What would you think if I declared, “I’m an atheist.”
Don’t worry. I’ve not lost my faith.
According to dictionary.com, an atheist is “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.”
A supreme being, not the supreme being. In other words:
- I deny the existence of Zeus. That would make me an atheist to Zeus-worshippers.
- I disbelieve that Sun Myung Moon was the second coming of Christ. That would make me an atheist to the Unification Church.
I suppose, in some sense, everyone is an atheist to someone. But I also think that some of us who claim to believe in the one, true God, really believe in a false god.
God, Where Are You?
I’ve been working my way through Kay Arthur’s Lord, Where Are You When Bad Things Happen? She follows the story of Habakkuk who had to watch the horrific destruction of Judah by the Babylonians.
God had promised Israel great blessings if they followed Him and His decrees but warned them what would happen if they chose another path.
The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or olive oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined. They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. Deuteronomy 28:49-52
It gets worse. Verses 53-57 go on to say that the siege of the enemy will be so bad, that fathers and mothers will eat their children. Even the “most gentle and sensitive woman among you.”
That’s pretty bad.
As Habakkuk watched this unfold before him, he struggled. He asked questions like:
- How long must I call for help? (Habakkuk 1:2)
- Why do You make me look at injustice? (Habakkuk 1:3)
- Why do You tolerate wrongdoing? (Habakkuk 1:3)
- Why do You tolerate the treacherous? (Habakkuk 1:13)
- Why are You silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous? (Habakkuk 1:13)
Can you blame him? Wouldn’t these be the questions on our hearts and minds in a similar situation? Haven’t we asked these same things as we’ve watched terror groups and tyrannical leaders decimate people?
Or as someone around us causes us pain? Or embarrassment? Or discomfort?
For Our Consideration
When it would be easy to walk away?
Or maybe, the better question we should consider is this: where did we get the idea that God will protect us from all harm? Why do we think that from the moment we offer our hearts to Him, we have an eternal escape clause from all things painful?
Is that what the Bible says?
The Bible Tells Us to Prepare for Trouble
Jesus said to His disciples, “In this world you will have trouble.” Not maybe. He didn’t even limit the amount of trouble we would face. He simply said will have.
Jesus demonstrated this idea for us during His years of ministry, which culminated in His death on the cross.
His disciples didn’t have it much better. Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome, Thaddeus martyred in Persia, and Thomas pierced through with spears. Matthias was burned, James Zebedee was beheaded, and James Alpheus was thrown off the Temple before being stoned. It is believed Andrew, Philip, and Simon the Zealot were crucified, and Matthew was stabbed. Bartholomew was either beaten and crucified or skinned alive and beheaded.
And let’s not forget the persecution that the first church in Jerusalem endured under Emperor Nero.
Our Response to Trouble
So, what about that eternal-protector-god? Where was he for Jesus? Or the disciples? Or the first church?
Hopefully, I’m not bursting your bubble, but we have to understand that eternal-protector-god doesn’t exist. If that’s the god you are putting your faith in, it’s a false god. Not the God of the Bible.
No, I’m talking about a purposeful God. God, who has plans that no one can thwart (Job 42:2, Psalm 33:11). God, whose hand no one can hold back (Daniel 4:35, Isaiah 14:27).
God, who will discipline His people as necessary, yet defend those same people fiercely.
I’m not saying God hasn’t or won’t protect you. But that protection will often look different than you think it should.
- Jesus’ years of ministry were tough, but it got people’s attention.
- His death on the cross seemed to end the problem, but instead, it was the fulfillment of His purpose on the earth.
- The persecution of the disciples and the first church was not anything I would want to endure, yet it spread Christ’s message like wildfire throughout the known world.
Does knowing all of that make living by faith any easier? No, not always. In the midst of turmoil, it’s hard to remember that God is good even when He seems absent or uncaring.
But, as Kay Arthur says, the best path is to “live by what you know from God’s Word rather than by your present experiences.”