Is God Hiding?

I’m intrigued by the hiddenness of God. The Bible presents God as both beyond us, hidden from our eyes (Job 11:6-7, Isaiah 55:8-9, Romans 11:33-36) and at the same time there for us (Jeremiah 9:23-24, Matthew 11:28). He is both incomprehensible and knowable.

The idea of the hiddenness of God has caused some people to reject Christianity and to even take the position that there is no God. Their reasoning can take several different directions but ultimately it comes down to this: if God does exist then He should reveal Himself in a way that removes all doubt.

Even as Christians we struggle with the hiddenness of God. When we face the acute pressures of life we want God to make Himself known to us in unmistakable and obvious ways. And we want to decide what form that takes.

The reality is that God has revealed Himself. He’s revealed Himself in creation (Romans 1:20), in the Bible (pick a page!), in history (this was one of the arguments used in early church history – see Acts 7:2-54), and most of all in Jesus (John 14:9, Philippians 2:6, Colossians 1:15).

That brings questions to mind, such as What more does God have to do? How many more times does God have to show Himself before we’re satisfied?

Our desire for God to be obvious is not unlike the wife who continually asks her husband if he loves her. At first he tells her. Then he tries to show her. But no matter what he says or does, she continues to doubt – and ask. That’s going to get old after awhile.

I wonder if it gets old for God when we continue to expect Him to reveal Himself when He’s already given us all of the evidence that we need.

The problem is not the lack of evidence. The problem is our lack of trust in God – we don’t think that He’s done enough, or a lack of satisfaction with the way He’s chosen to reveal Himself.

But if we believe that God is who He says He is – an omnipotent, all-wise God of love, then He has revealed Himself in exactly the right way and enough for anyone to believe and be satisfied.

As finite beings, we should not expect to know the Infinite One in great detail, nor should we expect (demand?) that He act in ways that meet our requirements. As Paul reminds us, He’s the potter and we’re the clay (Romans 9:21) and we have no right to question what God does or how He does it.

There is no unrighteousness with God (Romans 9:14). To state it another way, all that God does is right and righteous. Even when we wish He would do more.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

When God Isn’t There

I recognize that this title states an impossibility – there’s never a time when God isn’t there. He’s always there whether or not we sense His presence. But there are times in life when it seems like God isn’t there. Times when we struggle with a God who is silent. What do we do then? I think there is a clue in Psalm 13. If you haven’t read it in a while, stop now and read it before you read the rest of this blog. It’s short.

Psalm 13 is a lament written by David. And he doesn’t mince any words getting to the core issue: How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever (Vs 1)?

For David it seemed like God wasn’t there or at least that God had forgotten him. Just in case God didn’t get the idea David followed that question up with another: How long will You hide Your face from me (Vs 1)? In that culture when the king hid his face it meant that he withheld his blessing. David was feeling left out by a God who seemed to be absent from the details of his life.

The result of God’s disappearing act (at least that was how David saw it) was that David had a sense of being on his own in life without anyone, especially God, to help him. Ever been there? Ever felt as if God had gone AWOL and you were on your own? That’s where David was. In fact he was so alone that he thought that this might literally be the end (Vs 3).

So what’s the answer? When you feel like God isn’t there for you and you’re on your own – what do you do?

David doesn’t end the Psalm without giving us three simple things that every Christian needs to do when it seems that God isn’t there.

1. Keep Trusting in His Goodness

But I have trusted in Your mercy (Vs 5).

Even though he was going through a spiritual desert, David determined that the one thing that was always true was God’s goodness and he could trust in that.

Trusting in God’s goodness is saying, God I’m going to choose to believe that You are good to me even when I don’t see any evidence of Your goodness. It’s putting Truth before feelings. It’s putting what you know is right before what you feel is wrong.

2. Keep Rejoicing in His Salvation

My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation (Vs 5).

Rejoicing is difficult when you think God is ignoring you. But that’s what David resolved to do.

Rejoicing in His salvation is saying God I’m going to rejoice in what I know is true because if you can save me, you can take care of me. Do you really think that we have a God who has gone to such great lengths to save us only to turn His back on us?

And even if He isn’t doing anything that we can identify right now, isn’t the fact that He saved you enough evidence of His presence?

3. Keep Remembering His Blessings

I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me (Vs 6).

Remembering has great value. It encourages. It gives hope. It stirs our emotions. It reminds us that God IS there and that He CAN help us.

Remembering His blessings is saying God I know that if you blessed me in the past you can and will bless me in the future.

It’s affirming that God is interested in your life and that without Him life would a lot worse than we think it is.

Trusting in God’s goodness, rejoicing in His salvation and remembering His blessings are all acts of Faith. It takes faith to trust God when you can’t sense His presence. It takes faith to rejoice in the fact that God saved you when He doesn’t seem to be around. It takes faith to remember His blessings when it doesn’t seem like He’s blessing you now.

