From the book
WHEN GOD DOESN’T MAKE SENSE
We must hasten now to deal with a series of questions that are critical to everything we have discussed to this point: What is God's role in situations that confuse and sometimes disillusion His followers? Where was He amidst the challenges that confronted Chief Bob and Esther Vernon, Dr. Jim and Sally Conway, Darryl and Clarita Gustafson, Dr. Jerry and Mary White, Drs. Chuck and Karen Frye, and the others we have considered? Specifically, does God hear and answer the prayers of His people?
A surprisingly large percentage of Americans believe deeply in the efficacy of prayer. In a Newsweek cover story entitled "Talking to God" (January 6, 1992), the Gallup Poll reported that 78 percent of Americans prayed once a week and 57 percent prayed at least once per day. Ninety-one percent of women prayed at some time and 85 percent of men. This included 94 percent of blacks and 87 percent of whites.
"Some of these prayers," Newsweek commented, "are born in extremis: there are few atheists in cancer wards or unemployment lines. But in allegedly rootless, materialistic, self-centered America, there is also a hunger for a personal experience with God that prayer seeks to satisfy."
The authors concluded:
Even in the university, the temple of all that the Enlightenment has distilled, prayer has found a home. "It was very rare 20 years ago to find vital, vibrant religion on the college campus," says David Rosenhan, professor of law and psychology at Stanford University. "Now there are prayer meetings here that are attended by 300 to 500 students regularly."
I'm not naive enough to believe that all these praying Americans were seeking a committed relationship with the Living God. For some, prayer is only an inch or two from superstition, such as astrology or any other shot in the dark. Nevertheless, the receptivity for things of the Spirit is very encouraging to those of us who have longed for a revival of religious fervor in the nation.
[THAT WAS THEN, TODAY MARCH 2018, I DOUBT THAT PERCENTAGE STILL HOLDS, YET THERE ARE MORE “RELIGIOUS” PEOPLE IN THE USA THAN ANY OTHER WESTERN NATION; BRITAIN HAS LESS THAN 3 PERCENT WHO ATTEND WEEKLY CHURCH SERVICES - Keith Hunt]
But what do you believe about the meaning of prayer? Is it true, as James 5:16 says, that "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective"? Was Jesus speaking to us when He said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7)?
Speaking personally, I have staked my life on the validity of those promises. They were "God-breathed" and then dutifully recorded by the inspired writers of the Word. Our foundation as believers is rooted in the Scriptures, where the message is unmistakable. Consider these verses:
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always (1 Chronicles 16:11).
The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him (Proverbs 15:8).
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1).
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26).
[HERE AS A NOTE, THE CONTEXT SHOWS CLEARLY THIS “SPIRIT” IS JESUS CHRIST, NOT A THIRD MEMBER OF A TRINITY GOD - I COVER THIS ALL IN STUDIES UNDER “GOD, CHRIST, AND THE HOLT SPIRIT” - Keith Hunt]
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).
Devote yourself to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4:2).
Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.(1 Thes-salonians 5:17-18).
I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing (1 Timothy 2:8).
It is obvious not only that prayer is honored by the Lord, but that we are commanded to enter into this personal communication with Him. And what a privilege it is! Have you considered the nature of this gift we have been granted by the Almighty? We need not make an appointment to get His attention. There are no administrative assistants or secretaries with whom we must negotiate. He never puts us off to a later date when His schedule is less congested.
Instead, we are invited to walk boldly into His presence at any moment, day or night. He hears the faintest cry of the sick, the lonely, the despised of the world. Every one of us is known and loved by Him, despite our imperfection and failures. Truly, the invitation to prayer is a precious expression of the Creator's incomparable love and compassion for humanity. That, understanding has been woven into the fabric of my life and family from earliest childhood.
