Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Suffering Question: God is in Control?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.                                                                        Psalm 145:8-9 KJV

   We've been in an extended study examining the suffering question. We've been examining God's role in human suffering and tragedy. We've seen God is always good no matter the circumstance. We've addressed the issue of God's role in sickness and disease and the troubles we see in this life.

 Today, I want to further explore the concept of God being in control. Is God in control? If so what precisely does that mean? Does it mean that God ordains, and controls every single aspect of humanity? Does He control every single action on Earth?

Those under traditional religious views see God as the ultimate controller. That is that He literally controls every facet of life on Earth. Earthquake occurred? God must have some mysterious purpose in the destruction. God must have some plan that called for the killing of women and children when buildings collapse during the tremors. 

 When you actually verbalize what you think you believe about God's sovereignty it makes you pause and reflect. Your own words will challenge your understanding about who God actually is. As an example of this, before a total understanding of the Good News Gospel of Grace, I used to hold to the view that Christians could lose or leave their salvation. It wasn't until a minister friend simply asked me to articulate what I actually believed. 

 When I stated how I could conceive a believer could lose their salvation it made me pause. I was like this doesn't sound right. My spirit was challenging my intellect and understanding. Then I was able to read the Scripture unbiased and free from my traditional sentiments. Now I know beyond doubt we are secure. So likewise, articulate what you mean when you say God is in control. 

 Now the phrase God is in control is a man-made saying. There exist no passage stating this phrase. Believers though have made this phrase an almost tenet of the Christian faith. In my life, I have seen this phrase used to explain horrific events from plane crashes to rape and murder. 

 Is this the right way to explain God's sovereignty? Let's explain the truth about sovereignty. God is sovereign. That is He is the supreme ruler. There is only one true and living God. That is Jehovah God, the Lord most High. It's not false religions created by the enemy to deceive mankind. It's not buddha, not krishna, not wiccan witchcraft, not new age crystals, not taoism, not shintoism, not hinduism, not mohammad, not allah! No there is only one true and living God and He is mighty, He is majestic, He is the Lord Most High and Jesus is His only begotten Son who came and died for us and purchased our redemption. 

 The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all. Psalm 103:19 NKJV 

 This passage simply confirms that God is the supreme authority. It doesn't mean, however, that God controls every aspect of life. Yet other translations seem to translate the Hebrew word rule and kingdom here with the idea of hyper-control or more accurately the translators seemed to think this passage lends credence to the idea of hyper-control. So lets articulate hyper-control and see if this is really the right understanding of how God's sovereignty should be understood.

God is in Control...of crime?

 Does God's sovereignty mean He is controlling all aspects of mankind? So when a man robs a bank, traumatizing employees and customers as he brandishes a firearm and threatens violence unless they comply with his demands for money, is this God controlling Him? Is God ordaining him to commit this crime? 

 When a twisted individual preys on women, brutally raping them and causing a trauma that takes much to totally heal from, is this God controlling him? Is God in His sovereignty ordaining that a young woman be violated and mauled? 

 Same can be said of child molesters, battered wives and children. Are abusers only being controlled by God to do these horrific acts? Did God ordain that some children should be mistreated?

 If God is ordaining criminal activity and we try to stop said crime are we rebelling against God? Are Police and the judicial system counterproductive to God's mysterious purpose and plans? I hope you can see when articulated this concept of hyper-control used to explain away tragedy is completely twisted thinking and counters the character of God. 

God is in Control...of international crisis and suffering?

 Let's apply this hyper-control concept to WW2. Did God in His sovereignty cause Hitler and Mussolini and Tojo to commit aggression and invade other lands with the intent to conquer? God is in does that mean He ordained that thousand upon thousands die in war? 

 What about the Holocaust? Did God in His sovereignty, in some mysterious plan ordain that 6 million Jews be exterminated by evil men? God is in control. Does this mean that He caused this event? 

