AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
Suppose you try to take a vacation to a lush tropical island, but on the way there, your plane gets hijacked and forced to land in a country that’s in the middle of a war. Everywhere you look there are soldiers with huge guns and angry looks on their faces. Bombs are going off in the distance. People are rushing around looking scared. Now and then a military tank comes driving down the street. You’re scared out of your wits, but your friend who was on the plane with you says he knows someone who can help you both out. You go with your friend to a creepy looking bar that’s filled with nervous looking people and lots of soldiers. Your friend leads you to a corner table way in the back where one soldier is sitting at a table with a drink. When your friend calls out a greeting, the soldier stands up. He towers a whole foot over you, he’s broad framed, and he’s so muscular that he looks like he could kill you with one punch. The dark expression on his face gives you the feeling that the man is dangerously unstable. He’s wearing a military uniform and he’s loaded with ammunition. Your heart is racing with fear as your friend introduces you. “This is X. He’s the best guy ever. We’ll be safe with him.” X? What kind of a name is that? You can feel X’s dark eyes drilling into you while you give your friend an alarmed look that he doesn’t seem to notice. Then your friend tells you to stay with X while he goes back to the landing strip to find your luggage. Before you can answer, your friend dashes out of the bar, and you’re left alone with X. “Don’t worry, you can trust me,” X growls. Are you feeling convinced?
What causes you to feel uncomfortable with X in this scenario? Well, for starters, he’s got all the power. In the presence of his artillery and his hulking size, you feel vulnerable and scared. In the second place, you’re on his turf. He knows his way around and he can speak the local language, while you know nothing. But the biggest factor that’s contributing to your fear is that you don’t know the man. You have no history together, and your first impression of him has been extremely negative.
Unlike the fictitious X, God is not just another human being. God is an alien Being who is so powerful that He could speak us all out of existence with a single word. God knows everything about everything, while we know nothing. God hides Himself from our eyes, and then says He is responsible for everything that happens in this world which He has put us down in. Well, there are a lot of really scary and disturbing things going on in this world. So how are we supposed to feel comfortable with a God who thinks all of this is a good idea? God could have done anything, yet He chose to do all of this. That’s not a very reassuring thought. Adding to our angst is the fact that this God we can’t see tells us that He’s only going to be keeping us here on a temporary basis. He plans to kill us off, one by one, and take us to some totally other dimension where life will be radically different. How different exactly? He won’t say. What will we do there? He won’t say. God’s description of Heaven is frustratingly vague, and yet He assures us that we’ll really like it there. But how can we really know that? And by the way, what about that other place called Hell which this God of ours has made? The word is that a whole lot of people end up there. How do we know for sure that He won’t take us there instead after He kills us? He says we don’t need to worry about that. But why don’t we need to worry about it? Because He says we can trust Him to keep His promise to us about salvation. Right. We saw what He did to all of those Old Covenant Jews who were trying to count on their promise of salvation. Yahweh told them to never worship any God but Him. Then He said if they didn’t start worshiping Jesus as well, their salvation would be revoked. That’s not very reassuring.
When we take a hard look at the records God has preserved for us about His past interactions with humans, a very disturbing truth comes to light. This God is totally wild. He changes His mind—A LOT. He gives commands and says that anyone who breaks them must be killed. Then He orders people to break them, and says if they don’t He’ll throw them into Hell. That’s not very reassuring. He uses “forever” language when He really doesn’t mean forever at all. He intentionally withholds information. He intentionally leads the people who are trying to trust Him into crisis situations. Hm. And this is the Guy who assures us that there won’t be any pain or strife or sorrow on the other side? How do we know we can really count on this? After all, don’t the angels live in Heaven? It sounds like something went pretty south with their situation. Didn’t they sin even though they lived in the place that is supposed to be so problem free? Because now a bunch of them are going to Hell, and that sure doesn’t sound very heavenly to us. We’d like more information about what happened to the angels, but God won’t give us any. He tells us that we need to keep our focus on Him and not worry about what’s going on between Him and other kinds of creatures. He tells us that we can trust Him about Heaven being good. Well, some of us aren’t convinced.
You won’t find any peace about the future by analyzing God’s available options. God is infinite. God is sovereign. God can do anything God wants to do and no one can stop Him. Your confidence in God is only going to come through your personal relationship with Him. The more time you clock with Him, the more storms you go through with Him, the more you learn to see and appreciate the loving kindness He is showing you every day of your life, the safer you will feel in His care. It is getting to know God on a personal level that results in rock solid confidence in Him. Is He really good? Can He be counted on? Can He be trusted? Ask those who really know Him and they will say, “Absolutely yes.” Ask those who don’t know Him and you’ll hear just the opposite. Do you want to put your trust in truth or in the uninformed opinions of others? God IS good, but He is the only One who can convince you of that. Merely contemplating His abilities is going to lead you to conclude that He is a terrifyingly complex Being with infinite options at His disposal. Of course He has infinite options, He is God. And you can’t get an accurate picture of Him by isolating one of His traits from all the others and trying to define Him by that one trait. “God is wrath”, “God is love”, “God is wild”—these are all true statements, yet they are incomplete truths. God is many things at the same time, and to really know Him, you need to embrace all of Him at once. You can’t ignore certain aspects of Him and then think you’ll end up feeling safe and secure. As long as we’re intentionally ignoring the aspects of God that we don’t like—such as His wrath and sovereignty—the best we’ll end up with is a mere illusion of trust and security. To develop real trust in God—the kind of trust that frees you up from fears about what He may or may not do—you need to get to know God yourself.
In the fictitious scenario we invented, it was your friend’s past experience with X that made him feel so relaxed in X’s intimidating presence. Your friend saw the same weapons, strength, and grim expression that you did, but he was not afraid because he knew the man behind these things. When you know God Himself, you will stop being intimidated by His vast power and unpredictability. Yes, God can do anything He wants whenever He wants. When we make “God would never” statements, we are underscoring concepts that God has emphasized to us, but we’re not saying technical truths. No created thing can really declare what God would never do. No one can put limits on the One who created them from nothing. God can do anything. He is limitless. But you’ll never find any other Being who is more trustworthy, faithful, and good. It is the intimate knowledge of God that causes us to feel totally safe and secure in His care, and He is the only One who can give us that knowledge. If we want Him to share that knowledge with us, we must approach Him on His terms, and that means pursuing Him with our whole hearts and inviting Him to fully dominate us through permanent surrender. God considers the knowledge of Him to be a priceless treasure and He doesn’t give it away for free. Developing an intimate relationship with God will cost you everything you have, but you will end up with soul treasures that mere words cannot begin to describe. Is He worth the cost? Absolutely. But very few of us will ever come to know this because most of us will refuse to put everything on the line in our walks with God. If we hold back with God, He will hold back with us, and we will never know what awesome peace is available to us. But that peace does exist. It is very possible to reach a point where you feel absolutely safe, totally relaxed, and joyfully satisfied in the Presence of an Almighty Creator who has the power to uncreate, destroy, or banish you to Hell at any moment. Will you ever get there yourself? That’s for you to decide. God makes it clear what His terms are. It’s on you to decide whether you will rise to meet them or not.
The Faithfulness of God