We cannot escape problems in this life. They could be painful, stressful, or simply inconvenient. It doesn’t really matter what the problems are — that’s all relative to each person. The question we often ponder, however, is: who causes those problems, and why? Many, without fear, blame God. Others, simply shift the blame to Satan. After all, God can’t be behind our painful problems…can he? I suggest God is not the author of our problems, but He doesn’t let them go to waste either. We don’t see the big picture while we’re experiencing a problem, but there’s something bigger happening.
Here are 21 ways God allowed and used ‘problems’ in the lives of people in Scripture:
Christians talk about peace on a regular basis, but I’m not sure if all Christians understand the impact of fear. There’s a reason why scripture tells us we don’t have to fear. Complete trust in God is really a complete rejection of fear. When we avoid fear, we understand peace a little better. When we allow God to be our ‘Shepherd,’ we have nothing to fear because we put our lives in His hands.
Prayer is mentioned a couple of times in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). But in the final segments of the sermon, Jesus mentioned prayer in a slightly different way. He talked about our connection with the Father. Yes, Matthew 7:7-11 is about asking God what we need. But more importantly, the text is about is about realizing God gives us good, and not harmful things. Here’s the text:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11, ESV)
If we are continually amazed by God’s goodness, we’ll quickly see that God gives us everything.
“I’m still blown away by God’s presence,” I tweeted not too long ago. It’s not that I’m surprised by how amazing God is, or that I’m shocked that His presence can be overwhelming. I’m simply blown away by how God’s goodness amazes me more today than yesterday and how I’ll say that again tomorrow.
With so many issues and problems in our lives, we often miss our opportunity to simply commune with God. Isn’t that what God is inviting us to do? Prayer is not a formula for God to obey us; rather, an invitation for us to obey God. And it’s in that obedience that we realize God gives us every good thing.
Lyle Dorsett described A.W. Tozer’s prayer life in this way:
“[Tozer] learned much about his Lord and his God in…prayer…with his Bible and hymnals as his only companions…on this ancient office couch…would drift into another realm… In time, he would abandon the couch, get on his knees, and eventually lie face down on the floor, singing praises to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.”1
So in this world of chaos, we need to do one simple thing every single day: focus on God’s goodness. I offer three ways we can do this:
1. Focus on Our Relationship with God.
When Jesus said, “Ask…seek…knock,” he wasn’t describing a formula for a “guaranteed answered prayer.” Prayer isn’t a persistence to receive, but a persistence to submit. We have to remember the first beatitude: “blessed are those who are poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). Having a complete dependence on God forces us to focus on His goodness.
2. Focus on God’s Promise to Believers.
It may seem discouraging at times, but good things happen to bad people. In fact, you don’t even have to pray to experience “blessings.” Eternal grace and supernatural peace, however, are only extended to those who look to God for help (Romans 10:13; Philippians 4:7). Don’t focus on the blessings of others, focus on the goodness of God’s eternal promise.
3. Focus on God’s Promise to Help Us.
Sometimes we may be guilty of thinking if God says, “no,” there must be something even better, around the corner. This really isn’t the promise. In fact, the promise is even greater. God doesn’t promise so much a better gift; rather, a perfect gift and not a harmful one. The more we focus on how good God is, the more his responses make sense.
God doesn’t answer all our prayers the way we thought He would. I don’t have an answer for that, and I’m not even sure there’s a good one known to man.2 As Alec Motyer pointed out:
“If…whatever we ask, God was pledged to give, then I for one would never pray again, because I would not have sufficient confidence in my own wisdom to ask God for anything…how could we bear the burden?”3
Our prayers can’t be answered by our wisdom, but by God’s alone. We won’t fully understand, either, until we see Him face to face.
The only thing I know for sure is that God is good, andHe gives us everything we need.
Question: Are you amazed enough by God’s goodness to commune with him?You can leave a comment by clicking here.
This is a response to a very humble and honorable question: Do I even I love God? Many ask similar questions, but are afraid to journey through an answer because of the possible outcomes. This is part of my answer…
As a Christian, I often ask myself: “am I busy being involved in ministry OR in my relationship with God?” Sometimes I think of this in terms of being in a relationship with THE CREATOR or CREATION. I find this useful because it voices the concern in terms of God’s activity. God himself is THE CREATOR, while everything in this world (including every system and science) is a product of God’s CREATION. We should always focus on our relationship with THE CREATOR; however, by being involved in what God has CREATED, we support and join in God’s activity which in turn, strengthens our relationship with Him.
God, The Creator
God is our personal Creator. When Adam and Eve were in the garden, it was clear their first priority was to obey and serve God, which is our primal definition of worship. We were created in God’s image and likeness, and in return, we were called to obey.[i] Our relationship with God was, and continues to be, our first priority.
Adam also understood his second role ? to take care of God’s creation. God told Adam to name the animals, have leadership among the rest of creation and to work and keep the garden.[ii] Part of our responsibility is to take part in what God has created.