 I hope you are getting a clear image of the consequence of believing this concept that God is literally controlling every aspect of human events. How is God just if He causes men to steal, kill and bring destruction? 

God is in control...of elections and rulers?

 Living in America, I have seen this tired hyper-control concept used to describe every election for the Presidency since I can remember. God put so and so in office. God wanted this one, not that one. 

 Look, did God go into the voting booth? This concept is utter nonsense. God gave mankind a free will. Men and woman of voting age, by their vote, elected a leader. God can influence your vote but He doesn't vote. 

 The hyper-control view concerning the Presidency is also the arrogance of our Nation. I'm not bashing America in any way by saying that. I am talking about individuals who take for granted our liberty and freedoms. 

 Would the same be said of Germany during WW2? Did God put Hitler in office? How about the many tyrants over the years that have ruled lands? God put Nero in charge? The ruler who murdered Christians? That's absurd.

 I trust articulating the twisted view of hyper-control makes you challenge traditional religious viewpoints. God is the supreme ruler.  That is the truth. However, God is not ordaining, and creating, and causing every event on Earth.

The heavens belong to the Lord but he has given the earth to all humanity. Psalm 115:16 NLT

 This passage should bring clarity and understanding to the truth of Sovereignty. God is God, yet He isn't controlling every single aspect of life. The Bible as a whole proves this beyond doubt.

 We see all throughout Scripture, God wanting one thing and people doing the opposite. God wanted the Children of Israel out of Egypt the moment He sent Moses to speak to Pharoah. Yet Pharoah didn't comply. Why? He had free will. He chose wrong.

 In summation, keep the character of God in the forefront when trying to understand how God operates. He is loving and just and good. He isn't a harsh taskmaster, He isn't a tyrant. He isn't ordaining evil. He is a good Father. 

 Let go of the traditions of men to explain horrific events. We live in a fallen world. That's why we see tragedy. Also, mankind has free will. Also, equipment and materials can break down, can be defective. That's why we see plane crashes and car wrecks. Not because God caused them. Use God-given wisdom and Bible sense, not the religious traditions of men. 
Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay  

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Suffering Question: Is God the Source of Your Troubles?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.   Psalm 145:8-9 KJV

 We've begun a new series of study. We're examining God's great love and mercy and all the time goodness further by exploring the suffering question. That is the question of human suffering in light of Grace and the Finished Work. 

 So far we've seen God is indeed good no matter what. We've looked into the concept that God is sending judgment on cities, towns, provinces, and nations. We've asked and answered the question is God the source of your sickness or disease? 

 Today, I want to ask and answer another question. Is God the source of your troubles? What do I mean by troubles? Troubles can be defined as, problems, difficulties, misfortune, trials, tribulations, trauma, heartache, grief, anxiety, burdens, misery, afflictions, and unpleasantness. So is God the author of your misery and sorrow? Is God the author of your trauma and heartache? If we were to consult religious tradition the answer would be yes in some shape or fashion.

The Troublemaker?

 When I was a child I recall adults and older kids giving warnings about avoiding certain people. They would say avoid them for they are "troublemakers".  In other words, they would misbehave in public, backtalk authority figures, flaunt the rules and generally cause those around them to also suffer consequences of the troublemaker's poor behavior. The troublemaker made life challenging for others.

 So is God our troublemaker? Is God in Heaven concocting schemes and scenarios and situations to bring you misery, heartache, and pain? Is God our Father devising a plan to cause problems, difficulties, misfortune, and tribulation to manifest in your life? The religious traditions of men so often seem to convey the message that God is the source of our hardship and misfortune. 

 Once again, this concept of hyper-control is at the root cause of this. It's as if a leaf falls from a tree and if God somehow didn't ordain it, it must mean God is not the supreme authority in the Universe. We as believers must renew our minds to the truth of the Word. God is the supreme authority but He isn't controlling, navigating, causing every single event on this Earth. That doesn't mean He isn't God, the sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth.

