The Problem Of God’s Control

In a day, everything he had was taken from him.

It started out like any other Sunday. His children were together, feasting and celebrating with joy. His flocks were well maintained by his ample and qualified servants. He had arisen early in the morning to offer an offering to God for his children. All was well.

Yet, now here he sat.

Devastated by innumerable tragedies. Living in the wilderness certainly had its dangers. Sabeans and Chaldeans sometimes went on raids, natural disasters were just a part of life.

But this?

This was like an overly dramatic sitcom you’d see in the mornings on NBC.

His mind was still reeling from the day’s events. Servant after servant came in to inform him of some destruction, some loss. First it was his oxen and donkeys getting stolen. Then lightning burning up his sheep. A massive lightning storm no doubt, since it plundered thousands of them. Next came the camels being stolen.

None of that compared with the last message though.

His children.

His precious children whom he prayed for and made sacrifices for to God.

They were dead.

Not just one of them.

All of them. In a freak accident brought about by a whirlwind.

He could only imagine what they went through. Joyous laughter and celebration quickly turning to screams of fear and then. . .

silence.

 

This story is found in the first chapter of the book of Job. Job was a righteous man in the eyes of God, someone who feared God and turned away from evil (1:1, 8). In a black and white world, he would be the man that we would assume would be continuously and perpetually blessed by God. Instead, Satan lays down the gauntlet: if all was stripped from Job, would he still praise the Lord? Or is his worship of God only because of God’s favor and blessings? God allows Satan to come after Job, and what happens is the utter destruction we read in the passage (vv. 13-19).

Now, Job finds himself in a place that we too find ourselves in after suffering strikes us.

He has a problem.

That problem is the control of God over all things.

His sovereignty.

Now, I’ll just tell you now, I’m not going to even attempt to philosophically argue through the “problem of evil”. That’s not what I’m trying to do. If you’re looking for writing of that depth and intelligence, look elsewhere.

What I am instead wanting to highlight is that for those of us who follow Jesus and believe in God, what happened to Job and what happens to us is harder to accept.

The following quote is long, but it is better than I could say it.

Desert brigands, lightning and cyclone are all part of man’s life in the East. Things like this happen to everyone, if not always on the same scale. The intense faith of job immediately sees the hand of God in every ‘natural’ event. There are no ‘accidents’ in a universe ruled by the one sovereign Lord. Hence Job’s problem. Such mishaps are not a problem for the polytheist, the dualist, the atheist, the naturalist, the fatalist, the materialist, the agnostic. An annoyance, a tragedy even, but not a problem. – Francis Anderson

There it is.

In the modern world, it is extremely sad that hurricanes, cancer, and gun violence take the lives of men and women, boys and girls. What’s even more sad is that these losses are seen as the dangers and realities of modern living. For the atheist in 2019, there is no real ‘problem’ to be wrestled with. When tragedy strikes, it’s just fate. It’s just an accident, just the luck of the draw.

But when tragedy like that strikes the life of a Christian, we know that God orchestrates all things. So we have a problem.

Job had a problem.

Job responded to his problem with amazing faith. Let’s read it together.

At this Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. – Job 1:20-22

Wow.

That is powerful stuff.

Job took the problem of God’s involvement in his suffering and used it as a means for worship. The section I highlighted is one of the most powerful morsels of Scripture. The Lord gives and takes away. But His Name should still be praised.

No, that’s not philosophically deep. It may not be a satisfactory answer for most.

There is certainly lots of wrestling ahead, as the majority of the book of Job is full of debates between Job and his friends about why he has fallen into this suffering.

Contrary to the Satan’s forecast, Job has the same good opinion of God’s blessedness, even when things go wrong. But this faith cannot survive without a terrible struggle. . . Job is hurled into a cauldron of doubt concerning the justice and equity of God’s ways with him. He must suffer and grow before he can see why this has happened. So far he has begun superbly. – Francis Andersen 

Still, Job’s immediate, knee-jerk reaction to the darkest day of his life is to worship.

Job points us forward to Jesus.

When I read the phrase “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord”, I can’t help but think of Jesus proclaiming “not my will, but your will be done”.

They both unjustly suffered (obviously Jesus way more so since He was completely devoid of sin), and they both responded with worship.

The book of Job continues to be a soothing balm for my soul. It is dark and gritty, yes. In fact, in a lot of ways we’re just getting started.