[SO IT WAS FOR ME ALSO, ATTENDING A CHURCH OF ENGLAND SCHOOL AT AGE 7 WITH 1/2 HOUR OF BIBLE FIRST THING EACH SCHOOL DAY - Keith Hunt]
The year was 1947 and I was a senior in college. An ominous telephone call came one afternoon from my parents, who sounded anxious and upset. Mom quickly told me that my dad had developed an angry-looking sore on his right hand. They had watched it for some time and realized it was not healing. Finally they went to see a dermatologist and had just returned from his office. My father, age 46, was diagnosed as having carcinoma, squamous cell—a type of skin cancer that is curable in the early stages but dangerous if not treated. The doctor seemed concerned. He told them that a microscopic examination of tissue revealed a "very mature" cell. He couldn't tell whether or not it had metastasized (spread to other parts of the body), but he could not rule out that possibility.
It was decided to treat the cancer with radiation over a period of six weeks. At the end of that time, the healing process should begin. If the lesion was controllable locally, it would disappear entirely in about five more weeks. But if it did not heal, more serious problems were ahead. The specter of amputation was raised. My father was an artist, and the thought of losing his right arm (or his life) alarmed the entire family. We began praying for him.
Four weeks after completing the radiation treatments, the sore was still much the same. No sign of healing had occurred. Tension mounted as we continued to get discouraging medical reports. (I'm sure the disease would be less challenging today than in the fifties, but the episode was extremely distressing at that time.) My father's physician began contemplating the next step. Dad went ton our denominational leaders and requested that brief service occurred two days before the end the fifth week, at which point the dermatologist had indicated a further decision would have to be made. Exactly two days later, the sore healed, over. It never returned.
This is but one example of dramatic answers to prayer that I witnessed during my childhood and youth. Illustrations from that era could fill this book, quite literally, because we were a family that believed in prayer. So many stories come to mind.
I remember an occasion when my father had given his entire paycheck to a pastor whose children needed shoes and warm clothes. Dad was a soft touch for anyone with a financial problem. Inevitably, we ran out of money a few days later—and went straight to our knees. I can still hear my father praying after he had gathered his little family around.
He said, "Now Lord, You said if we would honor You in our good times that You would be faithful to us in times of need. And as You know, we could use a little help to get us through."
I tell you honestly that a check for $1,200 came in the mail the day following that prayer. My faith grew by leaps and bounds during those formative years, because I saw God respondimg to family that depended upon Him. It happened hundreds of times.
My wife, Shirley, did not grow up in a Christian home, and her experiences were very different from mine. Her father was an alcoholic who abused his family and spoke of God only when cursing. Shirley's mother, while not a Christian, was a wonderful woman who loved her two children. She recognized her need for assistance in raising her kids and began sending them to a neighborhood evangelical church when they were very young. There, Shirley learned about Jesus— and she learned to pray.
This little girl, trapped in poverty and the heartache of alcoholism, began talking to the Lord about her family. Especially after her parents were divorced, she asked Him to grant two requests. First, she prayed for a Christian stepfather who would love and provide for them. Second, Shirley knew she wanted to have a godly home and family someday. She began asking the Lord for a Christian husband when the time came to marry. It touches my heart today to think about that child, alone on her knees in her bedroom, talking to God about her need. I was out there somewhere oblivious of her existence, but the Lord had me in a long-term training program. By the time I met this pretty young lady in college, I did not have to be pushed.
That story beautifully illustrates the efficacy of prayer. The great God of the universe, with all His majesty and power, was not too busy to hear the small voice of a child in need. He not only brought the two of us together, but He sent a fine, never-married man to be Shirley's new stepfather. Both her parents are Christians today and are serving the Lord in their community.
When Shirley and I met and fell in love, therefore, we each brought a strong faith to the relationship. From those early days, we determined that Jesus Christ would have the preeminent place in our lives. I remember the two of us sitting in my junky old Mercury before we were married and expressing a prayer of dedication for our future home. We asked the Lord to direct our paths, and especially, to put His blessing on any children He might loan to us. Then I pledged to Shirley that I would spend the rest of my life trying to provide the kind of happiness and security she had missed as a child. This was the foundation on which our little family was built.