 Let's examine some Scripture about God's goodness.
sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 NKJV

This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. Psalm 34:6 NKJV

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 NKJV

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19 NKJV
 Have you noted a pattern here in Psalm 34? Man has fears, troubles, and afflictions. Allow me to pause and establish briefly, what I am not saying. We see it clear right here. We live in a fallen and fractured creation. In a sense, we are in hostile territory. We have all experienced challenge and difficulties. I am not suggesting that you will never have a challenge or trial. 

 Going back to the Psalm, what pattern do you see? Man has fears, troubles, and afflictions. However, what other pattern do you see? What is God's role in this? God is the one bringing deliverance and salvation. He is not the One bringing what's causing the fear. He isn't sending the trouble. He isn't the author of the affliction and He never will be. Why can I say that with such confidence?
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8 NKJV 
 Because God is so good. Because He is our good Father. Since we know God is good all the time, we can trust in Him. When we are in the tough times, the trial, we can trust in Him, we know He is with us and won't leave or forsake us. 

The Teacher?

 But brother isn't the adversity, the hard times, the trials, tribulations our instructor? Let me point out a Scripture passage to answer this more fully.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV
 The truth is the Scripture, with the leading and guiding work of the Spirit is the true instructor. When we deposit God's Word within our heart the Spirit can lead you into the whole truth thus causing maturity and more understanding. Following the guidance of the Spirit, the Word deposited within, and acknowledging what we have in Christ, who we are in Christ, and what we can do because of Christ brings true growth and maturity.

 The adversity we may face gives us an opportunity to exercise that maturity and growth. The truth we must grasp though is that the adversity, the trial, the trouble alone, in and of itself is not bringing growth. The truth is, the hard times are not there for your good. 

 Look at the life of Joseph for clarity and understanding. He suffered misery, tribulation, heartache, and trauma throughout his life. These hard times were not designed to make him stronger or to become a better person. These situations were present to destroy him. To kill him. To remove his influence. 

 You see to experience victory, to exercise maturity and develop growth in the midst of the tough times, depends on what we do during the ordeal. Do we give up? Do we forget God? Do we cease trusting in Him? Or do we act on His Word, fully trusting Him? Certainly, it is not easy and it can be extremely difficult and challenging to trust in God in the hard times. Yet, it's trusting and clinging to God that brings us through the hard times stronger and more mature. 

 I hope we can see more clearly this issue of human suffering. It's clear, we may face fears, troubles or afflictions in this fallen and fractured creation. What we do know is God is not the source of these problems. He isn't creating, ordaining, or sending troubles our way. He is our present help in times of trouble. He isn't the one designing the trouble. He is our Good Father. In Him, we find help and hope and wholeness.

 Some reading may resist this. They will point out Peter and Paul and James' words thinking that they taught God wants us to experience hardship and trauma to grow and be a better believer. when Peter spoke, when Paul spoke, when James spoke, they were not teaching God creates and ordains affliction just so you will grow.

 What they were saying is what I already stated. Its what you do in the middle of the trial that brings growth. Look at James in another translation it really brings this out.
My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:2-4 GNT 

 Troubles put to work the fruit that is already ours in Christ. In other words, we already have the fruit of patience within us in the New Creation. Troubles, tribulation, trials put a demand on that fruit. By spending time with God in relationship, fellowship, and understanding and continually acknowledging who we are in Christ and what we have in Christ causes that fruit to be "fed" and sustained. 

What we must also realize is there is a strong contrast between God using a situation and God creating or ordaining a situation. When it comes to troubles God will use that experience to help us mature. It doesn't mean He caused it. It doesn't mean He created it.

 For example, driving in traffic gives each of us an opportunity to exercise the patience we have within. God isn't causing or creating traffic jams. The truth is all who drive, saved or unsaved will experience heavy traffic and delays while driving. You can be bitter about it or complain about it. Or you could allow that inward fruit of patience to be exercised and thus grow stronger. 

