This past Sunday, I preached a message entitled “Doe God really care?” I dealt with the problem of suffering, pain and evil in our world and sought to dispel several myths propagated by the presence of difficulty. You can listen to the whole message by clicking on the following link, which will take you to our church website where we post a recording of all my messages. During my message this past week, a number of comments and questions were sent into me by text. I addressed a few of them at the conclusion of my message. Below, you will find answers to some I did not get to on Sunday. This is only some of the questions. I will add some more questions and answers later in the week.
Are some translations of the Bible better than others?
Yes. Some are better because they were translated from more reliable text. Others are better because newer discoveries make the translation closer to the original text. Some are better because of the method of translation. For example, the New International Version uses a form of translation called dynamic equivalent. While the translators were concerned with the individual words, they were more concerned with the phrases. The translation is accurate, but the focus was on the phrase. The New American Standard uses more of a word for word. It is because of this the NIV is easier to read but the NAS is a better study Bible. The Message is not as accurate of a translation, but it is very easy to read. I enjoy reading it for devotional purposes. If I’m going to do serious Bible study, I like the New American Standard.
You said the scripture is God breathed. Doe God really breathe?
Jesus did. With that said, God uses human terms sometimes to describe non-human concepts. For example, does God have an arm (other than Jesus)? Maybe not, but he uses the concept to present an image to human beings when the Bible talks about the arm of the Lord. The idea is that even as we have breath, God breathed the word into existence or spoke the word into existence.
Do you believe all things happen for a reason?
Yes I do. I do not want to say that God is necessarily the cause of all things, but rather God certainly uses all things. It is because of this that Romans 8:28 says that “all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” God’s greatest goal is that we become Christians. His second greatest goal for us is that we become like His Son. He will use circumstances to shape our character and mold our lives. I have found that He is more interested in my character than He is my comfort.
Why does God lead some people to stay married to somebody when they would be better off without them?
One will have to first answer the question “Is divorce ever the best option?” before you can really answer this question. I have a predisposition based upon the Word of God that says divorce is never the best option. Even in the most horrific circumstances, God’s best option is personal, emotional, psychological and marital healing and restoration. I realize I’m dealing with an elusive Utopia in a way, but maybe not. Imagine if you have a marriage that has gone terribly wrong, but both parties are willing to do whatever it takes to find the ultimate marriage. Is it better to end a marriage and carry the baggage with you for the rest of your life (and into your next marriage) or discover the kind of marriage that brings you ultimate joy and God ultimate glory? With that said, I realize that sometimes there is abuse, immorality, etc. that leads to divorce and these problems cannot be overcome (for example the one committing adultery will not repent and return to his or her commitment). I probably should interject here that I do not believe adultery should automatically mean divorce. It is possible, and even better, for the couple to find healing and forgiveness. In the cases where that can’t happen, then God does say divorce is okay. Now to the question…When a person stays married to someone in the midst of a bad situation it is because they are staying true to their vows and because they refuse to give up on God. 1 Peter 3 says that a wife can actually win her husband to Christ through a godly lifestyle. It may very well be that a godly wife may win her lost husband to the Lord through her patience and God-inspired love. A person will stay in this kind of marriage when they look at marriage and time from God’s perspective. God hates divorce and time is only temporary. I would rather spend a life-time walking in accordance with God’s plan than an eternity outside of His will. I’m not saying that if you get divorced you’re going to Hell, but I do believe divorce is not God’s best plan. I will be preaching on “marriage God’s way” on Sunday and deal briefly with divorce and same-sex marriage.
In choosing, why are the ones who have chosen God the ones that usually suffer the most?
I’m not sure that I necessarily agree with this conclusion, but I will say that Christians are in a spiritual battle. Once you become a Christian, Satan cannot steal your salvation, but he can rob you of joy and destroy your testimony. He does work overtime to accomplish this purpose. The Bible does say that suffering is not necessarily a bad thing. Romans 5:3-5 says “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
When needing to make a big life decision, and as I pray for God ‘s will and study God’s word, how do I know God’s will?
Discerning God’s will can be a challenging experience. First of all, He has spoken clearly through His Word. I approach big life decision with the understanding that God is more interested that I know Him than that I know what to do. I find that out of the context of a growing and passionate relationship with Jesus that my “God’s will antennas” become more sensitive. Romans 12:1-2 does address this: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
If God’s Will for us is to be in poverty or sickness or pain, isn’t He also causing those conditions?
Consider this verse from 2 Peter 3:9: “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” That verse clearly says that it is not God’s will for anyone to perish, but rather He wants everyone to come to repentance. You and I know that some people do not “come to repentance” but rather spend eternity in Hell. When a child grows up in poverty, is that really God’s will? Could be simply because the child’s father is a drunk, because the government gives financial benefit to unwed mothers thereby promoting single parenting, and because unjust practices at his mother’s job forced her to be fired? Many things happen in this world because the world is broken. It will one day be fixed, and frankly the brokenness around me makes me long for Christ’s return. Though God is not the cause of everything, he certainly uses everything (see my comments above). He could stop some suffering, but I suppose I wonder where would he draw the line? It seems to me that most of the time he chooses to use suffering and allow the consequences of sin to play out. He gives us the strength to deal with our circumstances and the opportunity to see those things Satan meant for harm be turned around for good.