Did God create Evil? At a certain college there was a professor with a reputation for being tough on Christians. At the first class, every semester, he asked if anyone was a Christian and proceeded to degrade them and mock their statement of faith.
One semester, he asked the question and a young man raised his hand. The professor asked, "Did God make everything young man?" He replied "Yes sir HE did!" The professor responded, "If God made everything, then HE made evil." The student didn't have a response and the professor was happy to once again prove the Christian faith to be a myth.
Then another man raised his hand and asked, "May I ask you something, sir?" "Yes, you may," responded the professor. The young man stood up and said, "Sir, is there such a thing as cold?" "Of course there is, what kind of a question is that? Haven't you ever been cold?"
The young man replied, "Actually, sir, cold doesn't exist. What we consider to be cold is really an absence of heat. Absolute zero is when there is absolutely no heat, but cold does not really exist. We have only created that term to describe how we feel when heat is not there."
The young man continued, "Sir, is there such a thing as dark?" Once again the professor responded, "Of course there is." And once again, the student replied, "Actually, sir, darkness does not exist. Darkness is really only the absence of light. Darkness is only a term developed to describe what happens when there is no light present."
Finally, the young man asked, "Sir, is there such a thing as evil?" The professor responded, "Of course, we have rapes, murders and violence everywhere in the world. Those things are evil." The student replied, "Actually, sir, evil does not exist. Evil is simply the absence of God. Evil is a term developed to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. It isn't like truth, or love which exist as virtues like heat or light. Evil is simply the state where God is not present, like cold without heat, or darkness without light."
The professor had nothing to say.
I usually don’t just like to copy entire pieces from other works, but this was too good not to share. The above story was found at bibleone.net and there are other versions with more or less details that exist as well. In one account of the story that I read years ago, it was reported that the student was Albert Einstein. No matter who was responsible for this revelation, it is an important truth for all of us to understand. If you’ve ever wondered how there could be so much evil in the world if God is truly good, this story may help you begin to understand the relationship between the two. Evil, like coldness and darkness, is not really a created thing. It’s simply how we choose to describe the lack of something else.
I believe it would be accurate to say that evil, or the absence of God, is only made possible by God’s love for us. I know that those of you who consider yourselves Calvinists have a problem with the idea of “free will” because it puts way too much stock in the sinner’s ability to choose anything good, but it is my personal belief that forcing someone to love you back is not an act of love. Since God IS love, it only seems logical to me that He would give those He loves a choice to love Him back. Even if I were to agree that God “predetermines” those who will be saved, I’d have to believe that He would predetermine that EVERYONE be saved (2 Peter 3:9) and that many will reject what God has predetermined. As the complete embodiment of love, God lets the rejection happen. It is my belief that this is why God created hell. There needed to be a place where those who chose to reject God in their lives would be guaranteed His absence for all of eternity. We could discuss what hell is physically like, but the only truth about it that matters is that GOD IS NOT THERE.
Could you imagine existing anywhere without God’s presence? Fortunately, we live in a world now where both God’s presence and His absence are available to us. Some of you are probably throwing your shoe at the computer screen right now because I just said that “God’s absence is available to us” and that really messes with our minds theologically. Let me explain. I believe there is nothing we can do to take God’s presence away because we don’t have that kind of power over Him. However, based on His loving nature, I do believe that God will leave us alone when we reject Him and be right there waiting for us with open arms when we return to Him and invite His presence back into our lives. In the parable of the lost son (prodigal) in Luke 15, the father, out of love for his son, lets him go regardless of how much it hurts the father. Then, he runs to him and allows his son back into his presence when the son repents. But it didn’t change the fact that, for a season, the prodigal chose to live without his father’s presence thinking it would be a better way to live, only to end up poor, hungry, desperate, and miserable.