 In summation, God is a good Father. He is always with us no matter the circumstance. He isn't the troublemaker. He is not the author of our affliction. He is not the creator of heartache and trauma. He isn't the One ordaining trouble. He is the One who will be there in the midst of it. He is the One who brings help and healing and hope. 
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Suffering Question: Is God the Author of Your sickness or disease?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.   Psalm 145:8-9 KJV

  We've begun a new series of study examining the suffering question. That is what role does God our Father play in suffering? Can we trust that God is always good? In our last study, we looked at the idea of God's judgment.

 Today, I sense the leading to address another aspect of the suffering question. Is God the author of your sickness or disease? Is God responsible for your fever? Is it God that placed that tumor in your body? Did God give you cancer? Did God bring that blood cot? Did God afflict your kidneys? Did God ordain that multiple sclerosis? 

 I want to be as specific as I can. I want to lower this question to its most elementary level possible. Is the tumor, the cancer, the blood disease, the heart disease, the kidney disease, the skin disease, the cataracts, the spinal condition, in the bodies of men because God placed them there? Did God in His infinite wisdom actually cause the sickness or disease in you or your loved one? 

 Because sickness and disease are such a common occurrence in humanity the religious position seems to say God is the author of it. That He has some mysterious purpose in affliction. Based upon the majority of Christian publications, saying God is responsible for sickness and disease, must somehow be a comfort to people.

 Maybe in their minds telling people God did it, will help people bear the illness or disease better. Sadly, religious tradition doesn't understand this makes our God look more like a violent tyrant instead of a merciful Father who is compassionate and loving. It seems to convey the concept that God derives pleasure in seeing people suffering from tormenting diseases and agonizing ailments in their bodies.

 This doesn't seem to deter religion. Traditional religion believes strongly that God is, in fact, the author of sickness, why? They cite a passage in Exodus and this is enough to convince them that God is in the disease dispensing business. 

 Concerning that passage, Here is an entire article for further study. Suffice it to say though God was not teaching us that He is the author of birth defects or disability. Let's use some Bible wisdom. Do we isolate a passage of Scripture and form an entire doctrine out of it? There are way more passages that support speaking in tongues and other gifts haven't ceased yet religion quickly ignores and buries them with their tradition. Yet tradition ignores clear Bible hermeneutics to establish the view that God is the author of sickness. 

 Briefly summarizing Exodus 4, God was simply encouraging Moses. Moses was called upon to publicly challenge Pharoah and be the mouthpiece for the Lord. Moses was intimidated by his speech impediment. God reminded him that He was the creator of all humanity. He can empower anyone for any task He calls upon them to do. This passage was not establishing that God causes people to be born deformed or disabled. 

 Look at the Bible as a whole. Is God afflicting people with sickness or disease? Some would say look at the Old Testament. What you must remember is that was the Covenant of Law. Israel had chosen Law over Grace. By choosing Law, they also chose the consequence of breaking that Law. The Law is rigid and inflexible. Under the Old we see God sending swift judgment. But that's because the Savior hadn't yet arrived and there was no sacrifice for sin. 

 Look at Jesus the exact representation of the Father. Did He send sickness or disease? Did He afflict? When Peter denied Him three times, did Jesus afflict him with a crippling disease? Did Jesus roam the land ensuring babies were born deformed or disabled? Jesus said if you've seen Him, you've seen the Father.

Sovereignly sick?

 Another reason religion believes God is the author of sickness is their morbid fatalistic view of God's sovereignty. Sovereignty truly defined means God is the supreme authority in all the universe. To religion though, this means God can't be God if a leaf dropping from a tree wasn't somehow preordained by Him. If the leaf fell from the tree and God didn't cause it, then that must mean God isn't in control of the universe and He isn't the supreme authority anymore.

 So tradition has a unique definition of sovereignty. It assigns sovereignty to mean hyper control instead of ultimate authority. That the universe would somehow cease to function orderly and timely if God didn't control every human event down to the smallest detail. 

