A few blog posts back, I stated that I'm not sure we Christians really fully understand God's qualities or characteristics; His Nature, to be exact. And I think perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of our Father in Heaven is His Will. In fact, I bet if you asked several different Believers to define what God's Will is, you might get several different answers. Yet our understanding of what His Will is, or what it means, leads to our individual views of Who God is.
It is so common to hear these days, "God, if it is Your Will, then heal me [or protect me, or provide for me, or stop the evil, or any of a number of requests"... or, "It must have been God's Will that the accident [or death, or miscarriage, or failed marriage, or any number of tragedies] took place". Can you see that this belief system can lead to an impression of God as a Zeus-like imperial, dictatorial, and authoritative figurehead who rules our lives from a distance?
Oh, we will say that we know God loves us, because He sent His Son to die for our sins, right? And we declare our love for Him, but often experiencing a lack of real passion in our relationship with Him. I think the truth is closer to the idea that many see Him as a loving, yet strict and inflexible Father who decides our fates based on His uncompromising rules; that it is our role as obedient children to never question or wonder why that fate befell us. It's all laid at the feet of a "sovereign" God, who causes [or allows] things to happen. Perhaps this is best expressed in Psalm 135:6, The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.
Remember, we must accept that Jesus only did what He heard the Father tell Him. So, here the Leper acknowledges the power that Jesus has [from the Father] to heal, and says all it will take for him to be cleansed of this dreadful disease is that it be God's Will. Jesus's response? I am willing. Which means the Father was willing, too. But I want to give you a richer [and I think more accurate] picture of this exchange.
This is the translation of the Leper's request (and Jesus's response) as rendered by Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Teacher Emeritus of New Testament Greek at the Moody Bible Institute: Sir, if you have the desire in your heart, you are able to cleanse me. And having stretched forth His hand, He touched him, saying at the same time, My heart desires it. Be cleansed at once. Do you see the difference in these two interpretations? The English is more reserved and detached, while the Greek reflects the heart of God. It is His desire -- His longing, His yearning, His eagerness, His enthusiasm, His determination [welling up from His heart], in this instance, to heal. But no matter what the circumstance we are facing in life, it is important to understand that God's will comes from the desire of His heart for us, which is always what is best for us -- not some detached decision that might or might not benefit us.
In the case of the Leper, I have heard the logical question asked, "But how do we know that God wants everyone to be healed? Couldn't it just be His desire or will for this one particular man"? Good question! But the Bible shows the desire of God's heart [which is His will] in the circumstances surrounding Cornelius's conversion in Acts, Chapter 10. Here, Peter states that God is no respecter of persons, or as the Amplified Bible says, "Most certainly I understand now that God is not one to show partiality [to people as though Gentiles were excluded from God’s blessing], but in every nation the person who fears God and does what is right [by seeking Him] is acceptable and welcomed by Him". So, God doesn't pick and choose those whom He will grant blessings to. If we earnestly seek Him, it is always His heart's desire to bless each one of us.
So why do bad things happen to people? If it is the desire of God's heart to bless those who seek Him, why do Christians suffer loss and defeat? And that's where it gets particularly tough for many Christians. But here's how I see it. If someone suffers in this life, there are only three possible reason's ... 1) It is not the desire of God's heart to bless them [which we've already shown Scripture doesn't support]; 2) the person's free will played a part; or 3) it is the result of satan, who is the god of this world, and he found a way to steal, kill, or destroy God's intended blessing.
Now, here comes the next question which always arises ... But God is sovereign, and he could have stopped the person's free will or the devil's schemes, and because He didn't, then shouldn't we surmise that God allowed the suffering? People always want to go back to the example of Job and point out that God allowed the devil to torment Job. But we misunderstand what is going on. When God says to satan, "Behold, all that Job has is in your power...", we should discern that God wasn't giving satan power over Job (or allowing him to make Job suffer) ... satan already had the power, because he had dominion over the whole earth [from Adam and Eve's surrender in the Garden]. God was simply stating the facts and is saying, we're playing by the established rules. You can destroy all the blessings I have given him, and my servant Job [still] will not curse me. In fact, at the end of the Book of Job, God is mad at Job's friends, saying, "“My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has". In effect, you have misrepresented Me! You've been trying to lay all the blame for Job's misfortune and suffering at My feet, and that is wrong!
