In an age when Biblical “literacy” has dramatically (and tragically) decreased, it may be easy to shrug one’s shoulders and claim a lack of sufficient knowledge of “spiritual things” to be able to serve God. I’ll grant you that one should never be content with what knowledge one thinks one has and that he should make it his ongoing pursuit to progress in knowledge of the things of God. But if one has come to the place where he “knows” Jesus as his Lord and Savior because God “has been pleased to reveal His Son to” him (Galatians 1:16a), then he knows all he needs to know to begin living in both peace and joy. Not only that, he knows all he needs to know to begin a lifetime of service to his God.
We rightly teach our children to pray, “God is great! God is good!” in the first two lines of a prayer for blessing our meals. I suppose that we also inadvertently teach our children that such prayers are merely words and do not hold within them anything consequential.
Yet, Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:15-18 ESV). He sounds pretty great to me! Awesome! Powerful! Majestic! Glorious!
But if we who teach those prayers really believed the words we teach our children, we surely would live lives that are dramatically different than the lives of many Christians today. If God is great, for instance, is there anything that can be found in the life of a Believer that God cannot handle? Financial problems? Job loss? Relational difficulties? Divorce? Illnesses like cancer or diabetes or chronic depression?
Since bad things do happen to even “good” people, we might feel confused about the character of God. Honest people, even Christians, seem to suffer problems with finances. Christians are sometimes laid off from their jobs. People, who do not desire it, have found themselves abandoned by a spouse and some even their parents. Cancer strikes some, diabetes afflicts others, and there are Christians who even suffer the dark ravages of depression. One might then say, “If God is so great, then He isn’t good. He must like tormenting us and watching us suffer! Or maybe He just doesn’t care to help.”
But God is good. He demonstrated perfect “goodness” in Jesus in Whom “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19-20 ESV).
Not only do we have assurance that He helps us in our time of need, this place of preparation that we call life on earth is the very place where we find that our afflictions and renegade passions are but for a moment. What matters most is the place we go next, namely eternity. It is for our long-term benefit that His love acts. His goodness has moved Him to send His Son, Jesus, to take our place in judgment for your sin and mine. Afflictions in the here-and-now are the tools in His hand to work the miracle of changing our hearts that we can be made ready for an everlasting hope with Him.
“I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:18, 35, 37-39 ESV).
Eternity itself will vindicate the faith of those who choose to believe God in this lifetime. Are you carrying a heavy load of worry? Are your heartaches and pains too much to bear? Take heart… and take hold of the surety you have in Jesus Christ. He Himself is the answer to your questions, the remedy of your heart’s afflictions, and the reward stored up for you in heaven.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 ½ years. He is the author of “The Fairy Tale Parables,” “Crimson Harvest,” and “A Heart at Home with God.” He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).