Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you knew all the facts? You made a decision based on what you thought you knew only to find out later that the truth was not what you thought it was. If you had known, you would have made a different decision than you did.
The Israelites once found themselves in this very situation. After He rescued them from slavery in Egypt, God told the Israelites not to make any treaties with the people in the land to which He was leading them. The Israelites took this instruction seriously. They did not offer to make treaties with any of the peoples they encountered in the new land God gave them.
Have you ever said, “I would never do that!” only to find yourself later doing the very thing you said you would never do? Why do we behave in ways which are contrary to our given word?
There may be several reasons we end up doing what we said we would not do. One is that we lied. We did not speak from conviction, but rather to mislead or to please the person to whom we were talking. For example, if our friends consider a particular action wrong, or even just silly, we might agree with them so they won’t think less of us. However, we have no intention of giving up doing what they don’t approve of.
“Why don’t they do something about it?” How many times have we said or thought those words when we see public property which needs repair or hear about an injustice! We become especially upset with situations which impact us directly. It is one thing to read about shopkeepers with dishonest scales. It is another thing entirely when we are the one who has been cheated. It is one thing to hear about a judge taking bribes. It is very personal when we are the one who is denied justice. “They ought to do something!”
What is our reaction when we hear unwelcome news – particularly a message which highlights a mistake we have made or a character flaw in ourselves? Unfortunately, instead of humbly listening to the message and correcting the problem, we often lash out in anger.
There was once a king who thought he knew better than God. Oh, he didn’t start out that way. In fact, at first he led his kingdom in a spiritual revival. He purged the land of idols and urged his people to worship God. Because he sought God and worshiped Him, God blessed the kingdom with prosperity. God also gave the king victory over powerful enemy armies. (You can read the story in 2 Chronicles, chapters 15 and 16.)
We often think about the benefits God promises His people. We get excited about the delights of paradise. According to Scripture we will not have any more pain, suffering or tears. There will be no more hunger or death (Revelation 7:16, 21:4). Quarrels and disputes will be resolved forever. The enmities and hatreds between peoples will be done away (Revelation 22:2). No one will hurt anyone ever again. We look forward to enjoying a new heaven and a new earth where there is righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). Jesus told His disciples that He was going away to prepare a home for them with God (John 14:1-3).
But have you ever thought about the future from God’s perspective? We have His promises, but what is it that He is looking forward to? What is it that He desires?
Have you ever known someone who was so trusting that he would believe anything he heard? When we encounter someone like that we usually have one of two reactions: Depending upon the character of the person in question, we either find their innocence delightful, or we are amazed at their stupidity. Most adults have learned to view things they are told with a little skepticism. They have learned not to take everything at face value. The greater the claim, the greater the proof required.
When trouble or hardship strikes, our natural tendency is to act selfishly. We think of ourselves first. “How can I get out of this? How can I avoid suffering?” This is true, even when we suffer persecution as a result of our faith. Sometimes we are reluctant to extend help to those suffering persecution lest we draw the attention of the persecutors to ourselves. Some people will go so far as to renounce their faith in order to avoid suffering.
In the middle of a discussion of how the followers of Christ should act when they face persecution, the Apostle Peter writes, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9 NIV)
Have you ever encountered someone whose thought processes are very different than your own? Perhaps behind every event they see the interfering hand of government. Perhaps they turn everything anyone says into a joke. Perhaps they can intuitively solve complex problems. If we don’t approve of the person we will dismiss him by saying that his mind works in very strange ways. If we have a good opinion of the person we will say in admiration, “I never would have thought of that!”
The news is full of pessimistic articles about natural disasters. If there isn’t a forest fire somewhere, some other place is sure to be devastated by a flood. While one place has too much water, another area is experiencing drought. Earthquakes, typhoons and volcanic eruptions all bring their own type of trouble.
In addition to the news, all sorts of books and articles are written about the depletion of resources, climate change, pollution and the poisoning of the earth. The theme of much of this writing is that our world is dying – and people are to blame. The Bible agrees that, one day, this world will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:6-7). It also agrees that mankind shares some responsibility for its death (Genesis 3:17-18, Romans 8:19-22). However, if we look at our world from a slightly different perspective we see another extremely important truth – a truth that gives us hope and comfort, even when our days are dark.
Facts are inconvenient things. They have a habit of wrecking our pet theories. Quite often they destroy our concepts of how the world ought to be. For example, before we have children of our own we know all about raising them. We may even be quite vocal in our opinions on the subject and critical of parents who don’t handle their offspring the way we know they should. Then, a tragedy occurs – we get married and have a child of our own! Suddenly we discover that our ideas are not practical. The real child is not anything like what we imagined. We find out that we know nothing about child rearing. We have to make a radical adjustment in our thinking in order for us (and our child) to survive the experience.
The same thing can happen to us in spiritual things. For example, we are certain that we know something about prayer, about God or avoiding sin. We confidently proclaim our views to others. Then, our prayer isn’t answered, or receives an answer totally different than we expected. We discover that God will not conform to our preconceived notions. We fall into a sin to which we thought we were immune.