God Clearly Seen

The most common cause of doubt is frustrated expectations. People doubt God because things don’t go the way they planned or wanted. “If God loves me and knows my heart,” they reason, “He would give me what I need, or what I long for.”

A lot of these people are parents, and they probably don’t do that with their own children. I don’t do it with my sons. I love them and know their hearts, but there are things they want that I won’t give them. Sometimes, I have to disappoint them because I know what will happen if I give them what they want. They don’t see that, though. They just want what they want. They don’t know that I’m protecting them from a bad outcome.

Sometimes they get frustrated or mad at me, but they never doubt that I’m their dad. They can see me! I’m right in front on them! God’s children can’t always physically see Him. That’s why, when He doesn’t give us what we want, we sometimes doubt His existence. We don’t realize that He doesn’t give us what we want because He wants to protect us. Instead we say, “Where is God? Let me see God.”

Well, it’s been a while since God walked among us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t see Him. We can see Him everywhere we look. Look at the Earth! Look at what’s around us. You know what will happen? You’ll find yourself saying, “There He is. There’s God.” You’ve just got to look at your chest moving in and out and say, “There’s something allowing me to breathe. There’s something that allows my brain to tell my lungs to suck in air and breathe out carbon dioxide. There’s God.”

You want to see evidence of God? Contemplate nature! This will help relieve your doubt. Just look at how a leaf is formed. Think of everything that must occur in order for a leaf to grow and develop. Science will show you that creation is very complex. You can’t just say that there was a Big Bang and then all of a sudden there was this incredibly complex creation. There had to be a Creator. There had to be something that developed this complex scenario and then set it in motion. Our bodies work in such complex ways. Our brains! We barely know anything about how the brain works.

There are so many things that can release doubt if we actually start thinking about them in a certain way. Paul’s letter to the Romans says that, too. Paul teaches us to look at the very nature of the Earth and know that there is a God. Just look at how the fish of the sea work. Look at how animals work. Look at how human beings relate. Look at how complex we are, and how our souls connect. Look at it all, and see what may be known of God.

Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…  (Romans 1:19-20)

I’ll meet you back here on Tuesday.

See It to Believe It

Doubt was a big part of the experience of our Biblical ancestors.

Consider the Israelites. God rescued them from Pharaoh’s army by parting the Red Sea. “There must be a God!” the people said. “He parted the Red Sea!” Moses told them to have faith. He said, “God is going to give us the ability to cross this sea.” He smote the water with his staff, the waters parted, and the Israelites crossed safely to the other side. Having seen it, they believed. They said, “There must be a God!”

But then after forty years in the desert, wandering in circles, seeing the same thing over and over again, they doubted. They said, “Well, maybe He isn’t who we think He is.” And so they made a Golden Calf. They made the image of the God they wanted, because they doubted the God who is.

Think about all those people in the Bible, man, they saw God work miracles, signs and wonders, and still they doubted His very existence. They kept asking “Are you really Him?” Look at John the Baptist! This was the guy who prepared the way for Him and still, when he wound up in prison, he sent people to Jesus, saying, “Hey, ask Him! Ask Him if He’s really the guy.”

This is after John personally witnessed signs and wonders. He stood with Jesus in the Jordan River, and saw the dove come down from heaven. He saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus as he baptized Him, and still he wondered, “Are you the guy?”

Faith takes trust, but we have to see something to believe it. We can’t help it. We’re physical beings. Suppose you tell me there’s a tree right in front of me. If I can’t see it, I won’t believe it’s there.

I’ve had people tell me, “Well, you don’t see air, but you trust that you’re breathing.” That’s not a good example. I can see my chest moving in and out. That’s how I know I’m breathing — I can see my body functioning!

Sometimes I suspect that the people with the least amount of doubt are blind people. They really have to trust. If someone tells a blind person there’s a tree in front them, they need to believe it. They have to believe it when they hear the beep that tells them that it’s okay to cross the street.

Jesus declared, “Let the blind see.” I think he said that because he wants everyone to see the sovereignty of God.

But can we? Is there physical evidence of His sovereignty that will satisfy us “show me” types? Sure there is. I’ll tell you next time. See you Friday.

Facing Failure

There is a kind of doubt that goes hand-in-hand with faith in God. We experience it when we’re facing failure. We know that we depend on God. We know that He is the great I Am. He is attuned to our needs, and has promised to be our fortress and our refuge. Yet when we’re facing failure, we’re not feeling very protected. We feel like we’re all alone. That’s when we have a tendency to think, “Well, God’s not here.”

We humans are “show me” types. We need to see evidence. So when bad things happen, we might think that He’s left us. This is painful, and in our pain we take it further. We think, “I have to get through this but He’s not here. So who do I depend on? I’m going to have to depend on myself. And if I have to depend on myself, then why depend on God in the first place? If He’s even real, that is. I mean, I can’t even see Him, and this bad thing is happening!” Sound familiar?