I believe that God gave all of His created beings the freedom of choice out of His love for them. This would include the angels, which would then include Satan. Isaiah 14:12-15 tells us of Satan’s original place in heaven as “morning star, son of the dawn” (this is where we get the name Lucifer, which is Latin for “morning star” or “light-bearer”), his desire to “raise my throne above the stars of God”, and his consequence of being “cast down to the earth” and eventually “brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit”. Satan decided that being under God’s authority IN His presence wasn’t good enough, and was subsequently cast out of it. He believed he could live higher than God’s presence if he went his own way and persuaded others to join him. His miscalculation is evident throughout the Bible, as even though he exists out of God’s presence, he still falls under God’s authority.
My point for all of this is to show that evil, the absence of God, existed in this earth even before Adam and Eve sinned, so we can’t expect it not to affect us regardless of how much we repent or overcome our sin issues. Satan had been cast down to the earth, and had taken his place as the deceiving serpent in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had the presence of God, and could have chosen to stay in it rather than join the serpent out of God’s presence for that moment of deception. Because they chose to sin, evil went from being something that had existed outside of our bodies to something that became part of our biological makeup. Jesus was without sin, yet even he, as a human being, was tempted by evil. His flesh had the same temptations that we do, temptations that do not exist in the ultimate presence of God in heaven.
The great news for us as Christians is that evil, whether it’s the absence of God in us or others and whether it’s momentary or affects us our entire lives by the actions of others, is only temporary. Revelation 12:12 gives us a temporary reason to cry, and a lasting reason to hope. “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short”. We must keep an eternal perspective. The devil, who epitomizes evil and the absence of God, only has a SHORT time to affect us. It may last our entire lives, but in the scope of all eternity, that’s still REALLY SHORT. Like Katie said at the close of Monday’s blog, we have the guarantee of an “evil-free eternity”, because we will be always in the complete presence of God. That very guarantee is what gives us power over the effects of evil TODAY!
In a previous blog we talked about the problem of evil in the world, so I won’t re-hash that here. Instead, this week I’m going to focus on how evil came into the world to begin with.
When the world was created, everything was perfect! Just imagine it - no sickness, no death, no evil people, and - though the Bible doesn’t tell us this for sure - no mosquito bites! (I’m sitting outside on my deck as I write this and getting bitten by mosquitoes but still trying to enjoy the nice weather.) There was nothing wrong with the world at the time of Creation. So what happened? Why do we have sickness and death and evil people and mosquito bites in the world today?
The answer lies in Genesis chapter 3. We read there about how the serpent (the devil) came to Eve and tempted her. Eve was deceived to believe that she could be like God if she ate the fruit of that one tree - the only tree that God commanded her and Adam not to eat from. Eve, being human, desired to be like God and have that knowledge the serpent promised her. So she ate the fruit, and gave some to Adam too. Once they ate it, their eyes were opened and they suddenly realized their shame.
In that act, mankind was changed forever. Now evil came to mankind, and Adam and Eve would begin to experience pain and need to work hard at life. No longer would they be able to have a completely pure relationship with God, but they would be separated from Him by the sin they committed. It was an entirely new experience for them at the time, and I imagine they definitely had some regret and longing for the perfect world they once lived in!
We live in that new world as well, and we experience evil all the time. Just look at any news website or watch any news broadcast on TV and you’ll see the evil of mankind firsthand. Because of that first sin of Adam and Eve, there is wrongdoing and sickness and pain and death in the world we live in.
If that sounds depressing to you, take heart - there is a world to come where we can again experience that perfect, evil-free world one day! Those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as our savior will experience that perfect life in heaven one day, and for all of eternity. We have evil for a short time during this life, but we have the hope of an evil-free eternity with God.
Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, May 24, 2012 0 comments
One of the most difficult and most critical times of my life was just about 4 years ago when I made the decision to leave all of the things I was comfortable with in central Pennsylvania and move to Findlay, Ohio to begin my pursuit of the Master of Divinity degree from Winebrenner Theological Seminary. Now, when I say I was "comfortable", that doesn't mean I was happy, and it definitely doesn't mean I was pursuing godliness. It means I had sought comfort in worldly things and had found it - temporarily. See, when you find comfort in the things you seek, you WILL find it. But you will also find that it has no lasting joy and no real power to bring happiness or contentment. I had several relationships that I thought would bring me comfort and they did, only to bring me pain and misery in the end. I had a job where I was making more money than I've ever made in my life and I was financially comfortable, but that was the only reason I took the job in the first place and I had lost my passion for serving the Lord since I had the wrong attitude toward my workplace. I grew more and more frustrated with my job and took it out on those around me. I even had a "successful" youth ministry at my church, where the youth grew in faith and in numbers. The problem was that their leader was slowly dying inside, dying spiritually from an all-out pursuit of comfort.
Fortunately, God used some key people in my life to speak the truth I needed to hear. About a year before I made the big move, I had been in Findlay, Ohio for a good friend's graduation from seminary. This was my first trip to the place I would move to a year later, and God was beginning to open my eyes. On that trip, Jim, an elder from my church, was sitting down with me at a local coffee house. I remember telling him that I was struggling to find contentment in my life even though I was comfortable and had very little to complain about. I'll never forget his response: "Well Logan, I imagine you will continue to feel that way until you do what the Lord wants you to do". Wow! I knew exactly what he was talking about and so did he, because everyone in our church knew God had been urging me to step out in faith, go to seminary, and get into full-time ministry. Everyone also knew that I was the one delaying it (while saying spiritual things like "I don't believe God wants me to go until I'm ready") and that I was scared of the unknown. But Jim's words started me on the path where I finally decided that I could not expect to find true contentment unless I made changes and stepped out to follow God not knowing where He would take me. Since that time, there have been ups and downs and struggles and victories. It's been quite an adventure and there have been plenty of times where I was scared not knowing how God was going to come through. I haven't always been comfortable, but I've been more content than ever before and there hasn't been one time that I can say God left me hanging.
I share all this about myself because I feel like my experiences gave me a small taste of what it was like for Moses and the Israelites at the time of the Exodus. Moses was comfortable tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, yet he knew he was a Hebrew and that his own countrymen were in captivity. The movie "The Ten Commandments" does a great job showing how Moses was likely discontent knowing that while he was comfortable, his people suffered. Then suddenly, God appears to him in a burning bush and tells Moses to go and do what He already knew was brewing in Moses' heart. Moses initially questions and rejects the idea because it is clear that his focus is on himself and his own abilities, or lack there of. Later, when God convicts him of this self-focused attitude and Moses begins the process of the exodus BY FAITH, he never once looks back.
Now think about the Israelites. They moaned and cried out to God over their suffering at the hands of the ruthless Egyptians. God heard their cry and desired to rescue them. But God wasn't about to do it for them in a way that was comfortable. If they TRULY wanted to be free, they had to leave the country by faith and follow any instructions God gave them through Moses, even the ones that made no sense to them. You and I think it's pretty hard to pack enough supplies for 10 or 12 people on a trip. Try preparing for a trip with 2 million people! This meant the journey would not be comfortable. They would need to fully depend on God for the most basic of needs and protection. They would be chased by the Egyptians with no real way of protecting themselves. At one point, they looked up and got scared when they saw the Egyptians and blamed Moses, saying, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians?' It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" (Exodus 14:11-12). Seriously? These people were begging God to free them when they were captive, and were now complaining to Moses and God about His chosen method of freeing them! It sounds a little ridiculous, doesn't it? Then again, how many of us do the same thing?
