Death reunites us with the God of love
I dedicate this blog post to my friend the late Doug Croot; lifelong missionary to the tribes
of PNG who succumbed to his years long battle with cancer but is now reunited with God and receiving his reward from Jesus. When I asked him how he could cope with such menacing cancer, he replied “God gives his grace to us like he gave the manna to the children of Israel – one day at a time. You cannot store it ahead of time; you have to receive it fresh daily by faith”. God loves us through the cancers of this life. If this life is all there is, then why bother trying to make it through hardships? Some might say, “Just end it all now and spare yourself the grief.” It is no wonder we are hard wired to want to live, as God placed us here for a purpose – to learn to have faith in God through the hardships of life. This life is only the trying ground for our faith in God. Suicide is not the answer, because eternity is right there to receive us whether good or bad. Paul said “To live is Christ but to die is gain.” The unbeliever who dies has no hope, rather eternal fire to dread. The Christian has everlasting life with God to look forward to – no fear in death, but rather eternal joy of life everlasting. Opting out of severe hardships through suicide ushers in hell for the unbeliever, but denies believers of opportunity of reward for faith through them. There is a saying “This life is the closest to heaven an unbeliever will ever experience, but is also the closest to hell a believer will ever experience.” If life was easy, anyone could be a Christian.
“How can a God of love allow…”
This is the cry of anyone who has had to suffer. But this retort betrays our temporal tendency to view things strictly through our limited human understanding. We think that love does not allow “bad” things to happen to us. This thinking is wrong. Last week’s post shows us that it is in suffering that we are given the opportunity, no – the privilege to receive glory for our response of faith through them. Thus we should thank God for, not complain about the sufferings we have to endure. Even Job attests to this in his rebuttal to his wife “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In this week’s post, Paul is telling us that there is another reason for suffering, specifically that in some way (whether you agree with God or not, or whether you like it or not is beside the point) God is shaping you into the image of his Son Jesus in some area of your life. The message of Rom 8:28, 29 is not some “Trite quip”. The NIV says it best “In all things God works…” not like the KJV says “All things work together”. According to this verse, we have a purposeful God who uses circumstances in our lives, not as some believe in cosmic random process. It doesn’t matter what hardship you are going through, God sees in you something that he is trying to conform into Christ’s likeness for His glory, your good and your ultimate glory with him one day see vs 30. So don’t resist his grace, but respond and let it change your thinking for his glory and your reward.
More Than Conquerors
Rom 8:28-39 Use this link for the NIV or your favorite version. Underline vs 28-30, 33-39.
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who Are You Lord?
I AM the God of circumstances. I use them in your life to make you like my Son. Like a sculpture with a slab of stone, I chisel off the parts that detract from the image of Jesus in you. Like a potter with clay, I remove the lumps which mar the pottery. Like the silversmith I use fire to make the dross come to the surface so it can be removed from the molten silver until I see only my perfect reflection in you. You might not like the process of pain in your life, but it is for a reason – that of bringing out the divine nature in you. Then everyone you encounter can see my likeness in you. Remember stars shine brightest when they are surrounded by utter blackness.
I AM the God of love. I love you so much that nothing you go through can separate you from my love. You may not like discipline, but it is because I love you that I allow hardships. “What son is not disciplined by his father?” You snap, “How can a God of love allow…!?” Precisely! Consider all hardships as discipline. I want what is best for you. I want a life of eternal glory for you, not just a life of ease, but glory will cost you. I want a victors crown for you. I want to see my Son shine through you. You are to be a city set on a hill for all to come to. No matter what hardships come your way, from smashing your finger, famine, and war and even in death, my love makes you victorious for my glory. Cling to me through them and you will come through victoriously. Shun me and you will need to see more discipline.
God’s force field of love
Sufferings are not because he doesn’t love you; this passage should settle any doubt in your heart about that. This passage also reveals that He knows how you feel in your hardships because he also had to sacrifice. He had to watch his own son die for you and me – As Rom 5:8 calls us “His enemies.” Take confidence that God cannot do wrong. It is against his very nature to do evil. Everything that he does allow in our lives is because of his love. As with the story of Job, Satan must get permission in his dealings with you. Satan does not have free reign to hurt you (even though he wants nothing more than to kill you). His fiery arrows have to go through God’s force field of love gaining meaningful purpose from the wisdom of God. God allows trials and hardships to teach us, mold us, correct us, and even sometimes punish us. You might call it “tough love”. (Why is it ok for us to administer tough love to our kids but God our heavenly Father cannot?) The reason for hardships from Satan’s perspective is to make you want to curse God. Like Jobs wife taunted him to do. “Curse God and die”. Be your own man. Stand up to him. If you are not a Christian, His purpose in every hardship is to bring you to your knees before him in recognition of your sin and need of forgiveness. If you are a Christian they can be to bring you to an end of your living for self. We are “more than conquers” through all of them. So because of God’s love, we should not act like victims. Remember your position in Christ and his Sovereignty in life and you will come through hardships stronger for them. Like the Marines say, “Pain is weakness leaving your body.” Or you may have heard, “If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.”
“How could a God of love allow…”
Just remember that “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” not even death. “Whether we live or die we are the Lords”. Even the punishment for Adam’s sin in death, God was acting toward him in love. “Say What!?” God prevented Adam from taking from the tree of life resulting in his not living forever. As a fallen human, had he taken the fruit of the tree of life, Adam would live forever, but separated from God. So in love, death reunited God with his most beloved creation. Adam eventually died and went back to live with God for eternity. Death was an act of mercy on his lost creation. In love God came to earth in the form of his Son and died willingly for you and me. Love sacrifices for the good of others. God watched his Son die so that you would not have to. If someone asks you; “How could a God of love allow…(Enter your gripe here)”? God says, vs 38 shall death separate us from God’s love? In fact, death reunites us with the God who loves us most. “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his godly ones”. Say to them, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their evil ways and live.” Death is not to be feared, it is something to look forward to, unless you are not God’s forgiven child.
You have heard the rebuttal, “How can a God of love send anyone to hell?” I like to change the question, “How can a righteous, holy, just, perfect God allow any sinful person into heaven?” We as selfish humans would not hear of a crooked Judge who allows criminals to walk free; so why do we expect anything less from God – who is the perfect judge of the universe? Humans tend to pit God’s love against his Holiness. It cannot be done. It is not one or the other; it is both completely, perfectly united. Then to answer both questions stated above; He loved us so much he paid his own price of judgment himself by sending his son to hell for you so you have a chance to repent and accept his free gift of love and salvation from your sin. That is how a God of love allows anything. Because he loves you too much to leave you the way you are.
More to come,