One of the questions I am often asked at present is ‘Why doesn’t God stop the terrorists?’ While there are no simple answers to this question, we need to remember that it is not God who has carried out these acts or even encouraged them. Indeed, Jesus taught “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Furthermore, the evils of every age will be brought to account. Of this we can be sure. In 2 Peter 3:5 we read: By the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless. In the flow of his Letter, Peter says that just as Noah’s flood occurred – and there is good historical evidence for this – God will bring about a final day of accounting. If God has brought judgement on his creation once, why shouldn’t he be capable of doing it again? Everyone of us has been put on notice.
If we believe this, our question becomes ‘When?’. We cry out with Psalm 13:1: How long, O Lord? Again, Peter helps us by saying, The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance (3:9).
We must not confuse God’s slowness with insensitivity, indifference, or slackness. He could, if he chose, burst in on the world right now. We mustn’t mistake his non-return for apathy. ‘No,’ says Peter, ‘He is just being patient, giving people time to repent’. Jesus himself indicated this when he implied that he would rather leave the ninety-nine on the hill in the wind and rain, to make sure that the one who is lost is safe. Our problem is that we feel the cold and the discomfort while we wait. In his goodness and mercy God is being patient.
Knowing God. To understand this about God is most important, for it impacts on our relationship with Him and our outlook on life.
It is one of the strengths of The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church that they identify and set out the substance of biblical teaching about the nature and work of God. For example, Article I speaks of God’s ‘infinite power, wisdom and goodness’. Unlike the gods of ancient Greece or Rome, or other religions, the Bible teaches us that God is infinitely wise and good in the way he exercises his power.
Understanding this is essential for the way we live. We see it for example, in the life of Joseph. His complete trust in God’s power and goodness prevented him from being resentful and bitter in the face of the appalling treatment he received from his brothers. Unlike most of us, Joseph was ready to forgive because he understood that the final word lay, not with his brothers, but with God. He therefore knew that God was working out a bigger and better purpose through his brothers’ actions: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive,…” (Genesis 50:20).
While most who read this are not living in fear of their lives, we all need to ask what our faith means to us. How dependent are we on our physical security for our spiritual well-being? We will only know true courage, perseverance, and even joy when we know deep in our hearts that an all-powerful, good, wise and merciful God is in control. He is patiently and persistently working out his ultimate good purposes for his people.