 Texting and driving the cause of a young person crashing their automobile? Nope, God in His infinite existence caused that car wreck. Overslept and now late for work, don't take responsibility for your life, God did it, right? Examine this concept of hyper-control. 

Does God really go about His day ensuring the sun rises and the Earth sits on its axis and that your loved one get that brain tumor? Is God who spoke the stars into existence also ensuring enough people get cancer or blood disease? I trust you see this is an absurd concept. 

 Is the universe really going to collapse because sickness and disease afflict people apart from God's hands? Could it be that Creation is fallen and fractured? That because of the fall, disaster and disease and death are "fruits" of the fall and not God's hands bringing affliction? This twisted sovereignty view is a mistaken idea birthed from the traditions of men.

Made sick and disease-ridden to make you stronger or patient? 

 There is another twisted traditional concept. That God sometimes brings destruction and disaster and disease to mature you. To strengthen you. To cause your patience to grow. Looking at Jesus again, is this how He treated His own disciples? I mean, to strengthen the disciples' faith and patience, did Jesus ever dispense heart disease, or cancer among them? 

 Here is the reality we must face. We see hardships, tragedies, disasters, famine, desolation, and disease throughout this planet. It's a challenge to view the daily news and not find reports of something awful occurring somewhere on this planet. In light of this, we finite humans have this pressing need to find a reason for it all.

 As Christians, we seem to default to always blaming God either directly or indirectly. Something happens, must be God ordaining it, causing it, or allowing it for some mysterious purpose. God must be teaching me. Or some go so far as to say God is punishing me.

 To walk in peace, we must stop blaming God. Relinquish this twisted hyper-control sovereignty concept. Sometimes there are reasons bad things occur to good people, apart from the direct effects of the fall. Sometimes we make mistakes, we make a dumb decision, we are negligent, we may not be attentive to what we are doing. In these instances don't try to spiritualize foolishness. 

 Also, if God is the author of sickness and disease then that would mean sickness and disease is a perfect work. God is perfect and therefore all His handiwork is perfect. If what He does is bad or imperfect than He is deficient in some way. If God remains absolutely perfect as He afflicts humanity with sickness, then Heaven, which is an expression of His total perfection will also be filled with sickness and disease. Is that good news? 

 We know though that there is no sickness or disease in Heaven. So the place where God's complete and total perfect will is seen in every possible detail is sickness and disease free? What does that tell us? It clearly shows us that sickness and disease is the complete antithesis of God's good and perfect will. Which also proves beyond a doubt He cannot be the author of sickness and disease.

 In summation, it's clear that God is not the author of sickness or disease. We live in a fallen fractured creation, that's the source of disease, not God. God is the source of life, not death. He is our healer, not the one who makes sick. He is not the source of disease and death. He is the light and life and in Him is no darkness at all. God is a good Father. 
Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay  

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Suffering Question: Is God sending wrathful judgment today?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. Psalm 145:8-9 KJV

 We've begun a new series of study on the suffering question. In a fallen World there will be situations and circumstances and conditions we see all the World round that beg the question why? In this study, we are looking at God's hand in the midst of suffering and loss. 

 Is God the source of evil and tragedy? To sum up this entire series of study this is the question we will be addressing over and over. Why? Because there are situations that differ and each time the question will arise, is God responsible in some way? 

 Today, I sensed the leading to address the concept that God is sending wrathful judgment on cities, states, or nations of the World.  What do I mean by this? A major storm hits a city, flooding occurs in a region, an earthquake strikes in a nearby country, and some religious voices rise up declaring God sent judgment on that place for their sins.

 Is this true that God sent some type of catastrophe to punish people? Does God still send judgment in the form of disasters, disease, and death? Is God sending tsunamis and earthquakes and storms to punish mankind? 

God's going to get you?

 What is interesting is this concept of punishment so many Christians cling to. Many see the cruelty that humans inflict on one another. They see the blatant immorality celebrated by many. They see the apathy many cling to in response to living contrary to how God instructs us to live. As a result, this indignation arises and the need to see immediate consequences seems to go unquenched. 

