Prayer and Praise, Part 5
“God is GOOD!”
How many times we’ve heard this and it is usually after God provides an answer to prayer for which the supplicant was looking. Whether it’s healing, financing for this, that, or the other thing, or what have you, the truth is that most of us exuberantly proclaim just how good God is when we receive such clear responses from Him with respect to our requests. I’m not arguing with that at all. His goodness should be proclaimed.
However, I cannot help but look back over my life and wonder why there were so many times God only appeared good to me when the answer to a specific request came through that was exactly the thing for which I had prayed. In other words, it pains me a bit to realize that I only considered God truly “good” when He said “yes” to my requests. During the times I received a “no,” He wasn’t exactly good, as far as I thought, anyway. He was “okay,” but clearly was more interested in disappointing me or teaching me one of those lessons in “patience” or something else.
It actually bothers me tremendously that I can look back in my life and see the times when I did not consider God good at all. In fact, there were times when I was not on speaking terms with Him. That was designed to “show” Him!
What absolute garbage, isn’t it? Is God good all the time or only when I receive a response to my request in the affirmative? Clearly, whether we think so or not, God is good all the time. It does not matter whether we “get” what we want in prayer. God is good, period. He is holy, period. He is just, period. He is gracious and loving, period. These traits or characteristics are part of who God is and how He has revealed Himself to humanity. The Bible tells us that God does not shift like the shadow (cf. Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Psalm 102:27; Lamentations 3:22; Habakkuk 1:12).
Here is a verse that I tend to forget at times, Numbers 23:12.
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
He really doesn’t change His mind on anything. Of course, to us, it appears as though He does, as in the case of Hezekiah that I mentioned in part 4 of this series. We also mentioned that Hezekiah would have been far better off accepting God’s will in the matter of his upcoming death, but instead, begged God to give Him more time on earth. I cannot figure that out, but then again, he was a king and lived a king’s life.
I recall my sister and how I prayed, and prayed, and prayed that God would raise her up from her near-death bed. He said “no” and while I couldn’t hear him initially, He persisted and continued to say “no” to me. I finally got it and submitted myself to His will. Was God “good” for allowing my sister to die, leaving her husband a widower and with him, a young adult son? Yes. Absolutely. There is no doubt in my mind that God was and continues to be good with respect to that decision.
I think of people who beg God to heal them of this cancer or that one, this illness or that one, and how He has worked – seemingly – through medicine to effect a healing. I’ve seen it happen and I know people that, against all medical odds, are alive today, free of their cancers, ultimately because God worked by allowing the medication, the chemo, and all the rest to work. I know atheists get really riled up when Christians go “Thank God!” but that’s too bad. They’ll find out one day either before their own death or immediately afterwards that God reigns and we have great minds in this world solely because of God.
But I also wonder if sometimes, Christians who experience these healings (or medical “cures”) sometimes come to a point of starting to believe that God provided the healing because of their faith in the matter and not because He simply chose to heal according to His will and purposes? I see some whose cancers are in remission and who are living a full life because of it and I wonder if they are often tempted to think that their “faith” made them whole, or “allowed” God to “heal” them?
But what about all those Christians who die? Jack Kelley (Grace Thru Faith), is a Christian who recently went to be with the Lord a mere week or so after being told that he had a cancer that was in his organs and doctors could do absolutely nothing about it. People prayed. They wept. They expected, hoped, and eventually accepted the fact that God was not going to heal Jack’s body this side of death. Of course, we all know that Jack is now experiencing life to the absolute fullest, an experience we will all one day also experience, for those who know Jesus.
Jack Kelley died, leaving behind a wife and children, along with other relatives. Is God still good because of it? Absolutely and without doubt. God is good.
I have talked to people – non-Christians – who believe that God is a sadist. They believe that if there is a God, He doesn’t care about humanity or anything else. He simply sits in the sky (somewhere) doing things that mess people’s lives up and He gains a certain amount of enjoyment from it.