I’ve dealt with that. I dealt with it in baseball. Nothing’s a sure thing in that game. You don’t ever know. They say it’s a game of failure, but everything is based on success. I had to succeed for teams to want me to play, and to succeed, I had to depend on so many things. I had to depend on making the right pitches. I had to depend on the hitter to hit the ball to the defense. I had to depend on the defense to make the play. It was really tough when I wasn’t succeeding.

No matter what you do, in baseball or any other undertaking, you have to depend on so many things for it to go right. And when it doesn’t, you wonder about God.

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps. (Prov. 16:9)

That’s what the Bible says, but sometimes it’s so hard to deal with. We have a certain way that we want things to go. If things don’t go the way we want them to, then we wonder if God’s even there. When we’re struggling, or we feel out of control, or we are failing ourselves and others, we want to feel better. Even though we know that God sees the whole picture, it’s really hard to surrender to His wisdom.

Sometimes it’s just so hard to believe that things are going to turn out okay. Instead we start wondering, “Do I believe in a God who’s not there?” Or we ask, “If He’s real, then why is this happening? Where is He?” In our fear, we decide to take control. We decide to rely on ourselves. We quit leaning on Him. We quit believing in Him. We doubt Him.

We forget that He’s got us!

There’s no shame in this. When you read the Bible, you realize that you’re in very good company. Our Biblical ancestors had to deal with doubt all the time, and their stories have a lot to teach us. We’ll look at this next time. See you Tuesday.

Too Much Doubt

Is it possible to have 100% trust in the Almighty God? Absolutely! It’s not always easy. We humans are “show me” types. We like to see it before we believe it. That’s why the believer will always deal with some doubt.What’s amazing, though, is how much we create doubt. That’s not necessary! We have enough doubt as it is. We don’t need more!

There have always been situations where people create doubt, especially among the religious. This has been going on throughout history. As long as there have been people, there have been sorcerers, magicians, psychics, and even mediums that call upon the dead. These have all created doubt, because they make it hard to know what’s true and what isn’t.

Sometimes preachers create doubt, too. Look at the TV evangelists in the 80’s that stole money from people. They created doubts about all preachers. Now when we see preachers on television we wonder, do they even believe in what they’re preaching? Or are they just doing it for the money? Talk about creating doubt!

And then there’s the most common scenario of all, the one that occurs during those times when everything’s going really well for you. When things are going well it’s easy to feel good and confident, relaxed about life. We say something like, “God loves me. I’m so blessed!” Or we say, “God is so proud of me,” or, “You know what? God is shining on me today.” We feel great!

Then things change, and that’s when the doubt comes in. Things aren’t going all that well, and now we say, “Maybe there is no God. Because why would God allow this to happen?”

We tend to have this mentality about God, and it creates doubt. We believe in God when things are good, and then we doubt God when things are tough. We actually create our own doubt!

I think God looks at this and asks, “You’re not really looking at me as sovereign, are you? You’re just trying to make me what you want me to be. You’re trying to contain me in a box. And do you know what that is? That’s making idols, and you can’t do that.”

I think this is what Paul is talking about in Romans 1. He’s saying that because we did that, God gave us over to the lusts of our flesh. God said, “There’s going to be chaos, because you’re looking at me, but you don’t see me as sovereign of all creation. Instead, you’re saying, ‘Well, God is only real if things are going good, because God wouldn’t let bad things happen.'”

We’re creating doubt with our own mistaken thoughts. God doesn’t “let” bad things happen. If that surprises you, then good! Next week, we’ll take a look at Biblical history. The Bible has a lot to say about doubt. But first, we’ll take a look at the connection between faith and doubt. See you Friday.

A Perfect Plan

I’ve been writing a lot lately about doubt, be it doubt in God’s existence, or doubt in His purpose for us. But that’s the doubt that comes from our own lives, when we struggle with failure or frustrated expectations and desires.

When we look into the lives of others, we face a completely different kind of challenge. What happens to our faith when we see suffering and evil? What are we supposed to make of God’s purpose when a newborn baby starves to death? What plan could God have possibly had for that baby?

That’s a tough question, and I don’t claim to know the answer. If we wanted to end poverty, we could. There’s enough money in this world to end it immediately. But we don’t do it. I don’t think it’s going to happen because sin is in the world. Selfishness will always keep us from eliminating poverty altogether.

When I get challenged like this, I think about the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to help bring the redemptive love of Jesus to Earth. We are called to help bring God’s kingdom. We pray for it, we look for it, and we long to be a part of it. So we look for opportunities to be involved in bringing it.

I think God has a plan. I think it is a perfect plan. This is going to work out. And there’s a role for everyone. Look around you! There are so many incredibly talented people. They are everywhere. We have an abundance of incredible ideas for ending poverty. We have an abundance of energy and passion for the kingdom. With all that talent, all those skills, all those callings, and all those passions, we are overflowing with opportunities to bring the kingdom. No matter where we work, we can do so much. We can love so much!