 Therefore, they "rest" in the "hope" that God will get these sinners one day. So when a tornado strikes, an earthquake hits, a tsunami occurs unconsciously there is a slight celebration that those sinful people got their just "reward". Yet, in the midst of this, emotions aside, their heart, their spirit man where the love of God abides rises up and they quickly want to send relief and help. 

 This is why we cling to ideas that God is sending judgment. Are there sinful darkened hearts who engage in unspeakable acts and inflict cruelty? Absolutely. Is immorality rampant and even celebrated in this World? Again the answer is a resounding yes. When it seems that injustice is prevailing you must remind yourself of the Finished Work. 

 But it isn't fair you may think. What about the evils this one has done or that immorality they are engaging in? It would seem when we see evil and injustice we want people brought to justice. That's good and just but what I want you to focus on is that the price for the sins and evils of mankind has already been met with justice. 

 What? You mean the bigotry, the immorality, the murder, the abuse, the vilest acts of men have all been dealt with? Yes. Jesus hung on a tree. He was bruised for our transgressions. He was pierced for our sins. Look to the Cross when you see injustice. The price has been paid.

How to win hearts and influence lives...

 We are charged by God to win the lost. To preach this Good News Gospel of Grace. We are to win lives to Christ. 

 So, when we proclaim that God sent that tornado to your town does that win hearts and minds? Think of this. A devastating disaster strikes. Then Christians proclaim God sent this destruction because of this sin or that. That God "got you." God punished you. 

 Then we say now come to God, He has a new life for you. Of course, we are met with anger and outrage. We as the Church are in essence saying, hey God killed your loved ones, destroyed your home and business, left you with nothing, now don't you want to come have a relationship with this God? 

 It deeply grieves me to hear believers proclaim these things about my Father. God is a Good Father. Just read our texts for this study. He is full of compassion and His tender mercies are over all His work.

God is not sending evil

 In 2011, Japan suffered a terrible tragedy. An earthquake and tsunami struck. Many lives were lost. Much damage occurred. Where was God? If you listened to some religious minded Christians, God's hands were the one bringing the destruction. 

 Again, the mindset was God sent the destruction because of their sin. God sent the destruction so they would repent. God sent the destruction so they would then accept Jesus. 

 Where was God's hand in this tragedy? I saw God's hands in the recovery. I saw God's hands in the relief efforts. I saw God's hands in the love poured out to those who were suffering.  You want to know Jesus' attitude on this subject?

53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village. Luke 9:53-56 NASB

This is the truth. Jesus came not to destroy men's lives. God sent His Son to save. Jesus paid the price in full. Jesus bore all the wrath and judgment of God. He bore the full punishment for sins. There is no more judgment for sins. God is pleased with the final sacrifice of Jesus. God isn't punishing you for your sins after His Son already bore the punishment of all the sin of mankind. 

 We live in a fallen and fractured World. This is where disease, disaster, and death find their root. Sometimes the enemy tries to afflict but he has been totally defeated and rendered helpless in Jesus name. In Christ, there is help, hope, and healing. In Jesus, there is total deliverance. God is the source of our strength and a present help in time of need, He isn't the one causing affliction or pain. 

 In summation, know God is always good. He is the merciful, loving, kind and benevolent Father. He is not sending evil, storms, disasters. Jesus is the hope of mankind. He isn't the destroyer of mankind. Because He is so loving and kind we can put our complete trust in Him. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Suffering Question: Is God really Good?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT

 We're beginning a new series of study. We want to take a closer look at God's goodness, mercy, and love. We want to examine the suffering question in the light of God's Grace and Finished work. 

 So the first truth we need to establish is that God is indeed a Good Father. God's goodness is a foundational truth all believers need to establish. If not the enemy and traditional religion will bring much confusion and misery in this life. The enemy will bring his deceptive attacks and will lie saying God is doing this to bring maturity and perfection and the religious will concur.

