Upon conversion the believer begins his or her walk of faith in the self-assurance that God’s operation in his life will be predictable, safe, and subject to certain human standards. The opposite is true…
Before someone out there burns me at the stake for making such a heretical statement, I want to declare that after decades of living under my own profession of faith, I still believe that God is always faithful, that he is always good, and that he is always right.
I wrote a post a few years ago titled “What Is God’s Will for your life-Really?”* It was in answer to a claim I’d heard many times in the first few years of my Christian life, usually made by Christian ministers, to the effect that God does indeed have that “wonderful plan” for each and every believer, and it’s just up to us to discover what it is and then get to work on it.
GOD’S WILL FOR YOUR LIFE
I spent I don’t know how many years attempting to find out what that divine plan for my life was. After all, if you’re not careful, you miss out on the whole deal-right? I learned the hard way that God’s will for us is to walk in faith and obedience, and to do what’s on our heart to do, what he’s gifted us with, and what we are best at-so long as it doesn’t conflict with his word. He will then steer our lives, whether we know what’s supposed to happen or not. And even when we get things wrong, somehow God is still at work.
God’s will for your life, most fundamentally, is that you be conformed to the likeness of His son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Though he may have a specific plan, it’s not necessarily going to be anything like what you expected or wanted, and it may not always seem all that wonderful. Just think of all those poor Christians recently martyred or driven from their homes in Iraq and neighboring countries.
The worst thing to do, the worst way to think, is that God must or will arrange the parts of your life just as you think he will or should. You may be heading for paralyzing disappointment if you wait for that to happen. When he doesn’t make life happen the way we want it to, we’re prone to being frustrated with him, to losing faith in his goodness or his love for us, or even to lose faith and hope altogether.
Perhaps the most striking Biblical example of this, shall we call it, “difference of opinion”, between His will and ours is seen in the account of the life of Job. Job’s life was going smoothly and very successfully, until Satan requested to test his faith. God granted that request (Job 1:12). We could discuss the possible reasons for God’s permission some other time: the interesting fact for our subject is that God did allow Satan to test Job-and that very severely. Not only so, but we might wonder if God actually instigated the test in the first place, since Satan wasn’t interested in harassing Job until God said to him:
“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8).
An interesting New Testament parallel is Jesus’ observation that Satan had “asked” to sift Peter like wheat (Luke 22:31 NIV. The word is translated “demanded” in the ESV; “desired” in the KJV). In other words, Satan wanted to cut Peter down to size and to see if his professed faith really had any substance. It’s not clear whether Satan was granted his request concerning Peter, though Peter certainly went through plenty of trials in the rest of his life. Notice that in both cases Satan had to make the request-he isn’t a loose cannon doing whatever he wants to do.
In the events following Satan’s request to test Job Job’s life was turned upside down, and before long he’d convinced himself that God didn’t care for him, and worse, that God himself had thrown Job’s life into turmoil out of spite.
However, there was one thing that Job was right about, as God himself later pointed out: God had his own mind and he did his own thing without any reference to Job’s will or plan. Finally he acknowledged that God knew what was best for him and for the entire world. He recognized that God knew far more than he could hope to understand, and that essentially he knew nothing.
GOD IS GOD AND WE ARE NOT
For the first few years of my Christian life I looked to the Bible to try to understand God. More recently, while I still read my Bible knowing that it’s His message to us, I’ve also been attempting to see how God acts by looking at how he’s been at work in my life and in others’ lives. Most of you will know that we can only understand God to a limited extent. Attempting to understand all that God allows and all he does is as futile as trying to walk to the sun: it’s impossible. And why would it not be? He’s eternal, omniscient, omnipotent and uncontainable, and we are most ephemeral, and extremely limited in knowledge and power.
Scripture gives us the clearest view of God’s nature and character that we can have in this limited existence. I can see from scripture, as played out in my own life that God is indeed Love. He is faithful, he’s merciful and he’s all-knowing. He’s patient and kind. On top of that, scripture gives a powerful explanation for the problems and suffering that all humanity faces. It tells us why we’re here, what the meaning of life is and why we die. It tells us a little of God’s plan for the future, and how we can be a part of it.
But sometimes, as poor Job found out, and as we all find out sooner or later, our questions go unanswered. While Job suffered perhaps as much as any human has ever suffered, we all get a taste of that very same bewilderment and sense of complete impotence that he suffered. It’s at such times that we have only two alternatives: we can either stop walking with our Creator, or we have to let God be God. In those moments, days or years we learn, as I believe God wants each one of us to learn, that He is God, and we are not. God does what he wants, when he wants. He has every right to be who he is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
God is The eternal being. In stark contrast we are mortal dust, created by Him and for Him, totally fallible, and totally dependent on him. Any other attitude is a sinful attitude, and stops us from discovering the truth about our existence.