So the next time you think that God isn’t there, follow David’s lead.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

God Does Not Answer Prayer

At least not always. I know we like to let God off the hook by saying “sometimes He says yes and sometimes He says no and sometimes He says not yet”. But how much better is a no or not yet then a non answer? It doesn’t really tell us much. In fact we can’t be sure what it’s telling us. A no can mean many things: no, not now, or no, not like this, or no, you need to change something, or no, this is the wrong way, or no, you don’t understand, or a hundred other things. You have to be omnipotent to know what no means. A non answer is not very comforting and sometimes not very helpful (although I do like the finality of no).

Sure, there are reasons that God does not answer prayer – we pray for our own selfish purposes (James 4:3); we pray without taking care of sin in our lives (Psalm 66:18); we pray but we don’t really believe that God can answer (James 1:5-7); we pray for our own will instead of God’s will (Matthew 5:10). But what about the times when none of these are true and there is still no answer? When you are trying to live for God in the middle of unbearable pain and God is nowhere to be found?

There’s another reason that God does not answer prayer – but it’s difficult for us to accept. God may not answer your prayer to release you from your pain because He wants to use you and your pain for His kingdom. God is building something eternal, something glorious and whatever it is that you are going through, in some inexplicable way, factors into His plan. Your pain is the best way for God to accomplish what He wants to accomplish. I know that doesn’t make the pain any easier to accept, but it does give it value and meaning.

So here’s where we need to bring personal change to the way we pray – when you pray, instead of asking God to remove your pain, ask Him how you can bring glory to Him and build His kingdom through your pain. Offer your pain to Him as your sacrifice of service. Ask Him to show you how your pain can be used to build His Kingdom. Don’t run from your pain – embrace it as an opportunity to be used by God in His glorious Kingdom plan.

What if God could use your pain to bring someone else into the Kingdom? What if the way you faced your pain gave hope to another struggling sinner? What if the unbearable pain of your life could somehow be the source of comfort another needs just to get through their day? Would it be worth it to you to suffer so another life can experience the grace and mercy of God?

There is a wealth of insight in the Apostle Paul’s thoughts in Romans chapter 8:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Vs 18).

Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope (Vss 23-24).

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Vs 26).

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Vs 28).

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Vss 31-32).

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who love us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Vss 37-39).

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Finding God

When it comes to God, one of the basic questions is – Where is God? Whether you are a Christian struggling in the miry swamps of life, an honest questioner trying to come to grips with one of the ultimate questions of our existence, or a skeptic asking in derision, the question is the same. We want to know where God is. Where is God when my life is falling apart? If there is a God where do I find Him? Where is God – He hasn’t shown up in over 2,000 years (and He’s not going to!)?

Finding God is not easy. He doesn’t always show up when we want Him to. He seems to keep His distance from us. Theologians talk about the hiddeness of God, which means that there is a sense in which God cannot be known. At least not in the places we look and not by our efforts.

That points us to a crucial reality: God can only be known as He reveals Himself. Without revelation we can never know God. As one theologian said humanity in and of itself cannot know God. Only God knows God. To be wrapped into God’s self-knowledge is, and must always be, an act of grace.

And that gives us a clue as to how we can find God, whether you are a desperate searcher, and honest seeker or a doubtful skeptic. God can only be known as He extends grace to us. And fortunately for us He has done just that.

The Apostle Paul talked about that grace when he wrote nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17). God has not left us without a way to know Him. Nature points us to the reality of God and in some limited ways we can know about God from what we can observe. But that’s not the same as knowing God. We need more. So God has revealed Himself to us in the person of Jesus.

Ultimately knowing God comes down to knowing Jesus. Jesus pointed us to this truth when He said he who has seen Me has seen the Father (John 14:19). Again the Apostle Paul said it well when he wrote He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). That is, Jesus is the exact likeness, the perfect image of God. The writer of Hebrews called Jesus the express image of His (God’s) person. Jesus was (and is) the exact essence of God. The historical Jesus revealed in the pages of scripture unveils God to us. It is as we know Jesus that we know God.

Where we err is that we so often spend our time looking for God in the wrong places. We want earthquakes, fireworks and miracles – that’s how we can know that God has shown up. After all He is God and any god, by definition, does great, breathtaking things. But when we take that approach we demonstrate that we haven’t learned from history – that was the exact mistake that Elijah made (1 Kings 19). He was looking for God in all of the ways that man always looks for God, but God wasn’t there. We don’t get to tell God how He is to reveal Himself. We just get to go where He has already been and see what He has graced us to see. And that means finding Him in Jesus.

If you can’t find God start looking where He left His footprints. You’ll find Him there.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve