So, a quick recap; All good things come from God. Jesus promised abundant life and, as we’ll soon get into, the character of God is to be over the top generous. The flow intended by God is to give us good things so that we can be transformed by them, by the renewing of the mind, and so that we’ll overflow with these things into the world around us, this is often called reflecting his glory into the world.
While we had to deal with pride/humility first because they blind us to the other constraints, by far the biggest reason we don’t receive the good from God is that we doubt His heart toward us. There’s a two-prong approach to changing your beliefs about how God views you.
We’ll need to examine the two big reasons we doubt God’s heart for us, and then we’ll deal with healing our view of God. However, before I go there I want to address the concerns of those who are thinking, “but I don’t doubt that God is good, so I can skip this chapter and move on.”
If you were raised as a Christian like I was, it’s pretty easy to accept that God is perfect as a religious fundamental belief. Even if you’re new to Christianity it’s pretty obvious that we all believe our God isn’t flawed like the gods of other religions.
Not that I’m slamming those other religions, but take the ancient Greeks for example. They had a pantheon full of immature, but ultra-powerful beings that were hard to look up to. They were often petty and lustful. If nothing else, this served the purpose of explaining why your fate might be fickle. By claiming our God is perfect Christians open ourselves up to a lot of doubt when things don’t turn out the way we think they should.
What do we make of stories in the bible? Take Daniel in the lion den. He survived, as a miracle, but what if he’d been eaten? Would that mean that God didn’t like him?
This is the real reason for such a lofty title for this book as, “THE PRIMACY OF GOD!” There’re three aspects to putting God first:
- Understanding how to receive good from God in order to receive our identity from Him.
- Learning ways to put God first in our lives.
- Accepting God’s perfection and authority as a basis for our faith.
Chronologically, we’ll cover the second point last in this chapter, because the third point is the most pivotal.
It’s pretty easy to accept God is all powerful, all knowing, and ever-present as a religious doctrine. It’s not so easy to believe that he loves me personally when things don’t go as I thought they would. The Bible assures me that God is love (1 John 4:8), yet sometimes I don’t see what He does as very loving. How does he allow cancer, or a baby born with a birth defect?
I can’t answer those questions. There are other, wiser men than I who have better answers for them. I only have this answer.
Until the question of God’s authority in your life is a settled issue you’ll be like a rudderless ship.
When we accept that God is perfect and all powerful, that he knows the end from the beginning, then we have to follow a certain chain of logic.
- He knew man would fall before he made us. He decided to deal with the fall of man by sacrificing His own son in our place…again, before he made us.
- Jesus knew every sin you’d ever commit before he came as a baby.
- God understands suffering because he walks every path with every one of us every day.
- God is not surprised by your sin, in fact, the purpose of confessing our sin to him is so that we might have a changed heart about it–not so he knows them.
- That sin isn’t even an issue with God, it’s just a symptom of the separation between He and I.
We can go deeper into this when we deal with healing our understanding of how God sees us, but for now, let’s accept that God is not an angry faraway person. That because of the work of Christ, which was the plan all along, God’s perfection and my imperfection don’t create the rift between us—unless I believe that it does.
In order to let God be God in our lives, we have to forgive him as much as be forgiven by Him. The idea of forgiving God is antithetical to religion, but it’s vital to relationship. Every single human being I’ve ever met has a beef with God about something, even if it’s just the fact that sin exists. We’ve got a lot of book left and things will be easier to accept once we’ve taken a better look at God’s character, but if you want a shortcut through this material, just accept that God knows what he’s doing and stop limiting His work in your life to only those things you understand and agree with. By the time you’ve finished reading this book, I pray that you’ll be ready to let God be God.
You may have noticed that I don’t differentiate between God’s power and His goodness. I have a whole section on God’s goodness coming up, but, for the left-brained among us, here’s a quick paragraph.
Good and bad are generally relative terms. What’s good for me is good and what’s bad for me is bad. I’m not personally a big fan of any kind of moral relativism, but in this case, it’s true. If you’re all powerful then what you say is good/bad becomes the standard for anyone else who isn’t all powerful, which is everyone. If you are all-knowing then you know what is Good/Evil and can choose to abide by it or not. Therefore, if you are both you need only decide if you’re selfish or selfless. Will you act in your own self-interest or will you uphold a universal right/wrong even if it causes you harm? If you are all powerful then you can accomplish your desires despite any constraints, so why would you violate the right/wrong standard?