But one of the daughters decides to walk a different path; one that pleases the world, instead of her parents. By her own free will, she begins making choices that result in drug addiction and repeated arrests. So, are we to lay the blame at the feet of the parents because they "allowed" this to happen? Or was it their daughter's free will that resulted in her suffering? Or was it that the devil tempted her with escape through drugs in order to destroy her relationship with both her parents and God? The blame lies at the feet of either the daughter or the devil, not the parents, who only desired the best for their daughter and gave her the ground rules by which she could enjoy a blessed life! The same model works in the spiritual world. When tragedy or suffering occurs, it is NEVER the desire of God's heart; it is not His will! Either the person made a free will choice that brought on the result, or like Job, we live in a world that is under the dominion of satan and he roams the earth looking for someone to kill, steal, or destroy. He can work with the person's free will, or he can simply use the power he has to attack us. It is up to us to resist him, while continuing to honor and glorify God,
I guess the reason I am so passionate about viewing God's Nature correctly is that it saddens me when He gets the blame for the sadness, misery, and tragedy in this life. We are made in the image of the Son whom He dearly loved [and therefore, what He desired for the Son, He desires for us]. And I would challenge anyone who believes that God caused [or allowed] His own Son's death. It was Adam and Eve's free will choice to disobey God that began the Israelite's long road of disobedience and ultimately led to Christ's crucifixion [and to God's glory, His resurrection]. Was it the desire of God's heart that His Son die such a horrific death? No! But once the dominion of this earth was handed over to satan, God cannot violate His own rules and take that dominion back until He sends His Son a second time with power and glory to defeat evil for all time. But we tend to believe that "God's will" is His plan, [as in, it was His plan that Jesus go to the Cross in order to provide a way for us to escape God's wrath]. And that is a much different understanding than seeing God's will as His heart's desire.
Ultimately, it is the desire of God's heart that all men seek Him, and through confession and repentance, come into the Kingdom of God, partnering with Him to exert the Kingdom's influence on satan's dominion here on earth. But while satan still rules this earth, the Bible tells us he is the god of this world, ruler of this world, and the prince of the power of the air. He does not have ultimate authority over this world; but operates in this world within the boundaries God has set for him. And God has set boundaries for Himself, too ... God is a God of order and harmony (1 Corinthians 14:33). So, to say that "it is God's will" when bad things happen is just not in keeping with His heart's desire or His Divine Nature. Everything about God [including His will, or the desire of His heart] is good and acceptable and perfect. Bad things -- evil, tragedy, trials -- come from the Enemy and/or our own sin nature. Let's give God the praise He is due, and not dishonor His reputation [as was done in the Book of Job] by allowing Him to be falsely accused.
Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect".
