As Christians, we often hear of the word faith and every Christian knows that faith is an integral part of Christianity. In Hebrews 11:6 it is written that without faith, it is impossible to please God. So clearly, we know that faith is important.
Yet, when we look at the world around us, we see pain and suffering. We see people exploiting each other, we see disasters such as drought, plague, and tsunami, and inevitably the questions come. Why does God allow such things in this world if He truly is an all-powerful God of love? The philosophers argue that either He is not all-powerful or He is not all-good or in fact there’s no God at all.
One of the remarkable things about the Bible is the honesty within it and Jeremiah asked the very same sort of questions in Jeremiah 12:1, and Habakkuk in Habakkuk 1:2-4. These were people with extraordinary faith, chosen by God to carry His word to His people.
All of us want a superheroic faith, one that can withstand the storms of this world. But not many people who seriously think about these sorts of questions – and think of it we must because we were placed in this world, not by accident but purposefully – can remain untouched. This is the tough question that was handled by Pr Mayumi in a recent sermon shared by her at JCM Agape Network.
She shared that Japan is no stranger to hardship. She related that many Christians in Japan lost their faith after the Tohoku earthquake, and while many were opening themselves up to Christianity, this did not mean anything by itself because there were many others as well who were opening themselves up to other belief systems in their search for answers.
We do not always understand the things that happen in this world. All we can have is the faith that God’s ways are higher than ours and that He knows everything and is planning an ultimate good from a perspective of eternity. A definitive instance in the Bible that looks at this difficult issue is that of the life of Job.
Job was a Godly man, exemplary for his faith and for his heart of honour towards God. It was precisely for this reason that the devil picked him out for a wager with God; he thought that Job was faithful to God because of his blessings. God knew Job’s heart and so agreed on the condition that the man’s body was not harmed. In fact, after losing all his possessions and his children, Job could say ‘The Lord gave and He took away, nevertheless blessed is His name.’
Yet even he finally caved in after even more intense subjection of trials by the devil, and the questions started pouring in. His friend tried to be wiser than he actually was, thought he was defending God’s justice, accused Job of secret sins and subjected him to even more pain and confusion. Some of the people in this story tried to seek out their own answers for what was happening to Job but none of them had all the facts and none of them gave any thought to the battle in the spiritual realm.
And when God finally appeared at the end, He merely refocused the central issue from the cause of suffering to Job’s response. The real issue at stake was Job’s faith; whether he would continue to trust God even when everything went wrong and he finally understood. The story of Job decisively refutes the theory that suffering always comes as a result of sin and nowhere does it suggest that God lacks power or goodness.
But while not all pain and suffering is a direct result of sin in a person’s life, many of these are consequences of wrong choices due to lack of knowledge and wisdom. And none of us are exempt. We all live in the same world and we all face the same pain and challenges. We all see the same suffering around us. And one day we will all get sick and die.
‘So sometimes we wonder why didn’t God create us to automatically always do the right things? But we forget that God had given us total freedom, including the freedom of faith and to follow in His ways, or to go the other way,’ shared Pr Mayumi. ‘He didn’t create us as programmes. He loved us enough to give us the ability to make choices. He gave Adam and Eve complete freedom in the Garden of Eden. They didn’t choose the freedom of faith in God. They chose the freedom of disobedience and evil.’
‘God had given mankind the world to govern. Imagine if every one of us chose to have faith in Him and that He knows the best for us, and we obey Him. There will be no sin in this world. We have a responsibility. We cannot blame God. We need to repent and act. People of God like Abraham and Moses, the superheroes of faith, they did not just nonchalantly just say do God’s will, they struggled like all of us, but they tried their best to seek God and find their answers in Him, to live out a life of faith,’ she shared.
While we remember the covenant God had with Abraham, Abraham also had to live a life of faith in those promises. It was not a passive thing. When God told him to move on to the new land, he had to give up everything and obey God. Abraham had also to go through a test of sacrifice with his son Isaac. But when it was time for him to pass on, he had the covenant with him. He left something behind for his children and those who were going to follow him.
‘God promises but we need to work, we have to act. That’s why Christians become so hardworking,’ conveyed Pr Mayumi. ‘God gave us so many promises, so thinking on those promises, we have to work hard.’ We know Noah was saved from the flood, but he had to work hard on the ark, even enduring mockery. ‘When God give us His promises, He gives us the strength to work on it, but we need to do the deed.’ God blesses us, but He wants us to do according to His will. ‘This is the kind of attitude and faith that can change the world and Abraham became a great leader.’
Today we have the power of the Holy Spirit to help us be the kind of people, the superhero of faith, Abraham was. We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. With everything that is going on in this world, these days people are feeling more and more powerless, but we can start to look up to Him and we can start to walk. ‘Let God fill you and work in you. It is easy to complain about things but when we decide to protest against the evils in this world, we do so with the power of the Holy Spirit. If there were no darkness in this world, we would never know the depths of Christ’s love for us on the cross.’
‘People can argue whether God exists or not but that is beside the point. We all have one life to live. If we believe that God exist and we are wrong, we lose nothing, and if we are right, we gain everything. On the other hand, if we don’t believe that God exists and we believe that everything that He has said are just stories, and we find that we are wrong we lose so much and if we are right we gain nothing. So we need to tell our loved ones; be wise. And we ourselves, God has given us freedom. We need to choose wisely. There are so many people with real struggles in this world, health problems, financial problems.. Do we have a superheroic faith?’
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