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.
We often see something which is not so. For example, have you ever greeted a friend in the distance only to realize when you got closer that the person to whom you called out a greeting was a total stranger? Or perhaps we see a beautiful tea-set on a shelf in a store. However, when we examine it, we find that it is cheaply made and the design is improperly applied.
The same goes for what we hear. The first things someone tells us, may not always be the truth. Scripture says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” (Proverbs 18:17 NIV)
It goes without saying that if a person has no followers, he is no leader. In fact, we tend to judge the effectiveness of any leader by how many people are willing to follow him. Leaders try to get as large a following as possible. But did you realize that Jesus once refused to let a man follow Him?
The story goes like this: A man who was possessed by demons terrorized the entire region where he lived. No one could subdue or control him. One day Jesus encountered this man, cast the demons out of him and restored his sanity. The people of the area were so awed by this display of Jesus’ power that they became afraid. They were so afraid that they begged Jesus to leave. The man whom Jesus healed wanted to go with Him, but Jesus told him to remain where he was. (You can read the entire story in Luke 8:26-39.)
Those of us who know God, know that He is good. Even those who have doubts about whether God exists have the hope that, if God exists, He is good.
How do we know that God is good? Because, by definition, God is also all-powerful. If God were evil then nothing could stop Him from preventing any good happening to us. Our lives would be an uninterrupted series of disasters and misery. We would never experience grace, hope or mercy. There would be no joy or laughter in the world.
Two of the wonderful characteristics of God are that He is true and He is love. If God were not true, we could not know whether He was telling us the truth. If God were not love, we could expect nothing from Him except to suffer His wrath.
However, the Scripture assures us that God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). Therefore we can have confidence in the promises He has given us. Scripture also affirms that God is love (1 John 4:8). Therefore He will always do what is in our best interests.
Tools are intended for specific uses. If we don’t use a tool as its designer intended, the results will probably not be entirely satisfactory. For example, if we use a wrench as a hammer we will probably mar the surface of the thing we are hitting and will likely damage the wrench. Similarly, if we use a hammer instead of a screwdriver to tighten a screw, the screw may not hold as it should and it may be impossible to remove the screw later.
Just as we have designed tools to accomplish specific jobs, God has designed us for a particular purpose. Have you ever thought about why God made us the way He did? Have you wondered about for what tasks God intended the various parts of our body?
We enjoy watching people who are skilled at what they do. We marvel at how an expert craftsman or artist can bring an intricate design to life. We thrill at the performance of an acrobat who can make complex flips and maneuvers look effortless. We applaud the smooth and precise playing of a musician. We lose ourselves in the tale of a favorite author or story teller. The feats of a businessman who can see opportunities where no one else does amaze us.
When we look at such people it is sometimes hard not to feel envy or a sense of wistfulness. “If only I had his talent; if only I had her brains, just think of the things I could do!”