Now, after more than three decades together, we have seen God's consistent faithfulness in response to our prayers. I don't know where we would be without this source of strength and sustenance. In fact, the most significant development of our marriage has been the growth and maturation of Shirley's prayer life. She has become what is sometimes called a "prayer warrior," maintaining a constant communion with the Lord. It is fitting, given this spiritual fervor, that she has been appointed chairman of the National Day of Prayer.
[LET ME SAY HERE, AND EXPLAIN THE WAY OF THE LORD. THE DOBSONS AND SHIRLEY WERE IN A RUN-OF-THE-MILL SO TO SPEAK, PROTESTANT CHURCH. THE PROTESTANT CHURCHES ARE NOT A PART OF THE TRUE CHURCH OF GOD; THEY ARE AS DECEIVED IN THEOLOGY AS MUCH AS THEIR MOTHER, BABYLON MYSTERY RELIGION - THE PAPACY! THE PROTESTANT CHURCHES ARE THE DAUGHTERS OF THEIR MOTHER, THEY ALL HAVE SOME POINTS OF THEOLOGY DECEPTION FROM THEIR MOTHER CHURCH. BUT EVERYONE IS SPIRITUALLY BLINDED UNTIL GOD REMOVES THAT BLINDNESS, CALLS THEM TO BE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE CHOSEN, ONE OF THE VERY ELECT. ALL THIS I PROVE IN OTHER STUDIES. IT IS GOD WHO IS RESPONSIBLE TO TAKE BLINDNESS AWAY. IF HE DOES NOT, HE CERTAINLY HAS THE RIGHT TO ANSWER THE PRAYERS OF “CHRISTIANS” NO MATTER WHAT DENOMINATION THEY ARE IN. ANSWERING PRAYERS IS MAINLY TO DO WITH THIS PHYSICAL LIFE. MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS, WELL ABOUT 1.5 BILLION CHRISTIANS ARE IN THEOLOGICAL DECEPTION; THEY MAY VERY WELL BE SINCERE, BUT THEOLOGICALLY THEY ARE SINCERELY WRONG! AS SHOCKING AS THAT MAY SOUND TO MOST. JESUS SAID BEFORE HE CAME AGAIN, MANY NOT THE FEW, BUT MANY, WOULD COME SAYING HE THE CHRIST WAS THE CHRIST, BUT WOULD DECEIVE MANY, NOT THE FEW, BUT THE MANY! AND SO IT IS. GOD HAS LEFT THE 99.9 PERCENT OF “CHRISTIANS” IN THEOLOGICAL BLINDNESS! SO HENCE THE LORD CAN ANSWER THEIR PRAYERS AS HE SEES FIT. SO THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT “CHRISTIANS” AT LARGE, HAVE PRAYERS ANSWERED IN THE AFFIRMATIVE, AS DOBSON IS HERE EXPLAINING - Keith Hunt]
Now let me wade into deeper water. Although hundreds of Scriptures tell us that God hears and answers prayer, it is important to acknowledge what most of us have already observed—that He does not do everything we ask in the manner that we would desire. Years may pass before we see the fulfillment of His purposes. There are other occasions when He says "no," or "wait." And let's be honest, there are times when He says nothing at all. As we have indicated, many believers become confused and wounded in those instances, and their faith begins to wobble.
[THAT IS BECAUSE PASTORS HAVE NOT TAUGHT THEM THE ENTIRE WORD OF GOD; MOST “CHURCH” PEOPLE DO VERY LITTLE DEEP READING AND SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES, OR THEY WOULD UNDERSTAND GOD IS NOT SOME SERVANT JUST WAITING FOR ORDERS TO DO EVERYONE’S BUSINESS OF THE DAY - Keith Hunt]
This disillusionment was the theme of a classic novel by W. Somerset Maugham entitled Of Human Bondage. The principal character was a young man with a club foot who had hated his deformity from earliest childhood. When he discovered Christianity, he thought he had found a quick way to get rid of it. He began praying that God would heal his foot and make him normal. As it became apparent that his repeated requests would not be granted, he felt his faith had been invalidated, and he lost interest in God. I wonder how many times that unfortunate drama has been reenacted through the centuries.
