Boston and the nation grew silent at 2:50 Monday afternoon to remember the events of the previous week. This past Sunday people gathered in West, Texas to remember what happened there and worship God – anyway. I have been thinking about the events of last week, asking God to help me learn what I should. It is our job at the Denison Forum to help people know God, and accept his Son as Lord of their lives. It is our job to try to help people trust God, even for the hard times like last week. But our job would be easier if weeks like the last one had an explanation we wanted to hear.
If I was God, sweet boys like Martin Richard wouldn’t die in a bomb blast, but the bombers would. If I was God the firefighters wouldn’t die because, after all, they were volunteers who just wanted to help save their city. If I was God, things would work out a lot better for people who had faith than for people who didn’t. It seems like a lot more people would become Christians, if Christians were spared some of the troubles of this world. But, at the end of those thoughts, I have one certainty – I know I will never understand God because I know I am not God. Here is what I DO know: God is perfect and therefore, Romans 8:28 is true.
We don’t get to understand the God of the universe. Job’s friends tried to explain his suffering (Job 11), and how Job could “fix” his troubles. Job told them, “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his” (Job 12:13). Job was a man of God and an example from Scripture that senseless suffering can happen in life. He tried to understand God, but in the end, he simply chose to trust him – anyway. This quote from Sir Isaac Newton illustrates the point: “As a blind man has no idea of colors, so have we no idea of the manner by which the all-wise God perceives and understands all things.” We aren’t completely blind because we have God’s word and God’s Holy Spirit…but still, we see through the glass dimly and we only know part of the story. (1 Corinthians 13:12). I don’t understand God any more than a blind person can understand “fuchsia.” But, we keep trying, squinting and straining, hoping to get a glimpse.
Romans 8:28 was the first verse I ever memorized. “And we know that God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I don’t understand why weeks like last week happen – but I do notice the good things that follow. This morning the news ran a picture of a policeman delivering two gallons of milk to a family that was under “lockdown” in Boston last Saturday. The school district in West, Texas said they don’t need any more school supplies…they have been given plenty. The same is true for furniture, food and other things. I enjoyed watching Neil Diamond sing “Sweet Caroline” at the Red Sox game in Boston. Americans know how to give – and they have.
But, will there be any long-term good to come from last week? What good does God want to bring about that is beyond the acts of human kindness and solidarity that have been making the news? The key to Romans 8:28 is found in the last words of the verse. What good should be accomplished by the people who love God and are called according to his purpose? I could give you some ideas…but only God can give you that answer for your life. I know Christians can make a difference – if they will ask God how they can. I also know that Christians will not make much of a difference if they don’t.
From Scripture, the greatest gift you have to give is God’s love. I wonder…how many Christians did Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the young bomber, meet in his lifetime? Would he have come to know Jesus as Lord, and stopped his brother, if one of those Christians had invested in his life? Maybe. Was there enough warning given to the fertilizer plant in West, Texas? Was there a Christian that could have done more to prevent the fire, who didn’t follow God’s urging in his or her soul, when the warnings came? Maybe.
That glass is dim, and we will never know all that God does, ahead of the bad times. I do know this. If one of the “good things” that God works to bring about is an utter conviction from God’s people to walk more closely with God’s Spirit, then we will see more of the good that God will bring about – ahead of the bad times. Christians are not powerless in this world, but too often, we have chosen to think we are. I hope that the Romans 8:28 from last week will be an awakening in the Christian population. We need to listen more for the voice of God. We need to love more with the love of God. And we need to walk more closely with the presence of God. We will never be God…but we can behave a LOT more like him! Will you pray for that?