Not what God had in store?

blame God cartoonHerschel Sims is a young man who deserves a chance to get his life back on the right track. A local hero here in Abilene, he led Abilene High to a state championship in 2009. He then went to Oklahoma State and had an excellent freshman year. Then he got in trouble with the law and got kicked out of school. Now he’s at ACU, hoping to play football again. I hope it goes well for him.

In an article in yesterday’s Abilene Reporter-News, Sims made the following statement:

They miss me up there, and I miss them dearly. It just wasn’t what God had in store for me.

Wait a minute! I know that’s a common theological outlook, but surely we can see how ridiculous this point of view is.

God didn’t set young Mr. Sims up to fail. He didn’t lay a trap for him, causing him to forge checks he had stolen from a teammate. This isn’t God’s fault.

It’s not about what God had in store for Mr. Sims. I hope that God will take this mistake and use it to change Sims’ life. God can take man’s sin and bring good out of it.

But God isn’t responsible for that sin. Sorry, Mr. Sims. I’m guessing that God had very good things in store for you. You messed up and missed out on them… as we all have. I hope and pray that you’ll know how to receive the blessings God sends your way in the future. May we all get better at overcoming sin.

Cartoon from The New Yorker (January 16,2012)

Why not try God’s way

We’ve seen that human solutions are never as good as divine ones. We’ve seen that evil rulers and nations are sometimes agents of God to bring about a greater good. We’ve seen that God’s timetable for dealing with evil often spans decades and centuries.

So let’s tie some of this together. What are the sorts of things that make us forego “Sermon on the Mount” responses in favor of violent responses? It’s usually things like:

  • Said dictator/country/terrorist is so evil that we must act
  • Said situation is so urgent that we must act
  • Military action will solve this situation permanently

Problem is, none of that squares with what we see in the Bible. God and God alone takes care of evil. He often uses other evil people to do it. (which is something to consider when we choose to step into that role!)

God takes care of things on his own time. Part of faith is being willing to wait on the Lord, rather than rush ahead to human solutions.

And our solutions are never as good as God’s solutions. Our wars “solve” one problem and create a new one. World War II was won by working with Communist leaders, which led to the Cold War. The Cold War was fought by arming Muslim extremists against the Soviets, which led to Al Qaida and other terrorist groups. And so on.

What if Christians tried doing things God’s way instead of man’s way? It’s at least worth a try.

Photo from MorgueFile.com

Waiting on the Lord

Soldiers were coming to kill their babies. On a regular basis. The Israelites had suffered as slaves at the hands of the Egyptians for hundreds of years. None of them knew what freedom felt like. But this was much worse. Genocide.

Exodus chapters 1 and 2. Egyptians were killing Israelite babies. God’s people cried out to him and he heard their voice. He sent them a deliverer.

Eighty years later.

Eighty years. It was a crisis, an emergency situation. All human reasoning says that something had to be done at that moment. Divine reasoning agreed… and allowed the baby to be born that would bring about justice. Eighty years later.

But that’s the Old Testament, you say. Right you are. Let’s look at the book of Revelation. Christians were being persecuted. One had been killed. More were about to be killed. The people wanted to know what they should do: fight or flee.

God had a different plan: stay and suffer. And he would take care of the Romans. A couple of centuries later.

A couple of centuries later.

Human reasoning says, “Take care of it now. Bring about justice by your own hand. Something must be done immediately.”

Divine reasoning says, “I’ll take care of it. In my time.”

Do we have enough faith to wait on the Lord?

Drawing by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing

Bad people used by God

drawing by Annie Vallotton, Good News Bible

Habakkuk was troubled. To put it mildly. His nation was full of corruption. Injustice. Abuse of power. The good people, like Habakkuk, prayed. God didn’t answer.

Chapter 1 of the book of Habakkuk records his lament:

How long, O Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

(Habakkuk 1:2-4)

Then God did answer. Literally. He answered Habakkuk and shared with him the plan: God was going to raise up Babylonia, a “ruthless and impetuous people” (1:6), to punish Judah.

Habakkuk didn’t like that answer at all. He tried to be respectful, but he knew that God must be overlooking the fact that Babylonia was evil. They were the bad guys. Could God possibly use evil people to punish “the good guys”?

O Lord, are you not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, we will not die.
O Lord, you have appointed them to execute judgment;
O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrong.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

(Habakkuk 1:2-4)

God later reassures Habakkuk that the Babylonians themselves will be punished for their misdeeds. But the short answer is yes, God uses the wicked to punish people, even people more righteous than they.

In fact, if we look at the biblical record, God rather consistently uses bad people as instruments of judgment. It’s the rare exception when he uses the righteous.

Yesterday we talked about telling God what to do. About how simple solutions usually aren’t simple and rarely solve anything. Here’s today’s question:

How will you react if God chooses to use evil people today to do his will?

The Lord is my alibi, I shall not want

I remember a Tank McNamara cartoon from about 30 years ago where an athlete was being interviewed. “I didn’t want to drop that pass,” the athlete told the newsmen, “but it was the Lord’s will.” One of the guys’ teammates in the background says, “The Lord is my alibi, I shall not want.”

I was reminded of that listening to George Zimmerman on the news the other day. (And no, I’m not interested in a Martin-Zimmerman discussion; I’m fully convinced that we don’t have enough facts to discuss it intelligently) George said something to the effect of: “I’m sorry about what happened, but it was God’s plan. Who am I to question God’s plan?” The Lord is my alibi…

Along the same line, a friend of mine was counseling a young woman who had discovered that her husband was having an affair. The woman said, “But I know all of this is God’s plan.” My friend reminded her that God would continue to work in her life to bring good out of a bad situation, but by no means was it God’s plan that her husband commit adultery. The Lord is NOT anyone’s alibi.

Humans sin. Humans do things that God doesn’t want them to. God brings forward his overarching plans, but he gives humans the choice to join in with that or not. Back in 2008, I wrote the following:

I believe that God is all powerful and could control absolutely everything that goes on in this world. I also believe just as firmly that He has chosen not to do so. Not everything that happens it what God wanted to happen. He has granted unto men a certain about of free will, and that free will affects history. Look at Jeremiah 26; God says that His actions will be affected by what the people choose to do: “This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD’S house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done.” (Jeremiah 26:2-3) Also, consider that God’s desire is that everyone be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:5). Guess what folks: it hasn’t happened yet, in 2000 years. Why? Because God still allows men to make their own choices.

I’ve seen nothing to make me change my mind. (Or as my friend Ken Cukrowski once told me, “And I agree with me.”)

We have to take responsibility for our choices. We have to accept the responsibility for our lives. God wants to lead us in a certain direction; we can resist that leading and shipwreck our lives or we can accept his leading and enjoy the peace of being in his paths. There will still be suffering and hardships, for this world is a fallen one, but we can say, as the Psalmist says, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.” (Psalms 73:24)

God has a plan. It just may not involve what’s going to happen this afternoon. Some things, he leaves up to me.

image from Clipart Mojo