We want freedom from the things that bind us, but we want freedom with the smallest possible cost to us. This is true if you are at a point of discontent in your life and know God is calling you to step out in faith in some way. It is true if you are held captive by the choices of others. And it is most certainly true if you are held captive by your sin issues. Make no mistake about it. God is not waiting to free you. He wants to free you RIGHT NOW. But you have to be willing to leave your captivity by faith. Even in captivity, there are certain comforts. Let's face it, the reason why we continue to make certain sinful choices even after we know they are wrong and cause us pain is because there is a level of comfort to them. This is especially true with sexual sin and other addiction issues. To indulge the flesh in these situations is to meet a need comfortably. If you really want to be freed from those sins, it's time to step out in faith and trust God that He knows what you need and will meet it in His way and His time and to stop giving in to that desire for immediate comfort and gratification. God is ready to lead you on an exodus to freedom in your life if you are willing to leave by faith and trust Him for all of your needs even when it doesn't seem like there's a plan in place. Are you ready? It's the ONLY way to true freedom from captivity!
For further study, read James 3:13-18.
Are you living God's way or your own?
Are you living out the "Kingdom of God" or living out the "Kingdom of Man"?
Who's wisdom are you living by? Godly wisdom or man's wisdom?
This should help you understand if you are living in captivity or are living in freedom in Christ.
For three of my four years in college, I ate in the cafeteria. (I much prefer people preparing my food for me rather than doing it myself!) My friends and I had a joke that whenever a large group of people was leaving, such as when class time was approaching, there was a “mass exodus” from the cafeteria. Many students would take their trash and dishes to where they needed to go all at one time and all leave at once.
Biblically, the term exodus refers to when the people of Israel left the oppression they faced in Egypt, around the year 1200 B.C. It’s also the name of the second book of the Bible, where those events are recorded.
The exodus is an extremely important part of Israel’s history. Long before it, a guy named Joseph was taken into slavery in Egypt. He worked his way up from being a slave and spending time in prison to eventually become second in command of all of Egypt! When there was a severe lack of food in the Joseph’s homeland, his entire family - including all 11 brothers - was invited to come live in Egypt. That’s the short story of how the people of Israel came to be living in Egypt.
Naturally, that many families will multiply and multiply until after a few generations they grew quite numerous! Because of that, and since Joseph was long since dead, the ruler of Egypt at that time made all of the Israelites into slaves. The people were treated severely and oppressed for many years. Finally, a guy named Moses came along and God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. By this point in time, it is estimated that the Israelites numbered around 2 million people, so that was no small task!
Of course, the ruler of Egypt didn’t want to just let that many slaves walk away, so he refused to let them leave. Moses asked God what he was supposed to do, and God sent plagues onto Egypt to try and convince the ruler. Finally, after the 10th plague - which included killing the firstborn of each household - the ruler consented. The night of that 10th plague was the first observance of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The Israelites were to kill a young, perfect lamb and put its blood on their door frame to have the angel of death pass them over and not kill their firstborn. There are many rituals concerning Passover that are still practiced today. And so began the exodus of the people of Israel out of Egypt.
There is much more to the story than that, so I’d encourage you to read these stories for yourself. The story of Joseph begins in Genesis 37, and the book of Exodus contains the narrative of the Israelites leaving Egypt and wandering in the wilderness. It also contains the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.
So why is the word exodus important for us today? The book of the Bible called Exodus is important for two primary reasons. First, as I mentioned, it contains God’s law for us in the form of the Ten Commandments. These laws still apply to us today and we need to follow them to the best of our abilities. Second, the event of the Passover which began the exodus from Egypt is a foretelling of what Jesus Christ would do for us. He was that perfect lamb that was killed so that we might be ‘passed over’ and saved from our sins.
Hopefully, you read the title and are instantly as intrigued as I was the first time the thought popped into my mind. To be honest, the thought came to my mind as I was listening to a popular old hymn. In the song “I Love to Tell the Story”, the last verse includes the following words: “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting, to hear it like the rest”. Clearly, this is a song about evangelism, about telling of the “good news” of Jesus and his love. Some of you probably never even heard the song before, but I’d bet that even those who have heard it haven’t really thought about the meaning of all the lyrics. The first 2 verses talk about the joy of the sharer in telling the story of Jesus, the 3rd verse talks about sharing with those who haven’t heard it, and the last verse (partially quoted above) talks about sharing with “those who know it best”. That’s pretty all-encompassing!