 When we say God is good, the skeptic and the atheist will point out all the judgment and death seen in the Old Testament. They will say how can God be good and yet sanction the killing of people's with the wars Israel fought in taking the land and keeping the land?

 First, we must know there aren't two Gods. God wasn't some harsh heavenly tyrant under the Old and then a good God appeared in the New Testament. God didn't get a new heart and mind when Jesus was sent to Earth to be our substitute. God has always been good and the God of love and mercy. 

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy.
The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:8-9 NKJV

“For I am the Lord—I do not change. That is why you are not already utterly destroyed, for my mercy endures forever Malachi 3:6 TLB

 These are Old Covenant passages. God has always been good, merciful and compassionate. Under the Old, however, God had not yet sent Jesus. God had no choice but to send judgment for sin. When He instituted the Law and sacrifices He was able to still much judgment for the sins of people. 

 Also, when looking at the cultures of the people's the Nation of Israel warred against and defeated to take the land were barbaric in nature. Apart from God they worshipped idols and sacrificed their own offspring at times. Was God desiring to kill humanity? Of course not, but Jesus hadn't yet paid the sin debt of humanity. Going further back, when we see Noah and the flood people omit the level of sinful and wicked degradation man had sunk to. 

 God in these times prolonged judgment because of His goodness. Had mankind repented, changed their minds, and changed their actions to align with new thinking and asked God for mercy do you think there would have been a flood? 

 God is a Good Father. If people actually read the Old Testament in its entirety they'd see God's wrath and anger is a drop in the bucket compared to His loving kindness and mercy. True God isn't some "Hippy" who winks at sin and rejects any values and says whatever feels good do it. Sin is destructive. Doing your own thing, that is satisfying your selfish whims and lusts at any moment, is not profitable. God gave us values and standards of living because He loves us and wants us to live abundantly blessed not in the misery of poor choices.

Contributing factors

 One area of the suffering question and God's goodness that is highly controversial and brings about passionate emotional responses is the idea that we ourselves may have contributed to our own circumstances. To even suggest that we contribute to our own misery in some situations is almost blasphemous. It also seems as to suggest that it means you're a cruel, heartless, judgmental and uncaring individual.

 Before we elaborate on this point let's establish some New Covenant identity truths. Introspection motivated by guilt and fear is of the enemy and the condemnation he brings. Introspection rooted in shame is a tool of the enemy and wielded like a weapon by religious tradition against God's people. 

 So when it is said there are possible situations we bring about by our own choices or make our condition worse by our thinking or words or actions it is not designed to cause one to revel in shame or guilt or condemnation. In fact, no matter what the situation, rejoice in your righteousness in Christ. Knowing who you are is the biggest step to bring deliverance or receiving the strength to get through whatever you're going through.
 The point in addressing this aspect is because when we say God is good, some would say well look at my situation, how can He be good? I am not speaking of events like war-torn lands or plagues or natural disasters or situations that appear beyond our control. Yet even in those situations, Father God's hand is not too short to rescue or preserve people.

 I am speaking of events we do have some control over. Things like getting terminated from your job, or your spouse committed infidelity, or you are experiencing financial troubles or had a traffic incident. This list of events may seem beyond your control but if you pause and reflect that isn't always the case.

 If you are not a good and faithful employee why blame God for losing your job? If you show up late often or shirk your duties to waste time is it really strange that you lost your job? God is good and His hand of favor is on His children but if you work against God and reject wisdom then you may find yourself without work, don't blame God and again don't get under guilt but remember who you are and live out of that identity.

 What about relationship struggles? Well, if you find yourself friendless, but omit the fact that you always berate or talk down to people, or continually gossip about people do you really think people want to fellowship around that behavior? Again be who Christ made you walk in the Love He has bestowed on you, showing yourself friendly and friends will come.

 Marriage issues? Divorce? That is tragic. Divorce is an incredibly harrowing and emotional draining experience. It is not God's best for couples to divorce but sometimes necessary. 