This dips a little bit into those unanswerable questions like, can God make a rock so big that He can’t lift it? Except, that in this case, we have an example that gives us an answer. Sin. So many people are angry at God because of the wages of sin when in fact the fall of mankind proves that God doesn’t force anyone to behave. The fact that He created humans knowing we’d fall speaks to His character also.
He’s willing to sacrifice himself, heroically, to restore things to what he intended. He doesn’t have to avoid making humans, because he has a solution. All knowing combined with all-powerful equals always accomplishing goals. Therefore, God has no motive to be anything but good because abiding by any laws doesn’t prevent him from doing or having anything. It does, however, cause him pain. He suffered to restore us because He loves us, and therefore He’s selfless. Therefore He is good.
In reality, we can stop worrying about questions like why God allows wars and diseases. The bigger issues we suffer from are actually the smaller, more personal questions, like does God care about me in this or that place of my heart.
- Does He care if I get a better job?
- Does He care if I ever get married?
- Is He at all concerned with my weight problem?
People say they’ll never believe in God because children die of cancer, but what they really mean is, I’m angry because my dad died.
Let’s face it, most Christians have come to terms with the fact that God doesn’t prevent evil people from causing pain to others even when they’re Christians. He seems to intervene sometimes and not others. Are the people in third world nations just on God’s crap list? I say, no. And for the same reason God wasn’t playing favorites when he saved your uncle and not your dad. I’ll explain in a second.
Another place we struggle is where it comes down to things we feel like we ought to be able to influence and yet we’re somehow never able to find victory. Why can’t I pay off debt, get pregnant, fix my marriage, find a mate, and on and on?
Is God actually withholding these from me?
The answer is mind blowing—God knows what He’s doing.
I’m going to blow your mind a little further and remind you that everything is meant for our good. Why the hell am I suffering if an all-powerful God is trying to bless me? Because God knows what He’s doing!
Edited this far
A Closer Look:
More specifically there are two reasons for our struggle. First, the stoic reality is that this world is full of sin, we’re in the process of dying, nothing will ever be perfect. Second God’s blessing often comes in the form of redemption. He takes what was meant for evil against us and profits us (Gen 45).
If we try to figure out if God is good, or powerful enough to fix things, based on what we see around us we’ll come to all sorts of conclusions. If we start from a place a faith and accept that God loves us perfectly, and uses everything we’re going through to bring about the perfect answer for us, then we begin to see new opportunities in even the worst scenarios.
Like Superstitious Chickens:
B. F. Skinner was a behavioral psychologist. He created what is now called the “Skinner Box.” It’s a box with four shoots through which chicken food pellets might enter the box. He put chickens in the box and observed them, quickly learn when and where to expect food. When he randomized when/which shoot the food would come from, each chicken came up with its own explanation. Some only turned left when pecking, some stood for long periods on one foot. They became superstitious.
We do the same thing. We associate some things with certain results and we interpret them with all the accuracy of an ancient priest reading the entrails of a cow. Sorry for the imagery, but I do want to make a point. The only way to get an accurate picture of what’s going on and why is to ask one of the humans outside the box. In order to do that you’d have to realize that you are a chicken in a box and believe that humans are behind it all.
See we’ve got the cart before the horse most of the time. You must believe in God first and then you’ll find answers. That’s the Primacy of God. Not because God’s mean, or holding out on you, but because we lack the perspective to see what’s going on.
It’s a Process, not a Snapshot:
Here’s how Graham Cooke explains the process. In every circumstance, there is a promise, if we look around for it. Sometimes it’s just that God is moving in a different spirit than we’re perceiving. When we focus on our standing in Christ instead of our circumstance we can claim the promise and look for provision–God’s solution to things.
Ultimately, no matter how bad it gets we’ll come to a place where we’re thankful for it. We can claim a pearl from it.
Life will exact a high price from you, regardless of your belief system, but if you accept and believe that God is good and He loves you perfectly, you have the opportunity to have your hardships redeemed.
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Expected update 4/16/2018