What does God “mostly do”?

A friend handed me her copy of Savannah Guthrie’s book Mostly What God Does. She wanted to know what I thought about the book saying, “I’m not sure how I feel about this, but it seems not quite right.” I can honestly say I would say the same thing. 

Savannah Guthrie has a wonderful writing style. It is conversational, compelling, endearing, and thoughtful. It was a good read but, at the same time, left me wishing she had told people the rest of the story. 

I would hand this book to someone who wanted to know more of God’s love and grace in their lives. That is Savannah’s purpose in writing the book. The title is Mostly What God Does and when you open the front cover, the inside tab says, “MOSTLY WHAT GOD DOES IS LOVE YOU.”  

That is true, but what troubled me and my friend was that it isn’t complete truth. My friend, like me, has lived for several decades, and that was the unease we both felt. The words of this book are true, encouraging, and engaging, but for those who might read this book and seek God for the first time, I would want to tell them to keep reading beyond Savannah’s pages. 

God does love us. God does offer grace. But God also calls us to humbly serve, faithfully obey his commands, and understand his discipline is a product of his love as well. 

This will likely be a popular book, and I pray God will use it to help people consider his reality as Creator of this world. I would also want them to know that God’s love is about so much more than the popular messages in the book. 

Biblical truth is often unpopular. 

There are several large, popular churches that have limited their sermons from the pulpit for the sake of the congregation’s feelings. Many sermons are now more topical than they are biblical. I was watching a famous Houston preacher one Sunday morning and, by the time I finished listening to his sermon, I was both angry and sad. He used the Bible to say what he wanted his congregation to hear, probably a message they were willing to hear. He taught partial and popular truth that was not a complete message of biblical truth.  

In a nutshell, that is my struggle with Mostly What God Does. It’s not what Savannah Guthrie says that poses a problem; it is all that she leaves unsaid. I think her book could help some people want to know God and be confident of his love. At the same time, I think her book could escort a lot of people to the threshold of faith, never helping them know what is necessary to submit their lives to God, ask for his salvation, and become his child. 

Popular truth is often partial truth. It’s popular to teach everyone they can trust God’s love for them, just as they are. Salvation requires that they submit to the biblical truth that God will never leave them just as they are. Salvation requires sinners to know that God forgives every sin but never accepts any sin. Our sin cost God’s Son everything. God wants us to be his children, to become more than we would ever be on our own. The Bible clearly teaches that we must receive salvation to be considered a child of God. 

The popular truth in Savannah Guthrie’s book is compelling and will help people want to know her God. Biblical truth is that God’s love is about both our salvation and our sanctification. God’s love is also about our Christian growth. 

How does God “mostly love”? 

So often a book like this one will use a verse to say what they want to say. I’ve probably done the same thing writing this blog post at times! I really try to keep a verse in its full context, but I won’t ever do that perfectly each time. I truly want people to know God and I want people to know God fully. 

My words will never be as popular as some others, but I’m okay with that. I am more concerned that my words will never keep people from fully knowing the God of their salvation. I’ve often said one of the most troubling thoughts I have is the picture of someone outside the gates of heaven saying, “Why didn’t you tell me?”  

Psalm 86 is often quoted when talking about God’s love. King David wrote the psalm saying, “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you” (Psalm 86:5).  

Is God good and forgiving? Absolutely! 

Does God abound in steadfast love? Without a doubt!  

Can anyone “call upon” God? Praise God, yes! But, that phrase “call upon” in the original language means to call out as a person who is sinking in quicksand, headed to certain death, unless they are saved. The message often missed is that to call on God requires a person to understand and accept their great need for God in their lives.  

It isn’t popular to tell people they aren’t “good enough” for heaven, but that is biblical truth. It is popular to teach God’s grace and forgiveness for our sins but unpopular to tell a person that there is always a consequence for those sins. God, through the blood of Jesus, removes our penalties, but often the consequences of our wrong choices remain part of our earthly lives.  

The “whole truth” of Psalm 86 

King David is known for living a life filled with powerful moments of serving God. As a young man, he faithfully defeated Goliath. His life was preserved even when King Saul tried to kill him. David was a warrior king whom God led and used to build a kingdom of people who would serve him. But King David also lived his entire life enduring the consequences of his sins as well.  

Psalm 86 begins with his words of confession and humility. He knew God’s love and approached him with confidence. David also knew God’s discipline and approached God for his needs.  

The first seven verses of the psalm say:

Incline your ear, O Lᴏʀᴅ, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;
    save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
    for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
    for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
    abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lᴏʀᴅ, to my prayer;
    listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
    for you answer me. (Psalm 86:1–7)

Teach the whole truth of God

Teaching people the whole truth of God is not always popular, but it is always necessary. Savannah Guthrie teaches, “Mostly what God does is love,” and she teaches that lesson well. But, at the end of the book, what bothered me was that her book didn’t teach someone how to know God fully. That is the knowledge a person will need to enter heaven.

We have just spent the Easter season remembering all that Jesus did for us. We can now move forward, willing to tell the full truth of Easter. Jesus came to die because it was the only way any of us could be born again, made holy enough for heaven. 

“For God so loved the world” is biblical truth. But that truth required God to give us his Son and watch him suffer and die. The whole truth is that we must trust God’s love, requiring a humble confession of our need for him and a grateful acknowledgment of the sacrifice of Jesus. Such trust is necessary in order to experience the salvation God’s pure holiness requires.

We, like David, are “poor and needy.” God isn’t “our God” until we trust in his Son. That isn’t popular truth, but it is the whole truth this world needs.

Are you willing to teach the unpopular truth too? 

Someone’s salvation could likely hang on your answer.