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Monday, February 1, 2016


"I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me."
Job 23:5
All of us come across things we do not understand about God. Some of them certainly bother us. I recently talked with a close friend who was struggling with one of those things. I told him I thought he might gain deeper insight than those of us who do not struggle with his particular question. But I don't believe that is always the case. I think it depends on how you pray about the issue that is bothering you.
Are you praying to understand? This is fundamental. I started to say there are things that can only be understood, if God explains them to us. But that statement is too narrow. We can never understand anything about God, if God does not reveal Himself to us. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says the things of God are "spiritually discerned."
The next principle of prayer that must apply here, is to come to Him in worshipful humility. Expressions of this need to be cut into several facets. Let me propose a parable for you to chew on. This is the kind of problem that puzzles us, and can frustrate or anger us. And while this is told as a parable, some of you know of something similar that has happened.
Suppose a group of young people are on a church bus on their way to an outing when an out-of-control truck hits them killing every young person on the bus. And suppose some of them had not yet understood the gospel, and would have that night. If God knew about this before it happened, before any of those young people were born, even before the foundation of the universe, why did He not prevent it?
My first application of humility here is the recognition that God is good. The problem is of course an example of the philosophical conundrum, "If God is all powerful and good, why do we still find evil in the world?"
But if good truly exists, there must be an ultimate good and an ultimate perspective of good. Just as life must have a living source, and intelligence must have an intelligent source, so goodness must come from an ultimate personal good. Abstract concepts come from persons. Persons do not spring from concepts. The ultimate source of good is God. If God were evil there would have to be someone higher than God to pronounce him evil. An evil being would not be God. If there is no ultimate good, there is no way we can say with any authority, "That is good." or "That is evil."
This does not solve the problem, but it gives us a starting place. Trusting His goodness, we can humbly come to God, asking Him to help us understand.
The next facet of humility is patience. There is no question that we live in a fallen world. The Bible explains that our world was cursed because of sin. I don't think I would need the Bible to tell me things are not right or fair. The good suffer and the wicked prosper. I am part of that evil. I love the story of The Times asking the question, "What is wrong with the world?" G.K. Chesterton reportedly wrote back.
"I am.
G.K. Chesterton."
God's  promise is that in His infinite wisdom and power He will make all things right in the end. I am glad that He waited to condemn evil until I received the grace purchased by the blood of Jesus.
We also need to come with the humility to admit that we will not be able to understand many things about God and the universe. The book of Job in the Old Testament deals with a similar problem. And it is interesting to me that even after everything was restored to Job, the reasons for his calamity were never explained to him. He was never even given the explanation readers are given in the first chapter. And in fact philosophical answers are seldom what we need when we ourselves are hurting. To some extent all of us are the mother of a child on that bus. When you are hurting, you need God's embrace more than you need answers.
However, in the context of understanding such problems, there are some philosophical issues that must be addressed. The problem of this parable assumes some things that are not in evidence. First, it assumes that death is the worst possible thing that could happen to these young people. Death is terrible. The Bible clearly teaches that death is our enemy. (1 Cor.15:26) But the purpose of life is for people to come to know Christ as savior not length of life or other blessings in the here and now. If you were on a sinking ship, your greatest concern would not be how long you managed to stay on the ship before waves sweeping over the deck forced you into a life boat.
That is not to say we are not to hate death, evil and the unfairness of this world. Jesus was angry at the tomb of Lazarus. But even if I can't imagine how God can bring good out of some evil, He promises to do so. This is part of the reason Jesus had to die the way He did. If you were one of his disciples at the cross, you would surely have cried out against the unfairness of the whole event. And you would have felt there was no way God could bring any good out of that. Jesus laid down His divine privilege and unfairly bore our judgment.
And the parable assumes that God should have prevented these young people from this tragedy because they were good kids doing good things. But the Bible does not teach that good people, from our limited perspective, will always be sheltered from evil. And none of us are made right with God because we go to church or do good things. As Christians we do good things because we have been made right with God.
However young or old the people on that bus were, they were infected by the evil that our hearts choose. They would have been sinners deserving condemnation. And those young people would almost certainly have had more opportunities to repent than young people holding up a convenience store. Whose death is more unfair in the light of eternity?
Now I added something to this story. I said some of these kids might have understood and taken advantage of the gospel that night. I admit this is serious. Lack of opportunity to accept Christ is certainly the worst unfairness in our world. It is also the worst evil in me. I have been a hindrance to people coming to Christ. There are people who may well have been saved, if I had explained to them the gospel. There are people whose lives would have been radically different, had I faithfully and fervently prayed for them.

I am aware that I have not fully answered the question. And if I have soothed your anger about some evil, I may have done you a disservice. The unfairness all around us certainly angers God. We join Him in such anger. But rather than aiming our anger at God, we should cry out to God to intervene in the lives of those who suffer. I want God to do whatever is necessary to make me an instrument of His grace in redeeming society and bringing people to faith in Him. Still, I thank God that my own redemption includes His grace in the lives of those who would be lost, if I were their only hope.

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