Evangelism is often viewed as something that targets those who are not saved with the goal of “saving” them. We all know that sinful human beings can’t “save” anyone from God’s wrath because of sin and that such a task could only be completed by the One who is perfect and who “was God”. We simply believe it by faith and receive it by grace (and even our choice to faithfully believe comes by grace and the urging of the Holy Spirit). So because we cannot save ourselves or anyone else, I have to believe that evangelism is for the Christians too!
When we think about what evangelism really means, which Katie did a great job of explaining in Monday’s blog, the idea that it is also for Christians becomes even more appropriate. To evangelize means to share the “good news”. I don’t know about you, but I became a Christian in 1994 and I have needed to hear the good news many times since then. You see, the good news is not just that we are freed from the penalty of sin and can spend eternity with our Creator. While that is amazing news, none of us can understand the full effect of that news until this life comes to an end. So how do we deal with the pain and consequences of sin in the meantime, as fleeting as they may be?
If you’ve ever asked that question, you’re in luck. Jesus didn’t just come and die so that we could get into heaven. He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). The good news of Jesus Christ is BOTH that we have our blessed assurance with the Father for all of eternity AND that we have a fresh outlook on this temporary home we call “earth” and the challenges it brings. When we feel burdened by our sins, battered by others, or bombarded by the flaming arrows of the evil one, we can “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). When we have troubles in this world, we can “take heart, for Christ has overcome the world” (John 16:33). It is true that we should do everything in our power to communicate the message of good news to those who have never heard it or accepted it. But it is also true that we should remind each other of what the good news means for our daily lives and not just what it means for eternity. We never know when a simple word of testimony about what God has done for us might be just what a brother or sister in Christ needs to hear for encouragement. So, if it is true that we ought to be sharing the good news with those who are not saved and those who are, well that includes everyone. Translation – don’t EVER stop telling the story of Jesus and his love!
Evangelism. A word that has strong feelings for many (if not all) Christians. In some, it invokes good feelings of spreading God’s love and being saved; in others, it conjures up nightmares of being forced to awkwardly share the gospel message. What do you think of when you hear the word evangelism?
Before we get into that too much, let’s define the word. Evangelism comes from the Greek euangelion, which literally means “good news.” This simple word encompasses the entire Gospel message - that Jesus was God in the flesh on earth, died for our sins, and was raised to life again. The act of evangelizing is sharing that message with others.
For me, for many years my feelings toward the word evangelism were negative or indifferent. I grew up in a church that didn’t really evangelize much. Yes, we were told to bring our friends to church and tell them God loves them, but I don’t know that many people actually went out and did that. That faith tradition believes that a person cannot accept Christ on their own without the working of the Holy Spirit, so it seemed like everyone was content to let the Spirit do all the work for them. So evangelism was never really a big deal.
That resonates with me to this day, as I still have a hard time actively evangelizing, so to speak. Whether good or bad, I’m one of those people who lets my actions do the talking more so than my words. Only on a couple occasions have I really had the opportunity to share the Gospel with someone, since the majority of my acquaintances are Christians, or have at least heard the Gospel message so many times they could recite it themselves - even if they don’t personally believe it in their heart.
Nowadays, it seems as though the Gospel message has been evangelized everywhere - so much so, that people are tired of hearing it. It appears to have lost its power. But what is powerful is the God behind that evangelism message, and it’s powerful when people truly live out that message! Anyone can stand on a street corner and tell people Jesus died for them; but it takes a person with authentic faith to truly live it out and invest it in the lives of others. We don’t just need to tell people the Gospel with our words, but we need to live it out in our daily lives, 24/7.
How are you evangelizing?
You might be familiar with the phrase "from here to eternity". It's fairly popular around weddings and was even a popular country music love song for a very short time a decade or so ago. The problem with the phrase is that it literally makes no sense. The only correct way of saying it would be "from here TO THE REST OF eternity". Obviously, that doesn't sound quite as catchy or romantic, and certainly would not fit into the harmony of that song (which I'm quite sure I'm the only one here who has ever heard before). But if we really want to understand what is meant by the word "eternity", we can't just look into the future. That's a common mistake that many people make, and we miss out on what God wants to do with the past because we're so focused on the future.