I don’t really know how much I can or cannot do, but I intend to find out! I’m going to do as much as I can. My biggest fear is that I’ll sit before the throne of God one day and He will say to me, “You gave me 90% when I needed one hundred.” I don’t want Him to say that. I want Him to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I’m not working for my own salvation. I don’t have to. By the blood of Jesus, I am saved. No, what I’m trying to do is be a light. I’m trying to be a city set on a hill. (Matthew 5:14) I don’t want to be one of those cities that didn’t do enough to light up the world. God is calling! I want to make sure that I’m hearing Him correctly. I want to make sure that I’m doing what He wants me to do.

More on this next time. See you Friday.

When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Recently, I’ve been writing about doubt. I reflected on our all-too-human ability to create doubt. I showed how doubt is a normal companion of the faithful, especially when we’re facing failure. I marveled that our Biblical ancestors doubted, even though they were eye witnesses to God’s miracles, signs, and wonders. And I pointed out that the wonder of creation can alleviate doubt, since God’s sovereignty is so obvious within it.

But I’m not finished! There’s something else. Sometimes we doubt God’s purpose. Maybe we don’t doubt His existence. Maybe we don’t doubt His sovereignty. But we can still doubt that He knows what He’s doing!

Doubting God’s purpose is usually a result of trying to control our own lives. We might say, “Well, if I were God, then this is what I would do. So why isn’t He doing it? I don’t understand!”

I look back on my life, and I remember so many times when I wanted God to do what I wanted Him to do. I look at that now and say, “Well, now I know why He didn’t do that. How awesome has it been that I didn’t have my way back then! Look at how well everything turned out!”

God sees it too, and He says, “Yes, I know. I’m God, remember? You can trust me. My thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways. My way is better than your way. I created everything. So I know best.”

Sometimes you just have lean back, fall into the arms of God and say, “Okay.”

Be like Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus. She just sat there and listened to Him. Sometimes it comes to a point where you just have to sit and listen. Sometimes you just have to trust and obey. Sometimes, as hard as it is, you have to simply believe that it’s all going to work out.

So just sit at His feet. Tell Him, “Okay. I’ll go with you on this. I’ll believe in this.” Then see what happens. All you need is the faith of a mustard seed.

Faith isn’t a matter of things going your way. God’s ways are not our ways. Sometimes things go His way, not yours. When things don’t go your way, that’s not evidence that God is not sovereign. God is everywhere, not just in your circumstances.

For evidence of His sovereignty, you have to look elsewhere. Sometimes that presents the greatest challenge of all. More on this next time.

See you Tuesday.

A Mysterious and Beautiful Creation

The basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. (Romans 1:19-20, MSG)

The most common cause of doubt is frustrated expectations. Things don’t go the way we planned, and we doubt God. Or things aren’t the way we want them to be, and we doubt Him.  “If God loves me and knows my heart,” we reason, “He would give me what I need, or what I long for.”

We are God’s children. He is our Father. Do we give our children everything they want, just because they want it? We might want to, but we can’t. My sons want certain things that I won’t give them. I know what will happen if I do.

They don’t necessarily understand, because they can’t see the big picture the way I can. So sometimes they get mad at me! They don’t know I’m protecting them from a bad outcome.

The difference is that they don’t doubt me. They know I’m their dad because they can see me. It’s a little different with God. Believers are children who believe in something that we can’t physically see. That makes us a little more vulnerable to doubt. It would be nice, we think, if we could just see God. That would clarify things!

But you know what? We can see God. All we have to do is look around. Spend some time contemplating nature. Look at what’s around us, and you’ll be astounded. Look at the rock formations in Moab, or look at the Grand Canyon. Look at the clouds in the sky. Look at the moon and the evening star. The variety of amazing things that we can see is astonishing!

Do you want to see the sweet sovereignty of God? Look at your chest moving in and out. There’s something allowing you to breathe. There’s something that allows your brain to tell your lungs to suck in air and breathe out carbon dioxide. Our bodies work in such complex ways. Our brains! We still can’t figure out how the brain works.

Just look at how a leaf is formed. Think of everything that must occur in order for a leaf to grow and develop. Look at what a leaf does. It purifies the air! How amazing is that?

Science will show you that creation is very complex. There had to be a Creator. Look at how fish work. Look at how animals work. There had to be someone that developed this complex scenario and set it in motion.

There are so many things that can release doubt if we actually start thinking about them in a certain way. Look at the very nature of the Earth and know that there is a God.

Then look at us. Look at how human beings relate to each other. Look at how complex we are, and how our souls connect and disconnect.

More than anything, look into the faces of those who love you. What will you see? Nothing less than the very image of God!

See you Friday.