Every long-term believer has had the experience of praying for something that God appeared not to grant. As a case in point, let's return to the story of my father's skin cancer. Although he was healed of this disease, both he and my mother are in heaven today. [NO THEY ARE NOT….. DEATH FOR A CHRISTIAN IS NOT GOING TO HEAVEN - SEE MY STUDIES UNDER “DEATH, LIFE AND RESURRECTION” - Keith Hunt]. Our prayers regarding subsequent illnesses did not keep them earthbound when the Lord called them across the Great Divide. If that is troubling to the reader, remember that Lazarus, whom Jesus miraculously raised from the dead, later died again. Every person Jesus healed eventually passed away. It is said that time heals all wounds. That may be true, but it also wounds all heals.
Does this seem contradictory to the affirmation of prayer I have expressed? It shouldn't! Consider for a moment the kind of world it would be if God did exactly what we demanded in every instance. First, believers would outlive nonbelievers by centuries. The rest of the human family would be trapped in decaying bodies, but Christians and their children would live in an idyllic world set apart. They would never have toothaches or kidney stones or myopic vision. All of their businesses would succeed and their homes would be beautiful, etc. The entire basis for the God-man relationship would be undermined. People would seek a friendship with Him in order to gain the fringe benefits, rather than responding with a heart of repentance and love. Indeed, the most greedy among us would be the first to be drawn to the benefits of the Christian life. Most importantly, these evidences of God's awesome power would eliminate the need for faith. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:24, "Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?" Our faith, then, is anchored not in signs and wonders but in the sovereign God of the universe. He will not "perform" on cue to impress us. Jesus condemned those who wanted Him to put His miracles on display, saying, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it" (Matthew 12:39)- He wants us to accept Him in the absence of proof. Jesus told Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). We serve this Lord not because He dances to our tune, but because we trust His preeminence in our lives. Ultimately, He must be—He will be—the determiner of what is in our best interest. We can't see the future. We don't know His plan. We perceive only the small picture, and not even that very clearly. Given this limitation, it seems incredibly arrogant to tell God what to do—rather than making our needs known and then yielding to His divine purposes. Jesus Himself modeled that attitude of submission for us. He asked His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane that the "cup" of humiliation and death be removed from Him. He knew fully what the crucifixion meant. The emotional pressure was so intense that great drops of blood penetrated His skin. Medically speaking, that phenomenon is called hematidrosis, and it occurs only in persons undergoing the most severe distress. Yet even in the midst of that agony, Jesus prayed, "Yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).
There are many other biblical examples of this yielding to divine authority. The Apostle Paul asked the Lord on three separate occasions to remove the irritant he
called "a thorn in the flesh." Three times the answer was no. Instead, he was told, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness"
(2 Corinthians 12:9).
You'll also remember the story of Moses and his encounter with the voice of God in the burning bush (Exodus 3-4). The Lord instructed him to confront Pharaoh and demand that the children of Israel be released from Egyptian captivity. When Moses asked why the children of Israel should believe God had sent him, the Lord armed him with miraculous powers. He turned his staff into a snake and back again into a staff. Then He caused Moses' hand to become leprous and made it healthy again. Finally, God told him that if they would not believe those two signs, he should take water from the Nile River and pour it on the ground and it would turn into blood. These startling feats were designed to reveal the power of God and to authenticate Moses as His representative.
But then a curious thing happened. Moses complained that he lacked eloquence for the task—"I am slow of speech and tongue" (Exodus 4:10)—yet the Lord did not offer to heal that infirmity. Doesn't that seem strange? He had just performed uncanny miracles that enabled Moses to carry out His mission. Why wouldn't He eliminate this troublesome speech impediment? He certainly had the power to do so. Wouldn't it have been logical for the Lord to have said, "You're going to need a strong voice to lead a million people through the wilderness. Henceforth, you will speak with authority!" No, that isn't the way Jehovah responded. First, He became angry at Moses for using this source of weakness as an excuse. Then He designated Moses' brother, to serve as his mouthpiece. Why didn't He just "do the job right" and get rid of the problem? We don't know. As I've said before, there are times when God doesn't make sense.