These people, of course, are brainwashed. They usually say something like, “If that’s God, I certainly don’t want to be in heaven with Him. I’d rather be in hell.”
The enemy of our souls works miracles after a fashion. He gets people to use “logic” to reason themselves right into hell, willingly. They fail to see that God is anything they would even consider “good.” To these people, God is evil, but they fail to realize that if God is evil as they say, then they think their false bravado is going to cause them to stand in His Presence? If God truly is evil, what can they hope to gain?
We know that these people – should they continue until they reach the door of death – are lost. They attribute the characteristics of Satan to God and they believe they are correct in doing so.
But I wonder if Christians aren’t guilty of doing the same type of thing? Are we here in this life for ourselves or for God’s glory? Are we placed here in this life to seek our own will or to rise above that (in Christ) and seek God’s will?
As Christians, are we sometimes too focused on our own needs and when we don’t receive the answer we’re looking for, we want to take our ball and go home? We are too willing to almost triple dog dare God into giving us what we want instead of willingly submitting ourselves to His will and His purposes.
God has a will and purpose for each individual that complements His will and purposes for everything else in Creation. We hear that, but do we actually believe it? We think that becoming a Christian is like joining a secret club where we have an “in” with the Big Man. But is that what it is really like?
I think of Pastor Saeed, an Arab-American Christian who rots in a prison in Iran. He suffers torture, beatings, deprivation, and much more because he is an Arab who was once a Muslim and is now a Christian. He is also an American. His wife went and spoke directly with President Obama and Vice President Biden. They promised that they would do all in their power to get her husband out of Iran’s prison and brought home.
Weeks turned into months. Months continue unabated and now Iran has signed an agreement with the USA regarding their nuclear abilities. One would think that during this process, our government could have gone to bat for the Americans who are being held in Iranian prisons. You would think that this would have been a no-brainer. Apparently, it wasn’t a no-brainer. The deal was signed with no thought or discussion for the release of Americans in Iran’s jails.
What happened? Was it because not enough Christians prayed for Pastor Saeed’s release that he is still there? Is God only able to work when enough Christians pray and/or act? To think or believe that diminishes God’s omnipotence and His sovereignty.
If Pastor Saeed is still in an Iranian prison, God must have a reason. Is God good because He allows Pastor Saeed to languish in prison? Is God good because Pastor Saeed’s wife’s heart breaks and their children wonder where their father is? IS GOD GOOD?
Without doubt, God IS good! As difficult as it is for many of us to grasp, I cannot help but wonder how many hardened Muslims’ lives Pastor Saeed has touched in prison. How many will live with God after they pass through death’s door because of the sacrifice that Pastor Saeed is making now? I think of Saul, who became Paul, and how the brutal murder of Stephen must have impacted Saul in such a way that his conversion became unstoppable (Acts 7-9).
We look at what we consider to be the ugly things in life and ask how can God allow it? Yet, we fail to see things from God’s perspective. Just as Stephen was used to bring about Saul’s conversion, who then became a prolific author of many New Testament epistles, started numerous churches, and spread the gospel near and far, is it possible that Pastor Saeed’s life as a Christian will touch someone who will see what Saeed is enduring so that they will turn to God in repentance and receive the only salvation that is available under all the heavens?
If that is the case, do you think when Saeed gets to heaven, he would take back this time in prison? I cannot imagine it anymore than I can imagine that Paul is in heaven now wishing he had not gone through what he went through in the preaching of the gospel.
Do we think for a moment that God has abandoned Pastor Saeed or other Christians who are being brutally persecuted for their faith? God forbid that we think that way. Yes, let’s continue to pray for God’s special purpose for Pastor Saeed and should HE will it, that Pastor Saeed would be released and soon to rejoin his family.
But what IF that is not God’s will for Pastor Saeed?
God is GOOD all…the…time and it does not matter whether we can grasp it or even whether we are interested in grasping it.
We need to stop thinking we know best. We need to stop pretending that God needs to run things by us when He does things according to His will. We either get with His program or we don’t. It’s really that simple.