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« Thoughts I Have Chased…But Never Caught | Main | Asking the Tough Questions (Part Two) »

Asking the Tough Questions (Part One)

In all of scripture, there is no more depressing scenario to be found than the miserable creature Job as he cursed the day of his birth.

Job 3:2 "Let the day of my birth be cursed," he said, "and the night when I was conceived. 4 Let that day be forever forgotten. Let it be lost even to God, shrouded in eternal darkness.

9 Let the stars of the night disappear. Let it long for light but never see it, never see the morning light. 10 Curse it for its failure to shut my mother's womb, for letting me be born to come to all this trouble…

11 "Why didn't I die at birth? 12 Why did the midwife let me live? Why did she nurse me at her breasts? 13 For if only I had died at birth, then I would be quiet now, asleep and at rest, 14 along with prime ministers and kings with all their pomp, and wealthy princes whose castles are full of rich treasures. 16 Oh, to have been stillborn!-to have never breathed or seen the light. 17 For there in death the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. 18 There even prisoners are at ease, with no brutal jailer to curse them. 19 Both rich and poor alike are there, and the slave is free at last from his master.

I think you’ll agree that Job has a pretty dismal outlook on life, to say the least. But then, he asks a question that goes directly to the heart of our Creator:

Why is a man allowed to be born if God is only going to give him a hopeless life of uselessness and frustration?"  TLB

One Saturday night, I had a serious discussion scheduled with the twenty-somethings of our church. I called it “Re-Imagine.” I allowed them to talk to me about things that bothered them…fears, frustrations, dislikes, problems…all in an open and affirming way. I let them ask me about church services and ministries. A couple of them, thankfully a minority, thought much of it was irrelevant or even counterproductive to their needs. Suffice it to say, we had an interesting discussion.

I think, however, that some of their questions, and the questions of a lot of people, may be superficial or secondary to deeper questions about God. It’s time for us to get to the bottom of some things that bother us.

Why pain and suffering?
Why death?
Why war and devastation?
Why do bad things happen to good people? Why? Why? Why?

All of us have a hard time with these deep and searching questions about life. We try to ignore them; we make up quick and easy answers to them; we aren’t satisfied with the answers we get from so-called experts; in the end, we resign ourselves to eternal ignorance. I have found, however, that many of our questions grow out of basic underlying assumptions we have about life. As one of my secondary education teachers used to say, “I can tell how much you understand about the subject by the questions you ask.”

So, first of all, let’s examine some of the basic ideas we have to deal with.

You and I see the universe from the perception of human beings.
We are finite.
We are limited in power.
We are limited in understanding.
We are limited in knowledge.
We are limited in resources.
We are limited in controlling our lives.
We are weak in moral and ethical attributes.
We are capable of imagining great things, but incapable of doing most of them.
Our entire view of the world is predicated on human experiences and understanding.

What does this mean?
It means that we have the ability to ask questions that we can neither ask properly nor understand the answer if it is provided.
It’s like a kindergarten student engaging a professor of higher mathematics in a discussion about trigonometry or calculus.
It’s like people of two different languages trying to talk to each other without a translator.

Let’s look at some things we know about God.

The Bible does not seek to prove the existence of God; it simply affirms His existence by declaring, "In the beginning God..." (Gen 1:1).

God has revealed Himself through the physical universe (Ps 19:1; Rom 1:19-20). By observing the universe, one can find positive indications of God's existence. Creation reveals the results of a universal mind that devised a master plan and executed it. It makes more sense to accept the idea of God as Creator of the universe than to assume that our orderly universe came into existence apart from a divine being.

God may be described in terms of attributes. An attribute is an inherent characteristic of a person or being. While we usually fail to describe God in a comprehensive way, we can learn about Him by examining His attributes as revealed in the Bible.

God Is Spirit. Jesus taught that "God is Spirit" (John 4:24). God has no body, no physical or measurable form. Thus, God is invisible. He became visible in human form in the person of Jesus Christ, but His essence is invisible.

God Is Changeless. He said, “I am God; I change not.”

God Is All Powerful. God's power is unlimited. He can do anything that is not inconsistent with His nature, character, and purpose. In Genesis 18:14, he asks the question of Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” The only limitations on God's power are imposed by Himself. "Impossible" is not in God's vocabulary. God creates and sustains all things; yet He never grows weary:

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
NKJV (Isaiah 40:27-31).

God Is All Knowing. God possesses all knowledge (Job 38:39; Rom 11:33-36). Because God is everywhere at one and the same time, He knows everything simultaneously. That God has the power to know the thoughts and motives of every heart is evident from many Scripture passages, notably Job 37:16; Ps 147:5, and Heb 3:13.

God Is Everywhere. God is not confined to any part of the universe but is present in all His power at every point in space and every moment in time (Ps 139:7-12). Thus, God does not belong to any one nation or generation. He is the God of all the earth (Gen 18:25).

God Is Eternal. Eternity refers to God's relation to time. Past, present, and future are known equally to Him (2 Peter 3:8; Rev 1:8). Time is like a parade that man sees only a segment at a time. But God sees time in its entirety.

This first group is known as the natural attributes of God. The second group of attributes is called moral attributes. These refer to God's character, His essential nature.

God Is Holy. The word holy comes from a root word that means "to separate," so it refers to God as separated from or exalted above other things (Isa 6:1-3). Holiness refers to God's moral excellence. Since he is holy, God demands holiness in His own children. And what He demands, He supplies. Holiness is God's gift that we receive by faith through the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 4:24).

God Is Righteous. Righteousness as applied to God refers to right as opposed to what is wrong. We see this in His moral laws laid down to guide the conduct of humankind, as in the Ten Commandments. Righteousness also refers to God's justice. He punishes the disobedient (Gen 18:25; Deut 32:4; Rom 2:6-16).

God Is Love. Divine love runs like a golden thread through the entire Bible. God loves and gives; From the scriptures, we find that He loved and sought out mankind---just as a shepherd seeks his sheep. God loved and suffered, providing His love by giving His all on the cross to redeem lost souls. God, in His love, intends good for mankind. Psalm 145:9 says,

The LORD is good to all,And His tender mercies are over all His works. NKJV

God Is Truth. All truth, whether natural, physical, or spiritual, looks back to God as its source. Any apparent contradiction between natural and physical sciences and God's revelation of Himself simply illustrates our finite knowledge. The more we understand God, the more we discover truth. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6

God Is Wisdom. God's wisdom has been defined as God doing the best thing, in the best way, at the best time for the best purpose. Knowledge does not necessarily equate with wisdom, the wisest sometimes have little knowledge. God is "the only wise God" (1 Tim 1:17).

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