We can assume that the Lord didn't heal Moses' “slowness of tongue" because Moses, like Paul, was learning that his strength was made perfect in weakness. He was chosen for leadership not because he was a miracle-worker or a superman but because the Lord determined to use his inadequacies and shortcomings.
Thank God, I was accepted under the same provision. Each of us is riddled with flaws and shortcomings that the Lord could overcome with a whisper. Instead, He often lets us struggle with our weaknesses to reveal His own power.
That understanding comes straight out of Scripture: Paul wrote, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels [clay pots], that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us" (2 Corinthians 4:7, KJV).
It seems to me that every believer has at least one problem with his "clay pot" that is especially troublesome—a nagging irritant or disease—that the Lord steadfastly refuses to remove. I call them "if onlys."
Look around at your Christian friends. Talk to them about their circumstances. Most will admit to having an "if only" that keeps life from being ideal. If only I didn't have diabetes, or deafness, or sinus problems (or any combination of medical problems). If only my husband and I were not infertile. If only I hadn't gotten into that bad business relationship, or a lawsuit, or a loveless marriage. If only we didn't have a sick child, or a retarded son or daughter, or a troublesome mother-in-law. If only we weren't so strapped financially. If only I hadn't been sexually abused as a child. If only ... if only God would clear up this one difficulty for me. Yet the problems persist. Regarding those difficulties, the Lord quietly repeats what He said to Paul nearly 2,000 years ago, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
If I may paraphrase my understanding of that Scripture, He says to us, "Everyone is asked to endure some things that bring discomfort, pain, or sorrow. This is yours. Accept it. Carry it. I will give you the grace to endure it." Thus, life goes on in a state of relative imperfection.
Elisabeth Elliot proposed another explanation for the troubles of mankind in a short essay called "Nevertheless, We Must Run Aground." This is what she wrote:
Have you ever put heart and soul into something, prayed over it, worked at it with a good heart because you believed it to be what God wanted, and finally seen it "run aground?"
The story of Paul's voyage as a prisoner across the Adriatic Sea tells how an angel stood beside him and told him not to be afraid (in spite of winds of hurricane force), for God would spare his life and the lives of all with him on board ship. Paul cheered his guards and fellow-passengers with that word, but added, "Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island" (Acts 27:26).
It would seem that the God who promises to spare all hands might have "done the job right," the ship as well, and spared them the ignominy of having to make it to land on the flotsam and jetsam that was left. The fact is He did not, nor does He always spare us.
Heaven is not here, it's There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.
[YES WE’LL FIND IT IN THE RESURRECTION AND ETERNITY, NOT BEFORE - Keith Hunt]
"Running aground," then, is not "the end of the world." But it helps to "Lead us not into temptation "—the temptation complacently to settle for visible things.1
There is practical wisdom in these words. All believers will "run aground" at some point in their lives, and they (we) must learn not to panic when the ship grinds
1 "The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter," September/October 1988.
into a sandbar! That poise under pressure can be learned to some degree. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:12, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." It is an acquired serenity.
Unfortunately, there are a few highly visible Christian ministers who confuse people by teaching them there is no need for perseverance and self-control. Why should we practice endurance when health and wealth are available to everyone? By making just the right noises to God, we can tap into His power for trouble-free living. They would transform the King of the Universe into a subservient magician, or a high powered errand boy, who has bound Himself irrevocably to the whims and wishes of us mere mortals. It is a dangerous misrepresentation of Scripture with far-reaching implications for the uninitiated.
