God’s people will sometimes have doubts about their faith, for there is much in life that threatens to undermine our confidence in a God who is good. How can a good God allow the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus, not least amongst the poor?
The only sort of faith that is immune to the silent question, ‘How can a good God allow these things’ is a blind faith, a faith that closes its mind to reality. Real faith has to confront the evil and suffering in the world.
Paul the Apostle in his Letter to the Colossians, speaks of humanity being estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds. For many centuries the western world recognized the existence of God, but in recent decades it has arbitrarily dismissed him together with the notions of heaven and hell, good and evil.
Indeed, back in 2011 Jarvis Cocker in an interview with Decca Aitkenhead commented: “I think basically becoming famous has taken the place of going to heaven in modern society, hasn’t it? That’s the place where your dreams will come true. It’s an act of faith now; they think that’s going to sort things out.”
That said, there are some who define themselves as atheist but who say that only Christianity could have changed society from the brutalities of the Roman Empire to a culture where life has been respected. William Wilberforce, for example, because of his Christian faith, was a leader in the movement that legislated against slavery in Britain in 1833.
But I have to say that the step of faith that says God does not exist, not only ignores the evidence and experience of history it does not provide the solution to the ills of the world. A solution that is outside human invention is needed, because as history shows, no human solution has provided or can provide a just and lasting peace.
Let’s think about this. God could have written the universe off as a fiasco. He could have scrapped it and gone back to the drawing board. If the world was going to go this wrong why did he make it in the first place? That would have been an admission of defeat on God’s part. It would have meant that in some measure he couldn’t allow evil because he knew he couldn’t beat it.
The Bible tells us that from the very beginning of time, God was determined to defeat it. He decided on a much more costly strategy. He wouldn’t abandon this evil and ungrateful world that had rejected him. Rather, he would rescue it. Paul tells us here that when Jesus died on the cross he laid the foundation for a just and lasting peace.
Think of it this way. Suppose there is someone very close to you— a wife or husband, a brother or sister or parent – who profoundly hurts you. They trample over your feelings, ignore you, and have no respect for you. In spite of all your kindness they reject you. But now you see them in deep trouble. If you don’t step in to help them, it will be the end for them. What do you do? You could tell them to go to hell.
But supposing when you consult your feelings, you find within your heart a love that wants to see them restored to your family. What do you do then? You have to find the resources within yourself to absorb all the pain, the injury, and the anger, that boils up within you at the very sight of them, so that you can stretch out your hand and help them.
What we see happening on the cross of Jesus Christ is God, finding a way whereby he can absorb within himself the pain, the injury and the anger, that is rightly within him, when he looks at people like you and me who have hurt him and sinned against him.
And, Paul tells us, we know he succeeded, for the growing community of God’s people is the evidence of this. Because of Jesus’ sacrificial death these people have been reconciled with God and have peace with him. They now stand in his sight holy and unstained before him. John Newton who wrote Amazing Grace could say: I once was lost, but now am found…
Furthermore, the reconciliation Jesus has achieved has implications far beyond men and women. It will embrace the whole of the cosmos. From the time of the events recorded in Genesis 3, the universe has been under judgement. Romans 8:20f tells us that the creation was subjected to futility.
Because of Jesus’ death a day will come when God’s people will experience the joy of standing in the presence of Jesus Christ in all his glory. Indeed, we will find our true place in his creation as the new heaven and the new earth of truth and justice, perfection and peace are revealed.
So, when we have times of doubt, it’s useful to ask ourselves afresh whether any information has come to light showing that Jesus’ death and resurrection didn’t actually happen. For if Jesus did die and was raised to life we have the assurance that he is true, and that his promises will one day be perfectly fulfilled. Jesus Christ has provided the solution for a troubled world.
The big question we all need to ask is whether we will turn to him, freely acknowledging him as our Lord and Savior. Furthermore, will we admit that he alone has the authority to present repentant fallen men and women before a holy God, without blemish, freed from all accusation?