 Let's get real, there are people who are abusive verbally and physically and sadly even sexually. For many years, spousal abuse went unchecked in this nation and sadly still does in other parts of the World. If you're a believer, then there is no excuse ever to verbally or God forbid physically abuse anyone. That's not the God kind of love leading you and you need to repent, change your thinking, into God's way of thinking. If the abuser finds themselves suddenly alone don't blame God, instead turn to Him.

 Divorce can be the way of escape from abusive spouses and the one who commits adultery. Speaking of adultery, I am going to make a controversial point. Before I do, let me be clear, adultery is inexcusable. No matter what the situation, one issue doesn't excuse another poor choice. If you commit adultery, don't blame God if you find yourself divorced.

 As for adultery, let me be controversial, not that I am intending to be, but just want to be real clear. There are contributing factors to some situations we face. Let's not forget that when dealing with this situation as well. If one spouse refuses to take care of the other then the Word tells us the enemy will come and bring temptation. The Word tells us there is a step one can take to affair-proof their marriage

 Again, infidelity is the sole fault of the one engaging in the act. However, there are some contributing factors that need to be addressed. In Christian circles, I have seen women who almost brag about their lack of sexual relations with their husbands. I do blame religious tradition which makes it seem sex is dirty or some chore the wife must endure. If you as the wife repeatedly refuse the advances of your husband why be shocked when the enemy accommodates him? 

 The rage from the ladies must be strong now. They would say well he doesn't do this or that, or he doesn't respect me. He doesn't talk good to me. Ok, that may be true. But under Grace, do we treat the other how they deserve to be treated or how we want to be treated? How does God treat you? Does He say well sorry you have done this wrong and that not correctly and therefore I withhold my love and goodness from you? 
 I am by no means excusing poor behavior from husbands. But by showing Grace to the undeserving, and through prayer and Faith, and God's love isn't it possible that God will deal with that husband? Could it be by showing Grace he may change his stubborn, stupid acting, stupid talking, stupid impatient ways? We men are sometimes clueless about how we are being perceived. Pray Jesus' love within our hearts keeps guiding us to more and more truth. 

Financial difficulty? This can be due to us mismanaging our finances and not making wise decisions. The contributing factor could be a lack of wisdom. Not properly budgeting or making foolish choices with our funds. Again no condemnation but seek for wisdom and God's favor but don't blame God for the mess we make.

 Traffic accidents and other incidents should cause us to reflect on our driving skills not blaming God. If you text and drive and get into an accident don't say God had some purpose in wrecking your car. Don't get a traffic citation because you chose to disregard the speed limit or other rules of the road and think God must be punishing you. 

 My point is clear, there are some circumstances that we create, or exacerbate by our choices. We can't blame God, and yes in some cases we can't even blame the enemy. I know the enemy comes to steal and kill and destroy but as we see sometimes our choices bring us tough times.

 I recall a couple at a church years ago give a "testimony" that they went to a conference even though they didn't have the funds and they said their faith saw them through because their bank card wasn't rejected the whole five days they stayed at a hotel. When they came back they were shocked to discover that when their paycheck came into their checking account it was immediately taken by the bank putting their account to almost zero. They cried out the devil took their offering money and such but he was gonna restore what he stole.

 No dear ones, you didn't understand overdraft protection banks offer. The bank deposited money into your account that y'all had overdrawn and when your paycheck arrived the overdraft amount was taken from that paycheck to repay the bank. The devil didn't take your paycheck, your ignorance and foolishness in the name of faith took your pay.

 God is a good Father. He is loving and merciful. He is not a harsh taskmaster and He isn't the heavenly tyrant tradition make Him out to be. He always has our best in mind. He is always for us and never against us.

 In summation, we must know God is always good to walk in triumphant victory. We must understand His character has never changed. We also must understand the place our choices and actions and wrong thinking have in negative situations we may be facing. We must never blame God, He isn't the source of our trouble but the solution to our troubles. 
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