As Katie indicated in Monday's blog where she talked about the meaning of the word, eternity means not just "always will be", but also "always was". When we or those we are talking to are struggling to overcome things from the past, the common advice is something like "the past is the past, so just let it go". But we all know that is much easier said than done. It is very hard to just simply let something go. As Christians, we ought to be more apt to visiting our past sins and those committed against us and allowing God to walk us through a process of healing. This is especially true given our accurate understanding of the Word of the Week. If we truly believe God is eternal, that means that words such as "past, present, and future" are not in His vocabulary. God is not bound to the constructs of time as we are. He simply sees all of eternity in one really big picture. So what does that mean for us? It means that if you're willing, you can let God take you back to those specific times, events, or situations of pain in your life. You can ask Him what He wants to say to you in those moments, as if He were saying it RIGHT NOW. It might not feel like "right now" for you. But again, if God is eternal, then that moment truly IS "right now" for Him, and so is whatever is going to happen 1,000 years from now in our construct of time. I recently had a trusted counselor talk to me about this very truth, and then proceed to take me back to some moments of pain in my life and visualize them as if they were happening right then and there. He then had me pray and ask God what He would have me know and what He would say to me about that situation, and then share what I was hearing from God. That exercise brought healing to me and I know it can do the same for you.
The other thing I think about when talking about the word "eternity" has to do with something I was reminded about literally as I was sitting down to write this. How cool is God that He gives us reminders right when we need them! I have the TV on ESPN in the background and the show that was on is called "Pardon the Interruption". It's a sports talk show and they happened to be interviewing Josh Hamilton, an outfielder for the Texas Rangers who had hit 4 home runs in one game the previous night. Hamilton's past has been well-documented. He was blessed with unbelievable talent, but he wasted it all initially by falling into a world of drugs, alcohol, women, etc. At the lowest point in his life, he walked into a relationship with Jesus Christ and God began to restore him. Today, he is one of the best players in baseball and gives Christ all the glory. However, he has had several relapses and, although he recognizes God's grace and the need to constantly draw closer to Him, he is constantly heckled by fans about his personal demons. The hosts of the show asked him how he deals with it, and Hamilton began to talk about how it's frustrating, but that the Holy Spirit reminded him that what he's going through in that moment is just a very minute fraction of what Christ went through for him. He stated that now, he just prays for those who heckle him and shows compassion on them. Even as he has battled personal demons as he grows in his relationship with Christ, Josh Hamilton has learned to be more focused on the eternal state of those around him than on the light and momentary trouble that their actions cause him. What a testimony to the attitude all Christians should have!
It reminds me of the very first recorded Christian martyr in the Bible. I'm talking about Stephen. At the end of Acts 7, just as he was getting ready to be killed, we read that "Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God" (v. 55). A few verses later, we read about his very last words AS THEY WERE STONING HIM. He said, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (v. 60). So let's get this straight. Stephen, in the very moment that he was suffering intense pain from being hit in the head with very large stones and on his way to physical death, had a very NON-PHYSICAL perspective. He never lost sight of the fact that this life and the pain that goes with it is fleeting, while eternity is forever. He couldn't bear the thought that other men could face the rest of eternity apart from Jesus (which would be the penalty if God did indeed "hold the sin against them") just because their sins led to the end of his measily life. He wanted those men to enjoy the eternal joy that he had so much that he prayed for it with his dying words. Wow! Talk about an eternal perspective. When I read the story of Stephen, I am reminded of just how temporal my attitude often is and how much power I give to non-eternal things in my life. I challenge you to join me in praying that God would guide all of us into an eternal perspective and remove anything from our lives that stands in the way of such a focus.
• Ask God to give you the strength to forgive those who persecute you.
• Ask God to give you the strength to forgive yourself if you need to.
