It is time to look back in order to move forward. I am about to turn a corner and to begin sharing a different kind of story with you. But before I make that switch, let’s take stock of what we have covered so far. In what I have done thus far I feel I have covered a number of (y)our questions. I began by soliciting your questions and adding them to mine, in order to lead us through an attempt to address our questions and puzzlement when faced with situations similar to what these six families are facing.
I began in the second Nugget in the series gathering our collective questions and addressing the matters which trouble us. I listed the kinds of clichéd answers that Christians and others like to give us as to why things are as they are. Such comments or advice are of little help. In fact they lead only to condemnation. In Puzzling Paradox Nugget 3 I investigated what we secretly want God to do to answer all our prayers. But I drew that approach to the only obvious conclusion that it would only lead us into chaos. Indeed what we want is to live in a blissful existence with no problems. But having a god who would pander to our every whim and desire would make what we face now even worse. No, a god made in our own image is not our solution.
Well, it must be all God’s fault then (Puzzling Paradox 4), God lets bad things happen to good people, the innocent die and the wicked go unpunished. Do we really want God to bring justice immediately? Who would survive? We are all guilty of crossing the line and not living up to God’s standard in living by His principles. We cry for justice by judging our neighbour while excusing ourselves. We are the authors of our own demise. Stop blaming God for what insurance companies call “acts of God” and start realising the human problem is the fact that all of us are tarred with sin and wrong motives. God has established the immutable laws by which the universe operates, include moral laws.
Then in the 5th Puzzling Paradox Nugget I looked at the two opposing views – Name It & Claim It and the need for addressing the matter of Suffering. With Chika’s permission I used her perspective which comes from the Name it and Claim it camp, that life is always good and we should not give in to negative words. “Don’t look to the symptoms, my pain and anguish, just keep speaking positive thoughts.” That is the power of positive thinking approach of Norman Vincent Peale. Rather we need a reality check. There is pain and suffering in the world. Jesus told us it would be so but we can overcome in Him not by human mantras. I then spent two Nuggets dissecting the difference between the Acts of God and the Ways of God. We have a tendency to look superficially at the things that happen and attribute disasters to God’s hand and on other occasions to circumstances being evidence of the hand of God. But life is not so simple. When we do that we come up with superficial explanations which lead us to the conclusion that maybe God isn’t all powerful. Maybe there are some things He can’t do. Most of us are looking for the kind of advice given by Job’s friends. We are looking for formulas. If we do step one, step two and the step three then God will answer in the way we expect. That kind of thinking needs a reality check too. It doesn’t account for the anomalies in the life. It doesn’t help us to see God works in ways that are far different from our ways. The formulaic solution leaves us with only superficial solutions.
In Puzzling Paradox Nugget 8 I looked at prayer. The privilege that it is ours and the reality of the corporate prayers of the saints being powerful. I told you of the fellow at our home group who had no one else in his wider family to pray for his nephew. He was blown away by the fact that the group would pray for his nephew when no one else but him had the inclination. Yet the corporate prayers of the saints, despite the where-two-or-three-are-gathered promises are not enough to guarantee immunity from suffering. In the last Nugget I challenged the False Preachers to undertake a reality check. The preacher and his leaders of the church which condemned our friends and insisted they withdraw from leadership and subsequently from the church because they were not walking close to God. I would hope they have since woken up to see the irrationality of their thinking. I hope they can now see they too prayed for the couple. Well we trust they did it with sincerity. The elders were no doubt called to pray for them. Consequently they are just as involved and implicated as the couple themselves. It is far too easy to lay the blame at the feet of the one sick.
I think so often God leaves us with a dilemma, a paradox. Jennifer Rothschild who is blind yet through whom God accomplishes much, although she remains blind while influential in others being healed. Sherry Chapman, our intercessor, through whom God did highly significant things for us in response to her prayers. You can read about it in the Ian stories and in Gem 198 among others. Yet Sherry was house bound with environmental illness syndrome which supposedly well-meaning-Christians alleged was just her lack of faith. Sherry has asked me over and over why it is she can accomplish so much through intercession yet remain in her sick state. We have prayed for her, others have prayed for her yet God continues to use her in the midst of her weakness to accomplish great things for the kingdom. There is a sensitivity in her to the Spirit of God which I believe comes through her weakness. Isn’t that what Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 12 and 13?
