Are we being a little mercenary when we obey God? Do we do it for the goodies we get?
Satan raised this very charge when God told him about the obedience of his servant Job. (Job 1:8-12; 2:3-6)
Job lived a godly life and was a wealthy, respected man. Satan told God that if God caused Job to suffer he would curse God to his face. God permitted Satan to takeaway Job’s security and destroy his health. Job questioned what was happening to him but he never cursed God. God corrected his complaining and restored his family and his wealth.
Satan accused Job of obeying God for the money. Job proved him wrong.
God is our Lord but also our Loving Father
God is the Sovereign Lord
It is a consistent teaching of Scripture that God is our Sovereign Lord. Isaiah uses the phrase over a dozen times.
God created the universe from nothing and created the first of man and woman in a special way. They became the parents of the entire human race.
He deserves our faith and he deserves our obedience.
Jesus made it very clear. If you love him, you will keep his commandments. (John 14:15)
God loves his children
God is not only our Lord but also our Loving Father. God loves those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ in many ways.
The writer of the book of Hebrews lists many ways that Jesus is superior to the Old Testament sacrificial system. He teaches us about all that Jesus has done for those who trust in for their standing before God.
The Apostle John talks about the great love of God and how we should model that love in our lives. (1 John)
If God loves us so much, why do Christians suffer?
Why is there evil in the world and why do Christians suffer?
People suffer and Christian suffer.
Three explanations have been proposed for suffering in this world.
Some have proposed that free will is very central to what God is doing in his creation. Free will means that he does not interfere or control people’s choices. For some it means that he does not truly know the future until each of us chooses our part of it.
The free will explanation is attractive and consistent with how most people view the world. However, it is not used Scripture to address times of suffering.
A higher purpose
It is clear from some passages in Scripture that God has a higher purpose than is apparent on the surface.
When Jesus and his disciples saw a man born blind the disciples asked who sinned that this person was born blind. Someone must have done something very wrong for this to happen. Jesus said no. There was a higher purpose. That day Jesus came and revealed to the Jewish leaders and to people in the city that he was the Messiah who can heal the blind. (John 9:1-41)
Near the end of their lives Joseph’s brothers needed reassurance that he would not take revenge on them. They had sold him into slavery.
Joseph has suffered much in his life before he was a ruler in Egypt. He was hated by his brothers. They sold into slavery. He was also falsely put in prison when he resisted seduction by his master’s wife.
He assured his brothers that even though they meant him evil, God meant it for good. The lives of the extended family that would become the Jewish people were saved from famine by what happened. The brothers’ evil was real but so was God’s higher purpose. (Genesis 50:15-21)
In the book of Job, we see Job’s life from his perspective and the perspective of heaven. We are never told that Job found out the full picture. He experienced and complained about how he suffered.
God had a higher purpose. He corrected Job for his questioning of the way God dealt with him. He restored his family and wealth. He lived a long life.
We are never told that God told Job about how his response to suffering silenced Satan. (Job chapters 1, 2, 40, 42)
A redefinition of God
I mentioned earlier those who so strongly hold to free will that they limit God’s knowledge and his lordship over his creation. Their view of God becomes less than the God embraced by Christians throughout the history of the Church.
This view is attractive but is difficult to reconcile with the God of Scripture.
How should Christians respond to evil in general and to suffering in their own lives?
The prophet Habakkuk complained to God about the lawlessness and injustice among the Jews. God replied that he was going to bring the Babylonians and use them to judge his people. (Habakkuk chapters 1, 2, 3)
Habakkuk replied but God shouldn’t do that. The Babylonians were worse than the Jews.
In chapters 2 and 3 of his book he recorded what he learned about how God works in his creation. The third chapter is a song where he praised God and told him that he would wait for God’s solution no matter how long it took.
God’s sovereignty brings God into the unexplainable. God will bring justice and healing, even if he does not do in this life.
God is our Lord but also our Loving Father
Questions for consideration:
Do you believe that suffering is sometimes caused by spiritual failure?
What if God was more concerned with making us holy than with making us happy? Would that be acceptable? How can you see this in your life?