortable life. Nor’easters and rogue cells and drunk drivers and bad economic policies happen. And even though God sees and cares and is able to help prevent disasters in my life or in a nation, He doesn’t always do it.
But the good news is this: God’s grace is sufficient no matter what I face. I’ve experienced it in my life and I’ve seen it in others. Somehow, when life is falling apart all around us, God is able to give supernatural joy and peace and comfort.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections or what God is teaching you. You can leave a comment or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh, one more thing. I released my new e-book last month, “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage.” I’m not really big on promotion, but I thought I’d let you know it’s available on Amazon for just $2.99. You can get it by clicking here, if you’re interested.
Posted: September 21st, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's word, marriage, pain and suffering, perseverance, prayer, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
The older I get–I’ll be 50 in a couple weeks–the less I seem to understand. I had much more figured out a couple decades ago.
I’m probably less sure about more things than I’ve ever been, while still remaining solid on my core beliefs.
At the core, I believe there is a God who has existed forever, although I cannot even begin to comprehend or explain how that can be.
I believe He created everything from nothing. And if that sounds too wild to believe, consider the alternative–that everything came from nothing WITHOUT A CAUSE.
I believe God is good, although His definition and mine don’t always agree. I believe He loves me, but sometimes I believe it by faith. I believe He wants to have a relationship with me, which is pretty crazy when you stop to think about it. I actually matter to Him.
I believe without a doubt that Jesus is God and that He walked around on the planet He created a couple thousand years ago, but I also understand how a lot of people didn’t even recognize Him as God. I’m not sure I would have either.
I believe that sin earns death, I’ve sinned and therefore I’ve earned death. And by death, I mean hell.
I believe what Jesus said in the book of John, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I know that sounds really exclusive. And it is. But I believe He meant it.
I believe if I place my trust in Jesus, He forgives my sin and paves the way for me to experience the relationship God desires to have with me and that ultimately I desire to have with Him, but don’t always act like it.
I believe it’s a big deal, a really big deal, in fact, that we believe God. He likes to be trusted. And it’s a big deal to Him when we don’t trust Him. A bigger deal than we realize.
Beyond that, I’m less sure about stuff.
Like why some people are healed and some aren’t.
Like why some prayers are answered and some aren’t.
Like why some people are born with severe disabilities and others are born with beautiful, perfect bodies.
Like why bad people prosper.
The list could go on.
I think where I’m landing is this–we’ve got to cling to what we know to be true and learn to live in the mystery and tension and confusion of the rest. We’ve got to persevere. We’ve got to patiently endure. We’ve got to hang on.
Persevering. Patiently waiting. Trusting.
Those are big themes that run throughout the Bible. They’re a big deal to God. So they’ve got to be a big deal to us. Bigger than our need to know and understand and have everything make sense. Bigger than our need to understand everything and fit it all in our neat little boxes.
I don’t know your circumstances today. Maybe you’re in a marriage that’s just absolutely awful. Maybe you’re unemployed, you can’t find a job and bankruptcy is the only option. Maybe you have a life-threatening illness. Maybe you’re lonely or scared. Maybe you were raped. Maybe everyone ignores you.
I know you’ve prayed. You’ve cried out to God. You’ve begged Him to help you. But things have gotten worse, not better.
I don’t have an answer. I can’t explain it. But I encourage you to not give up. Don’t turn your back on God. With whatever strength you have left– seek Him and trust Him.
This life is short. Your reward is coming.
Whatever you do–don’t give up.