[YES WE HAVE THE MINISTERS OF THE “PHYSICAL RICHES GOSPEL” WHERE IT’S TAUGHT GOD WANTS YOU TO BE PHYSICALLY BLESSED WITH LOTS OF MONEY, NO MORTGAGE, A FANCY MORE EXPENSIVE CAR, HOLIDAYS HERE AND THERE - A GET RICH LIFE BY CONCENTRATION ON SOME VERSES, WHILE IGNORING OTHERS…. AS SOME HAVE SAID, “YOU CAN MAKE THE BIBLE SAY ANYTHING YOU WANT IT TO SAY.” MANY OF THESE “PHYSICAL RICHES” GOSPEL PREACHERS, LIVE IN MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR MANSIONS, HAVE EXPENSIVE CARS, EVEN THEIR OWN JET AIRPLANES, AND THEY TEACH THEIR TUNNEL VISION BIBLE FOLLOWERS THEY ALSO CAN HAVE ALL THIS. THEY GET SUCKED IN BECAUSE THEY DO NOT READ ALL THE BIBLE - AND LIKE GAMBLERS THEY ARE HOOKED ON GETTING PHYSICALLY RICH, AFTER A WHILE IT IS LIKE A DRUG AND THEY ARE CONSTANTLY BEING FED THE RICHES DRUG, AFTER A WHILE THEY ARE AN ADDICT - Keith Hunt]
I heard a radio minister say on a recent broadcast, "you have a need, it will be met the moment you ask for help from the Lord. Even as you begin to pray, it is already accomplished. God will solve that problem, whether it is sickness, unemployment, the need for money—whatever. If you have faith, there's no question that God will solve it for you."
It's true that the Lord often does intervene dramatically in the lives of those in difficulty. Scripture could not be more clear about that fact. But He will be the determiner of how He responds. No one has the right to make that decision for Him!
After hearing the radio minister make his sweeping assertion, I went directly to my office at Focus on the Family to attend a staff devotional. I shared what I had heard on the air, to which one of my colleagues said, "It's too bad my dad doesn't know that." His elderly father has suffered a debilitating stroke and now sits partially paralyzed in a wheelchair. This good man, a retired minister who gave his life to Christian service, is going through a tough time. He spends much of his day looking out the window at a golf course on which he will never again walk. It is unconscionable to tell such hurting people that they simply lack the faith to be good as new.
[IT IS ABOMINABLE THAT SUCH PEOPLE TEACH THIS TO OTHERS BY ONLY QUOTING CERTAIN VERSES, OR GIVING ONLY SOME EXAMPLES IN THE BIBLE TO BOLSTER THEIR “HEALTH AND WEALTH” GOSPEL. THEN IT IS ALSO UP TO THE INDIVIDUAL TO READ THE ENTIRE BIBLE FOR THEMSELVES, NOTING ALL THINGS THE BIBLE TEACHES - SO THE INDIV- IDUAL PERSON HAS THEIR PART TO DO…..TO READ AND LIVE BY EVERY WORD OF GOD AS JESUS SAID WE SHOULD (MAT. 4:4) - Keith Hunt]
I witnessed another example of this distortion last summer when I visited the United Kingdom. I had gone there to write the early chapters of this book and was deeply enmeshed in the difficult issues we are discussing. Almost on cue, I learned that an American "faith healer" was coming to conduct a highly publicized crusade in London. The media gave this man much wider coverage than he would have received at home, calling him "one of the most popular televangelists in the States." (Actually, he is not very well known here.) Clearly, the British press was convinced that a phony was coming to rip off the gullible in the name of the Lord. That is, indeed, the way it looked.
I will not judge the motives of this televangelist because I am not personally acquainted with him. Perhaps he believes he is doing the Lord's work. But there were aspects of his London crusade that were disturbing. His ad in the tabloids depicted a pair of dark glasses like those worn by the blind. They were cracked. It also featured a white cane, broken in the middle. The caption read, "Some will 'see' miracles for the first time!" Get it? I'm sure thousands of handicapped men, women, and children in London understood the message. It implied an end to suffering was available for those attending the "miracle service." It's not that God can't heal the blind—or any disease or deformity. He can and He does. But to my knowledge, He never performs those miracles en masse. Let's put it this way: I have never seen any minister fulfill a promise of universal healing to all comers. Oh, there are some who would have us believe they have a magic touch. But there is reason for skepticism. Furthermore, there's often a disturbing hysteria or a circus atmosphere in the healing services. Such mass-produced miracles affront the sovereignty of God and make a sham of His holy worship.