• Ask God to heal not only you but to heal your enemy.
I have never been a person to participate in long events. In high school, I ran track and even though I wasn’t the fastest athlete on the track, I was always in the short distances like the 100 meter dash or the 200 meters. I would be a part of a relay team like the 4x100 or the 4x200. I just never really enjoyed long distance running.
For any sport I was in, I always loathed the time in practice when we would have to run for long distances or do some sort of drill to build up endurance. My attitude has always been, start faster than the other guy and hopefully I have a big enough lead to win in the end.
A few years ago I realized how much I had brought that frame of mind into my life. My friend, basketball coach, and fellow Christ follower, Shane Adams has helped me to realize how much worth is in working hard in all that you do and never being okay with mediocrity. Even in practice. Even in the small menial tasks in life. We must always be ready to give our very best in all that we do. Shane has helped me to understand the concept of, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.”
The children’s story of, The Tortoise and The Hare has a lot of truth in it too. Oh sure, the hare in the story got all conceited and arrogant and he should have easily won the race but the tortoise never gave up. Even though the odds were certainly against him. He just kept plodding along taking one small, slow step at a time.
It’s a lot like our walk with God. The only difference is we need to give Him the praise and glory He deserves no matter if we win or lose. No matter if our dreams come true or not. Why? Without God, you wouldn’t even be breathing right now. I wouldn’t even be writing this. You wouldn’t be reading this right now.
I think many of us who are followers of Jesus Christ forget who the power comes from. It is not from us but from God. From the Holy Spirit. God is loving and gracious to give us dreams and goals that He wants us to accomplish but many times we try and trump God and His plan for the life He has given to each one of us with our own desires. We forget that just because we want to accomplish something doesn’t mean it is God’s will for us to accomplish it. And when we are outside of God’s will that is called something that we are not to do. That act and word is, sin.
I am not writing this to be a “downer” for anyone, In fact I am hoping to do exactly the opposite. If you know what God’s plan is for the life that He has given to you than start doing what He has called you to do. If you are still wondering, “God, what plans do you have for this life you’ve given me?” then keep asking and listening for the voice of the Spirit. Keep pursuing the Holy Spirit in all that you do. In fact, this life is a marathon not a sprint.
At this time of year so many students are asking, “Now what?”
Seek out God and do His will. Is it hard to distinguish what His will is? Sometimes, but I encourage you get into God’s Word and seek Him out. Pray and ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. Talk to people you know, who are followers of Christ, and ask them to pray for you too. In this way you should be able to find the direction that God desires.
1 Corinthians 9:24 - Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
For further study: 1 Corinthians 9: 19 – 27 read the above scripture in context.
Also, read about spiritual gifts too in 1 Corinthians 12:1 - 11
Eternity... wow, that sounds like a really long time... oh wait, it is! Eternity is from a Latin word that literally means “everlasting” or “enduring forever.” Something that is eternal has no beginning and no end.
Eternity is one of those words we have a tendency to use lightly in our culture. “I went to the doctor’s office and had to wait for an eternity to be seen!” “Oh my gosh, it’s an eternity until the end of the school year!” “I haven’t gotten a pay raise in an eternity.” None of those uses really encompass the full meaning of eternity, however. They said a diamond is forever, but eternity really is forever!
Out of curiosity, I looked up “eternity” in my theological dictionary. It had a number of related words - eternal condemnation, eternal consequences for sin, eternal destiny, eternal life, etc. So which of those terms are important? Why are we talking about the word ‘eternity’ as Christians?
Well, two reasons. First, God is eternal. God has no beginning and no end. He always was and always will be. Even before the creation of the world, God existed. God will exist forever into the future. Our human lifespans are less than a blink of an eye compared to the eternal God. No one can put a time span on God’s existence. He is the definition of eternity!