There are times when good, strong, faithful Christians become sick or even lose their lives despite the fact they are filled with faith and without sin. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Using the notion of sin as being the reason some are healed and others are not is nonsensical. The five missionaries who lost their lives to the Auca (Waorani) Indians (Nugget PP 9) were incredibly faithful yet died. All five of them stood by the belief that they should not use weapons on the Waorani people. They themselves were in the right relationship with Christ and were ready for heaven; the Waorani were not, so killing them was not an option. You can’t get more faithful to God’s principles than that. Nor for the second pastor who was willing to go with his family in obedience to the village where the first pastor had been killed (Nugget PP 10). It is without doubt that God calls some to martyrdom for the sake of the Gospel.
Perhaps as some suggest, God can’t look after His own. It seems God doesn’t protect all of His children. Therefore does the miraculous even exist. Perhaps it is all just coincidence. My response to that kind of thinking was to offer you Dominggus Kenjam’s Story (Nugget PP 11). I have come across many miracle stories during my life as a Christian. I told such stories on Radio Rhema here in New Zealand for three years. Tania and I have many miracle stories of our own, some of which I have shared in Gem and Nuggets. Most of which I have collected on this website via hotlinks and made available under the Stories tab on the website menu above. But none are as dramatic and as personally verifiable to me as Domi’s story. There is no doubt in my mind of God’s ability to do the impossible having witnessed the truth of Dom’t resurrection from the dead. As a result I can pray with faith and assurance, not doubting or waivering, fully convinced that God can do all that He promised. (See Gem 163) Yet there are times when God answers my prayers and times when He doesn’t, despite the fact I fully trust Him to do what He promised.
I have picked apart for you the background to Isaiah 53:5 in Puzzling Paradox Nuggets 14 & 15 to show you that the healing of our physical bodies is not ours by right as a result of the atonement. Rather what is in focus in that verse is the healing of our sin sickness. God is more interested in getting you to heaven with your sins forgiven than He is in getting your body to heaven, whole, healed and without scars. In fact He tells us it is better for you to lose an eye, in fact pluck it out yourself, rather than lose out on salvation because you refuse to deal with your inner life. Let’s get things in the right balance and perspective people. It may have puzzled you to see in the comparative table I gave you in PP 14 related to Isaiah 53:5 to see the CEV missed the comparison for the Fourth Exchange. A couple of readers commented on and / or questioned that. The translators didn’t miss it at all. It is a hidden feature of the Hebrew word Shalom. Oh yes shalom means peace but it means so much more. In actuality shalom refers to the totality of well-being in body, soul and spirit. The translators for the CEV have cleverly combined the sense of “peace” from shalom with “completely well” to give the translation the true sense of significance of what is happening here. Thus the fourth exchange has been omitted; covered in fact with the translation “completely well”. Touché! Completely well in body, soul and spirit – that which was the aim of God in the atonement and which IS actually ours by way of the atonement as was God’s intention in the first place. Now you are getting it.
Having summarized all of the above I am now ready to make another turn in the tale and address the need for a theology of suffering and finally move toward highlighting the number of times the Bible mentions bearing the cross of Christ, the fellowship of his sufferings, sharing in his sufferings, suffering as he suffered. As the head, so too the body. Look how many times God worked in the past and still works in the present with human frailty. It appears to be His number one modus operandi. False preachers, teachers and apostles are you blind?
I wish to turn in this Nugget series to a different kind of story now after which I will outline the principles behind such stories. I promise you I am building up toward one of God’s paradoxes that astounds me. I will close this series by unveiling the ultimate paradox. And yes, I have not forgotten my initial leading question: “Why does God heal an eighty plus year old woman and allow a 20 year old young man to die?”
I am simply working my way toward answering it. Getting all my ducks in a row as it were.
In the next Nugget we will begin a series of different stories moving us toward answering that initial leading question.