I'm also convinced that each advocate of universal health and wealth has a little secret down deep in his soul. He has had the experience of praying for a desperately ill family member or a close friend who, nevertheless, did not survive. It has happened to every pastor in every denomination. But this secret is rarely admitted amidst the glitz and exuberance of a "miracle service." Do you agree that there is something not quite honest about concealing those instances when God replies, "It is not my will"?
[YES I AGREE INDEED! - Keith Hunt]
Returning to the televangelist who came to London, the British media was even more skeptical when the crusade ended. They hired physicians to interview and examine blind and sick people coming out of the "miracle" services. The results were very embarrassing to committed Christians in that great city. It effectively alienated some nonbelievers who might otherwise have been open to the message of the gospel.
There is another reason I am concerned about the teaching of universal health and prosperity. It establishes a level of expectations which will eventually wound and weaken unstable Christians. Someone said, "The man who expects nothing will never be disappointed." By contrast, a person who really believes that all trouble will be swept away for the followers of Christ is left with no logical explanation when God fails to come through, sooner or later an illness, a business collapse, an accident, or some other misfortune will leave him in dismay.
What is he to believe when he discovers "life as it is" turns out to be very different than "life as it is supposed to be"? He stumbles toward one of several conclusions, all of which are potentially damaging to his faith: (1) God is dead, irrelevant, bored, or uninvolved in the affairs of man; (2) God is angry at me for some sin I've committed; (3) God is whimsical, untrustworthy, unfair or sinister; or (4) God ignored me because I didn't pray enough or display enough faith.
All four of these alternatives serve to isolate that individual from God at precisely the moment when his spiritual need is the greatest. I believe it is a ploy of Satan to undermine the faith of the vulnerable. And it begins with a theological distortion that promises a stress-free life and a God who always does what He is told. (Note: Some unpleasant experiences in life do result from sinful behavior. We'll discuss those circumstances in chapter 9).
Those who would give glib answers to the awesome question of human suffering have probably not spent much time thinking about it. They certainly have not labored, as I have, in a major children's medical center. There, little kids go through terrifying experiences every day of the week. Some are born in pain and know nothing else. Some have mothers who are cocaine or heroin addicts and come into the world in desperate need of a "fix." For days, the perinatal ward echoes with their pitiful crying. Older children are brought in who have been humiliated, battered and burned by their abusing parents.
Others are like the little brown-eyed girl I remember so vividly in the oncology unit of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. She was a four-year-old charmer whose parents had thought she was normal and healthy. But the previous day, her mother noticed a protrusion on her side when she was bathing the child. It turned out to be a large malignant tumor. She had only a few months to live. I left her room with a lump in my throat and a longing to go home and hug my healthy boy and girl.
Perhaps you have noticed that life seems blatantly unfair. It pampers some of us and devastates others.
Perhaps this is the most disturbing question posed to the thoughtful Christian. How can we explain such an apparent injustice? How can an infinitely loving and just God permit some people to experience lifelong tragedy while others seem to enjoy every good and perfect gift? And what can we conclude when the unfortunate individual is a child? Well, I know the answer offered by theologians—that sickness and death came into the world as a result of sin, and we are all under sentence of death. It comes to some sooner than others. I understand and accept that explanation, even though it leaves us with a troubled spirit.