But my prayer for you as you read is that you will be encouraged and reminded that God truly is in control. He may cause us some problems, but it also leads us to joyful dependence on Him when we get through the suffering to the other side.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

God’s Pursuit In Prayer

The strain on my mind and heart feels near-constant sometimes as I struggle and yearn to maintain my relationship with the Lord. There are days, weeks, entire seasons of my life where it’s a battle, a struggle, a fight to pursue the spiritual disciplines that I know will yield spiritual growth in my life. It can be exhausting to feel the pressure of pursuing God in my daily life. That’s weird to type out, but it’s no less true. 395H

In the quiet moments before sleep, my mind runs a recap of my day, and I feel the internal self- scrutinizing begin, as I question how well I pursued the things of God.

I wake up with the sun, strain to pursue God in the midst of earthly things, and run through the same self-scrutiny at the end of the day.

In the midst of these seasons, I wrestle with feeling like this shouldn’t be the case. Jesus proclaims that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Yet in every church service and small group setting, I’d be reminded of the importance of my relationship with God. I’d be reminded of the priority it should hold in my life, the priority the pursuit of spiritual disciplines should hold in my personal life. This would push me right back into the weight of feeling responsible for maintaining my relationship with God.

Maybe you’ve experienced the same feelings and struggles.

Maybe you feel an immense pressure and weight to make sure you do everything you can to maintain your relationship with God.

What shatters this weight, what sets us free to have renewed joy and energy for our days, free from the shackles of feeling wholly responsible for our own spiritual growth, is when we remind ourselves that God is a pursuing God.

Consider the following verses.

There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. – Romans 3:11

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:44

See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. – Revelation 3:20

I know that I’ve stripped all three of these verses from their contextual passages, but it is widely attested and widely circulated in theological circles that all of these have implications regarding God’s pursuing grace. Most often, these verses are used in the context of salvation, of people coming to know the Lord. In this context, we see that God does the first pursuing in the onset of our relationship with Him. It is His grace that draws us to Him.

Look next at the words of Paul to the church at Galatia:

You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh? – Galatians 3:1-3

Paul was combating in Galatia the doctrine of false teachers who were saying that newly converted Christians had to follow all of the Jewish laws and regulations. In essence, new believers were being told they had to adapt to Jewish culture, and become culturally Jewish in order to be right before God.

So Paul is calling the Galatian churches foolish for straying into this false doctrine. The point he is making in these verses is that God draws us to Himself when we first enter into a relationship with Him, and our continued growth in spiritual things is dependent upon His grace as well. We didn’t start our walk with Him via grace, only to be dependent upon our own flesh for the rest of our walk with Him.

HOW FREEING THIS IS.

I am incapable of pursuing God in my own strength, in my own sinful flesh. No one seeks God without God first drawing them closer to Himself.

I forget this truth, and God graciously reminds me of it time and time again. When God brings renewed vigor and understanding of this truth, it changes how I view prayer.

Prayer is easily my least practiced spiritual discipline. This is a hard admittance to make, but it is true. I can go hours in studying the Word and memorizing Scripture, but it takes all of my effort to get into my prayer closet and have personal times of prayer with the Lord. I too often begrudgingly meet my quota of prayer time because it feels like my way of maintaining the relationship.

Yet when I meditate upon the fact that God is the one pursuing me, drawing me into communion with Him, this changes prayer 100%. It is not burdensome any longer (I don’t say this as if prayer should ever be burdensome, this is merely just a confession). It is a precious and wonderful gift of God’s grace, as He draws me into deeper intimacy with Him!

Hallelujah!

What a wonderful gift! Any time I feel prompted to pray, that is God present grace. God is not distant, He is here, drawing me into communication with Him.

There is so much here, so much of God’s character that is worthy of praise.

He knows that I need Him. He knows that prayer changes my outlook, attitude, heart, mindset, and passion for Him.

Because He knows I need Him, He draws me, calls me, prompts me to pray.

Since no human heart naturally seeks God or can come to God without his drawing, no one even thinks about praying unless God is prompting or leading us to pray by his Holy Spirit… – Timothy Keller

Be encouraged.

Whenever you feel led to pray, study God’s Word, or worship with other believers, God’s grace is drawing you into deeper intimacy with Him.

In His Name,
Nathan Roach

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