Our Journey With God in His Creation
If we continue to read scripture, we see that God created the system of ministry we serve in today. Jesus talked about building His church,[iii] and sent the Spirit to empower the early Church for service.[iv] Paul understood God’s creation in terms of God’s ultimate authority. When discussing government, Paul told us to subject ourselves to their authority because God himself has appointed them.[v] If we continue in this logic, the Church and our system of ministry has been appointed by God himself and he expects us to join in his special activity. Furthermore, our lack of participation would symbolize our lack of involvement in Christ, since we, the Church, are in fact Christ’s body.[vi]
While God, the Creator, should always be first in our lives, being active in what God has created should be one of the ways we participate in that relationship. That said, participating doesn’t necessarily mean you love God; rather, loving God means participating in His creation. In order to love God, we must live lives of WORSHIP, LOVE His creation, and SERVE others as they GROW to do the same.
My prayer: May God allow you to continue to develop your understanding of your journey with Him.
If you’re into modern worship music, you’d know John McMillan’s song “How He Loves Us” very well. Since writing the song in 2005, many artists have included the song in their repertoire. Kim Walker from Jesus Culture and David Crowder are among those who have done so.[i] It’s clear, the amazing truth behind the song is powerful – God loves us! While this is so true, it’s also very important to understand how he loves us. God loves us with unconditional love known as agape love, and we should express ourselves in a way which allows us to mature and grow deeper in our relationship with God.
Before I continue, if you haven’t heard both artists sing this song, take a few minutes to listen to them. Notice the difference between verse 2 in each version and enjoy the powerful song!
In case you missed it, here are the lyrics of verse 2…
We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking
So Heaven meets earth
Like a [sloppy wet OR unforeseen] kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way that…[ii]
Both artists sang different similes in verse 2. Walker sang, “So heaven meets earth like sloppy wetkiss,” while Crowder sang, “So heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss.”
At first glance, we might think Crowder is simply using a phrase that is less controversial; trying to appeal to a wider audience. While this may be true to some degree, there are also theological issues at play.
Unfortunately, the English language doesn’t explain certain words very well. The English word “love” is certainly one of those words. The Greek language, however, has a number of words for “love”; each conveying a different meaning. In this particular case, I suggest we use Greek definitions to make sure we are consistently describing the correct kind of love. This is really important when discussing the kind of love God has for us. (Click here to see a brief overview of the Greek words for “love”)
God loves us with unconditional love. We love because he loved us first.[iii] God’s love doesn’t require reciprocation in order for Him to love us. When we speak of relational love, however, we think of two people having feelings for each other. The key there, is “each other”. Love is reciprocated. Love goes two-ways. When we speak of God’s love, the love starts with Him, and if reciprocated, ends with Him. The only response we, as humans, have is obedience and worship. The Greek language refers to this unwarranted love as agape.
In the song, Walker sang the phrase “sloppy wet kiss.” It’s a simile used to describe the love connection between heaven and earth – the Father sending the Son to earth as an action of love. The problem, however, is this simile doesn’t really describe God’s love (agape), rather the love between a man and a woman (eros). This causes confusion, as we’re saying we understand God’s love in the same way we are attracted to another person in passionate love. God’s love is more about affection than about attraction. A “sloppy wet kiss” has more to do with our attraction to someone than it does are affection towards someone.
Our affection often results in our action outside of attraction, and is usually seen in mature relationships. For example, even within passionate love (eros), affection is shown when a husband cleans the dishes before his wife returns home, or a wife letting her husband pick out the movie they want to go see. It’s a selfless action, out of love. This would be the closest eros is to agape. So, if we changed the lyric to, “so heaven meets earth like a husband washing the dishes,” it would make more sense than “sloppy wet kiss.” 🙂
When Crowder sang this verse, he sang the phrase, “unforeseen kiss.” This seems to work better. This simile is actually using an agape kind of love to describe God’s love. Just like we don’t deserve God’s love, we’ll never understand or comprehend why God would love us so much. In the same way, it’s like someone out-of-the-blue kissing us – it’s totally unexpected, undeserved, unwarranted.
Which one should we use?
It depends on how you view God’s love. I believe God’s love is far deeper than passionate and sexual love (eros), and therefore, I wouldn’t explain God’s love in that way. The term “sloppy wet kiss,” also conveys a sort of shallow relationship. I’d like to believe God desires us to develop into a mature and deep relationship with him as time progresses. Singing the phrase, “unforeseen kiss,” allows for that sort of relationship to grow.
What do you think? Feel free to comment and share.
[i] Kim Walker sang it on Jesus Culture’s album called “We Cry Out” (released in 2008); David Crowder sang it on his album called “Church Music” (released in 2009).
[ii] Verse 2 of “How He Loves Us” written by John Mark McMillan, 2005 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music.