[TRUE THE WRONG WAYS OF LIVING MULTIPLY DOWN THROUGH GENERATIONS…. WE EAT WRONG, WE FARM WRONG, WE POLLUTE, WE DESTROY THINGS THEN ADD A FEW VITAMINS AND CALL IT “HEALTHY” FOR YOU. WE AS WESTERN WORLD PEOPLE HAVE GREATLY DEGENERATED OVER TIME. WE HAVE DEGENERATED A LOT EVEN FROM OUR GRANDFATHERS TIME. IN PHYSICAL LIFE WE IN THE WEST DO SO MANY THINGS WE SHOULD NOT BE DOING, AND DO NOT MANY THINGS WE SHOULD BE DOING; IT EVENTUALLY CAN GO DEEP ENOUGH INTO ARE VERY NDA, AND CHILDREN ARE BORN WITH MANY PHYSICAL PROBLEMS - AND THE WHEEL KEEPS TURNING - GOD TOLD ANCIENT ISRAEL IT WOULD BE THIS WAY IF THEY DID NOT OBEY HIS LAWS AND COMMANDMENTS - Keith Hunt]
Admittedly, this explanation of suffering is not very satisfying as we look into the face of a child in pain. It is, however, the best we can do. I've indicated that we can explore the mind of God only so far, and then, inevitably, we run out of brain power. His thoughts are not only unknown to us—they are largely unknowable. He has never made Himself accountable to man, nor will He ever. He will not be cross-examined or interrogated. Nowhere in the Bible does God speak defensively or seek our approval on His actions. He simply says, "Trust me." In His lengthy interchange with Job, not once did Jehovah apologize or attempt to explain the hardship that befell His servant. Still, we are told specifically that God is loving, kind, merciful, long-suffering, gracious, fatherly, patient, etc. So what are we going to do with the discomfort of unanswered questions? It all comes down to the choices posed by Dr. Jim Conway. Either we continue to believe in God's goodness and postpone our questions until we see Him face to face—or we will descend into bitterness and anger for the suffering around us. There are no other alternatives. Inevitably, you see, we circle back to the necessity of faith.
Well, let me end with this: You'll remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego reported in the third chapter of Daniel. They incurred the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar by refusing to fall down and worship the idol he had set up. He made it clear that if they again refused to obey his command, they would be thrown into a "burning fiery furnace." Their response to that murderous threat is one of the most inspiring passages in Scripture:
The God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Daniel 3:17-18)
What courage these men showed in the very face of death! What conviction! What faith! "God can save us," they said, "but if not, we'll serve Him anyway." That is the biblical prescription in its simplest terms. He can heal the disease that grips my body—but if not, my faith will survive. He can correct my child's handicap, or save my bankrupt business, or bring my son home safely from the war. But if not, I will continue trusting in Him. That's what Job meant when he said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (13:15, NKJV). It is what Paul meant when he said, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5, NKJV). In verse 8 Paul describes that mind-set: "He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross." That utter abandonment to the sovereign will of the Lord is what He wants of His people, even when circumstances seem to swirl out of control. He can rescue—but if not . . . !
To the reader out there who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or the parent whose child is in danger, or the recently widowed woman who faces life alone—let me offer a final word of encouragement. Remember when Nebuchadnezzar looked into the blazing furnace and saw four men instead of three, and the fourth looked like the "Son of God"? It is comforting to note that only Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego came out of the fire. That other Man, whom we believe to have been the Christ, remained there to comfort and protect you and me when we go through our fiery trials.
He will never let you down—but He won't let you off, either!
TO BE CONTINUED
OVERALL MOST CHRISTIANS DO NOT HAVE A SMOOTH RIDE IN THIS PHYSICAL LIFE; FOR MOST THERE WILL BE BUMPS ALONE THE WAY; THERE WILL BE THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN AND THE LOWS OF THE VALLEY. MOST CHRISTIANS WILL GO THROUGH SOME TRIALS, TESTS, AND TROUBLES OF VARIOUS TYPES. GOD ONLY GIVES A SMOOTH, LITTLE TO NO PROBLEMS, BUT TO A VERY FEW. ONE THING HE HAS PROMISED TO HIS CHILDREN IS THAT HE WILL NEVER TRY YOU ABOVE WHAT YOU ARE ABLE TO BEAR…. YOU WALK IN TRUST AND FAITH, AND YOU WILL SEE THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL; BUT REMEMBER THE LIGHT FOR SOME, LIKE PAUL, PETER, JAMES, AND OTHERS WAS THE LIGHT OF DEATH. WE ARE IN A SPIRITUAL FIGHT, SATAN IS GOING ABOUT TRYING TO DEVOR ALL HE CAN. WE MUST BE AS PAUL….. “I HAVE FOUGHT A GOOD FIGHT; I HAVE RUN A GOOD RACE…..A CROWN OF GORY WAITS FOR ME.”