Second, we will have an eternity beyond this earthly life. The question is, where will your eternity be? Will you have eternal condemnation, or eternal life? Thanks to our gracious and loving God, the choice is yours. You can choose to go against Him or even deny His existence, and therefore spend eternity apart from Him - in a state of eternal damnation. Or, you can choose to love Him and follow Him, and therefore spend eternity with Him in a place more glorious than we could ever imagine!
God is eternal. We are eternal. Depending on the choices you make in this lifetime, you can spend a real, literal eternity apart from Him in eternal damnation - or with Him in eternal glory.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1: 5-8 [NIV]).
I love the book of James. It is one of my favorite books of the Bible because the author is so incredibly straightforward. He doesn’t mince words, but instead just tells his readers exactly what they need to hear whether they like it or not because he knows that the words will ultimately benefit those who heed them. The problem is that many Christians don’t know how to take some of the straightforward points of the Bible. They look at James’ statement here and immediately declare that since James tells us not to doubt, doing so would obviously equate to “sin”. The natural reaction to it then is usually one of two responses. Their focus is either overwhelmingly toward NOT committing the sin so that they can declare their own self-righteousness and belittle those “sinners” (like the Pharisees), or they reject a part of God’s Word because they believe there is no possible way that something that people struggle with naturally could be considered a sin (like false teachers and false prophets).
I’d like to suggest a third approach to statements such as the one James makes here and any other “gray area” of the Bible. Let’s stop trying to determine what is and is not sin and focus on our RELATIONSHIP with God made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we lose sight of this and place our focus on trying to be holy by our own works or ability to resist sin, the only possible outcomes are pride in our abilities or frustration in our failures. The approach that focuses on our relationship with God allows us to be grateful for the faith He gives us and confident when we humbly ask Him to help us where we are struggling, because we understand both that we are fully dependent on Him and that He loves us enough to not leave us alone to face the challenges of the world.
You may wonder why I am taking this angle to our Word of the Week. I will say that countless are the number of times I have heard a fellow Christian share with me that he/she has doubts and feels that isn’t right and he/she should just be able to have faith and then God would be pleased. Maybe some of you have even had these thoughts. As Katie said in Monday’s blog, it’s natural to have doubts. And I do believe that God is not pleased when we doubt, but not in the sense that He is angry with us. God knows that when we doubt, we are more vulnerable to the schemes of the enemy, and thus He grieves for us. Doubting puts us in a position where we are “blown and tossed” in whatever direction the enemy wants to take us, whereas confidence and faith in God’s truth allows us to “take our stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11).
I believe that is James’ point for the words shared above. We have to remember that James wrote his letter to fellow believers who were being persecuted. His heart is to encourage them to stand firm in the truth of what they know about God. The Greek word for “doubt” in the passage is very interesting. It is “diakrino”, which literally means “to judge, distinguish, evaluate”. When applied to oneself, it can mean to doubt or even “to hesitate” (Mounce). When applying this knowledge to the passage and its context, we realize that what James is encouraging us not to do is look at ourselves and wonder whether what we know about God and His promises actually applies to us in a given situation. James is telling us to believe what we know about God no matter the circumstances and to stop “hesitating” based on whatever factors are causing us to lose sight of the truth. That’s pretty powerful stuff when you realize that James literally just got done telling them to consider their suffering as “pure joy”(1:2)!
I’d be willing to bet that all of you have either heard someone say, or even said yourself, something like this: “I know that the Bible says (fill in the blank) is a sin, but I just don’t see how it could be when I can’t seem to live without it”. Or maybe it was more self-deprecating: “I want to believe God has forgiven me, but I just don’t see how that could be possible with MY past”. Or maybe it was at a time in your life when things just weren’t working out for you and you questioned God: “How can God say that He will never leave me nor forsake me when my life is a mess and the only thing I feel is abandonment?” I do not believe that these thoughts are sinful. However, I strongly urge you to address them and not let the doubting roots grow in you, because while doubting may not be a sin, there is no question that it puts you in a place where you are very susceptible to schemes designed to draw you into that which is undeniably SIN! Stand firm in what you know about God, because His truth and His promises never change!