His will is the first foundational card in our theology deck. If we get that one wrong then the wreck in our thinking gets more and more difficult to come to terms with, and we have to resolve it with a finality statement like God is in control. This allows us to dump our blame at his feet and allows Satan to walk away with none of the blame. Get his will right from the beginning and our correct theology will fall into line! "Its Gods will that none should perish,but that all should come to repentance" so how is it Gods will that a five year old child should die or even a child in utero? Why do we lay these events at Gods feet? Wrong theology that starts with Gods will and ends with God is in total control!ReplyDelete
Perfect! And, yes, our understanding of God's will can certainly mar our image of Him and affect our relationship with Him. Many times, this diminished image of God limits the fullness of relationship that He desires with all who seek Him. It saddens me that the devil has been able to convince so many Christians that his actions are really God's. Our God is good all the time!Delete
Im starting to see this now. I used to lay all the bad things that happened to me at Gods feet or God allowed this to happen so ____________ would happen or God is somehow perfecting me with with suffering. I never really put this on Satan in any way! I would appear Ive got some repenting to do. Thanks for shaking my theological box of rocks! -BillReplyDelete
Bill, do not beat up on yourself -- I believe this is the No. 1 theological stumbling block within today's Church. Satan has done a good job at deceiving us by suggesting that (as you say) God "allows" or "causes" bad things to happen because of 1) His sovereignty, or 2) because it is one of His methods to grow us into a mature Christian. But nowhere in the Bible does God do that to righteous people. Does He discipline us? Yes! But it is never His heart's desire (will) to punish us so that we will love Him more. In the meantime, by distracting us with this false theology, the devil is left free to continue his "work" -- to steal, kill, and destroy -- and very few Believers even look his way. As my wise husband says, we really need to minister to the Church as much as to the world, and expose this false doctrine to the light of God's True Nature. God DOES NOT control everything! Could He? Absolutely! But He instituted free will to all His creation (even the devil) and He will not violate His own cosmic rules. We need to recognize His Divine Nature (and His merciful and loving heart) and lay the blame where it belongs -- either on our own sin, or the works of the devil. And then we need to use the authority and power Jesus gave us to destroy those works of our Enemy!Delete
This post makes me wonder how many missed opportunities were lost healing through Christ's name? So many illnesses to be healed and so many Christians not stepping up in faith and healing. Including me. I love the gifts of the Spirit and consider them tools to help others, and ourselves, in good times and bad. I am opening my eyes to the works of Jesus and will learn to walk in faith and demonstrate his glory.ReplyDelete
It is past time for an awakening and to sharpen our tools; the Spiritual battle will only intensify. I feel ill prepared and I see we, as the body of Christ, have become mostly complacent and our gifts and Godly powers have gathered cobwebs.
I have had the conversations about the comment "God allows suffering . . . look at the Holocaust" many times. (Or other versions: human trafficking, Ebola, dog fighting, etc.). How do we convince the world when those closest to God will turn away from Him in their suffering?
I know how disheartening it can be when people (even Christians!) look for examples that they say point to God "allowing" suffering. First, I would say that when we only look at what we perceive "God didn't do" -- for instance, save the 6 million Jews in the Holocaust -- or the tragedy of the child sex slave trade -- instead of 1) seeing that it was satan's evil influence (along with mankind in agreement with him) that resulted in these horrific tragedies, and 2) focusing on God's counter-punch in the hearts of those who risked their own lives to hide and rescue Jews, or go underground to rescue enslaved children. When we look back at what God hasn't done, instead of what He has done, it will always lead to doubt and unbelief and complacency.Delete
The only thing I know to do is stay persistent in proclaiming God's heart and His Divine Nature. He wants us to CHOOSE to glorify Him, instead of making us robots who give automatic praise. Therefore, because of that principle of free will, there will always be those who choose to reject Him and follow the temptations of the Enemy ... and therefore, there will always be suffering. And there is not a human being who will escape suffering. So as for myself, I will testify to His Goodness and His Mercy and His Love and His Justice that I have witnessed in my own suffering -- always pointing out that YHWH knows our suffering because He experienced it Himself as He watched His Son die an excruciating death. Yet He did not compromise His own rules, and Jesus suffered, never doubting the Father, nor rejecting Him. The state of this world and the suffering in it, is a result of our own free will to make bad choices, and the effects of the devil, who wishes to kill, steal, and destroy our relationship with the Father. I see Jesus as the model that I must reflect to the world if we are ever going to convince them to stand fast in their faith through suffering. As Psalm 34 says, "I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of His glories and grace". And that grace is His power within us to persevere through our suffering. We must keep shouting the truth of His Nature to a hurting world!