Does God Consciously Do Things?

(Karsten Friske) #1

Last night, I had a very productive discussion with two skeptics. One of them asked a very sincere question at the end of our talk.

He asked this specific question because of a story I told earlier in our conversation. A member of the church community group I’m part of had undergone a terrible PTSD inducing robbery at his workplace. The next day he came to our church community group, the lady sitting beside him happened to be a grief counselor! I used this to show how God can put people in our lives to do His will and bring healing.

The skeptic used that story to ask the following questions, “so if God is responsible for that ‘blessing’ is he also equally responsible for when something bad happens to a saved person or non-believer? Essentially, does God consciously do things in this world? Like finding people jobs, or helping them on the side of the road if their car battery dies. Things along that nature.”

I told him that I definitely did not believe in the prosperity Gospel (I wondered if that was his real question) but I did not answer him definitively. I wanted to polish my response before answering him. I’m wondering if you all have any thoughts!

God bless you all,
Karsten

7 Likes
(Barbara Schumann) #2

Here’s a verse that seems to pertain to the question about God being responsible for the blessing as well as for something bad that happens. Isaiah 45:7 “I form the light and create darkness. I bring prosperity and create disaster. I the Lord do all these things.”

3 Likes
(SeanO) #3

@blschumann7 Isaiah 45:7 is a bit of a tricky verse :slight_smile: I believe the correct rendering says that God creates darkness. The point of the verse in context is that God is in control of the cycle of deliverance and judgment - ruler of the nations. Alternatively, it may mean that just as God created day and night He also can do all things - including rule the nations. This chapter is about God bringing Cyrus to subdue nations. It is not saying that God creates evil, but that God brings calamity on those who do evil.

Isaiah 45:7 - I am the one who forms light
and creates darkness;
the one who brings about peace
and creates calamity.
I am the Lord, who accomplishes all these things.

On the surface v. 7a appears to describe God’s sovereign control over the cycle of day and night, but the following statement suggests that “light” and “darkness” symbolize “deliverance” and “judgment.”

3 Likes
(SeanO) #4

@KFriske The question I am hearing is, “If we give credit to God for the good things that happen to us why do we not blame God for the bad things?” Of course, as Christians, we believe that God is still at work in the world. The Bible portrays God as our Shepherd and as our Father. We are encouraged to pray to Him for daily bread and for provision in the Lord’s Prayer. If God provides for the birds, how much more for us?

But Christians still suffer from disease, persecution and hardship. Life is still filled with many trials. And, what is more, Jesus told us to expect that we would suffer in this world (John 16:33).

One question you might consider asking your friend is, “Based on the life of Jesus and His apostles, what do you think God’s goal is for humanity?”

The point in asking the question would be to try and start a conversation about the fact that the Christian’s rest is not on this earth - it is in the New Heavens and New Earth, where there will be no more crying or tears or pain. But in this life, we are in a war zone - a fallen world. We are in the ‘already, but not yet’ of the Kingdom of God. So yes, we express gratitude for every good thing that God gives, but we also recognize that this world is not the prize. If God provides a good career or a stable life, we thank Him. But if we suffer in this life, we know that He is with us in the midst of the suffering. This world is not our home.

A few additional thoughts that might aid in the conversation:

  • Christ is our reward - not comfort or ease on this earth
  • God is not the author of evil
  • God can use even the bad things to bring about good - think of Joseph and the famine in Egypt / Romans 8:28
  • God may have reasons for allowing suffering of which we are unaware
  • God expects us to grow in wisdom and there are still consequences for making unwise choices in this world

Hope that at least provides some good talking points as you converse with your friends. May Christ open their eyes to His love and grace :slight_smile:

8 Likes
(Mashinkah Bahston) #5

Good answer. God is sovereign. God is good. He loves everyone.

2 Likes
(Sieglinde) #6

I have been pondering your question. It is a difficult question to answer especially in trying to help a skeptic reconcile a good God in the midst of suffering. A question we all struggle with.
First, I refer to the book of Job. Satan has to get permission from God to inflict pain on Job. This troubles many people including Christians and skeptics alike. It is very difficult to reconcile a loving God who “allows” Satan to inflict pain on us. However, it is important to note that it wasn’t God who devised the evil ways of testing Job but rather it was Satan. God is good, evil is the opposite of good. It is frustrating to all of us that Job does not really get an answer as to why God allowed this affliction. Instead we read a list of questions from God to Job that in our human understanding seems condescending. But the outcome of the testing brings about ultimate good. God countered the evil (even though He allowed it) that Satan poured out on Job with good. And in the end, Job praises God and comes away knowing Him better. Even still, it is a tough read yet packed full of wisdom. Every time I read it I come away with something new. Which makes me want to revisit it.
It’s also important to note that pain is not always a test that is allowed by God. Mostly it is because we chose to play God in the beginning. We have “free will” to do so. We were not meant to “be” God so in our attempt to “play” God we have been deceived by evil and we have brought on many evils that cause suffering. This affects all of us and everything around us. Those who choose good, the well intended, children, animals, the earth and those who choose bad etc.
For those who have children, there are times when you have to allow them to experience the consequences of their disobedience and bad choices. This is painful for a parent because you would prefer always rescuing them. But how would we ever learn? And how would we ever begin to understand a God who we are separated from on this earth? How will we know if we can trust Him? Testing is for learning. It’s difficult for any of us.
Your friends tragedy happened because we are in a fallen world and you were right to tell him that God provided help. God did not devise the evil, He counteracted it by providing someone who could aid him in healing from this tragedy. It is a loving act and shows Gods intimate concern for His children
And yes I believe God can also pour out blessings but not for “prosperity” reasons. It is for helping each other in our hour of need, personally and globally.
This may or may not be helpful but I thank you for the question as it got me thinking *:thinking:

4 Likes
(Mark Gilliam) #7

This is a very difficult topic and our very limited human minds can’t possibly grasp the whole magnificence of God and how He governs His creation.

I think the bible clearly teaches the following:

Only God is eternal.

God created everything out of nothing and sustains everything by His power.

Nothing, then, is outside of His power and control. To say otherwise would defeat the first two arguments. If there was something that God did not create then there must be another eternal being that created. The existence of another eternal being is contrary to biblical revelation. I believe it is contrary to reality as well.

God cannot sin as He is perfect and everything He does then is perfect.

He is conscious and all He does are conscious acts. Psalm 121:4

Only man and the fallen angels sin and both man and fallen angels, and not God, are responsible for their sins.

Man acts according to his nature and God governs according to His. Man does wrong and God may or may not overrule. God does all things for our good.

God is unlimited in His ability to govern and rule over the affairs of man. He need not do anything supernatural to accomplish His purposes because of the multitude of means He has.

How this all works together is mysterious and I don’t think we will ever fully understand it. But I don’t think we will care. We will so happy to see Him and love Him and be called Sons and Daughters of the Eternal One.

3 Likes
(Timothy Loraditch) #8

@sig It’s so nice to find another fan of the Bookof Job. It’s my favorite. It is important to state that the reason for Job’s afliction was spiritual warfare between God and Satan. As you said Job never understood this, but Satan says that Job worships God because God protects him and God proved, with Job’s faithfullness, that Job trusted Him because He is God alone. I think that is really exciting! But I wasn’t volenteering:rofl:

3 Likes
(Timothy Loraditch) #9

@KFriske I would agree with @SeanO it does seem the question is does God bring blessings as well as difficulties. and @sig di address this with the book of Job.

I would add that the difficulty for both Christians and non-believers is that we sometimes think that this world is all we have. Once we die we can not influence anything in the future. We see this as a loss so anything that hinders our goals, security, our family is viewed as bad.

God’s arm reaches beyond the grave. He knows the end from the beginning. His plans for our lives are complex and created with full knowledge of the schemes of the enemy. Therefore; our lives will not be easy every day, but He is always with us. Our job is to trust Him no matter what happens. This is really hard for the non-believer who thinks God is love means he will make sure only good things (ie things we like) happen to us. God never promised this.

2 Likes
(Karsten Friske) #10

Thank you for your response, Sean! I am always blessed and challenged by your responses. The line where you said, “If God provides a good career or a stable life, we thank Him. But if we suffer in this life, we know that He is with us in the midst of the suffering. This world is not our home” gives me a good foundation in which to respond to my skeptic friend. Thank you for the reminder that this world is ultimately not our home!

2 Likes
(Karsten Friske) #11

Thank you for taking time to ponder this question! I am currently doing a cover-to-cover reading of the Bible and will be hitting Job soon, so I am very thankful for the advanced insight into that book. If I could summarize your thinking, it appears to me you’re saying, “God does not devise evil, but ultimately counteracts it with good. Whether we witness that ‘good’ in this life or not, since one of God’s characteristics is love, even the ‘bad’ things that we experience in this life have a positive lesson to be learned by us or someone else.” At least, that’s what I got out of thinking through your comments. Good stuff!

3 Likes
(Sieglinde) #12

Thank you for pointing that out:slightly_smiling_face: I stated in another post that I used to hate the book of Job. I would read the intro and get angry. I picked it up years later determined to read through. I’m glad I did because there is so much in it. I remember reading that chronologically it was written around the middle of the book of Genesis??? I’ve got myself wanting to read it again.

1 Like
(Lakshmi Mehta) #13

@KFriske, thanks for starting a great thread! I appreciate the responses you have already received. Here are a few more thoughts, similar to the ones earlier but with a different angle, that may be helpful in your conversation.

There are many verses in the Bible that suggest that God is very much involved consciously with people in this world. Prayer is based on this very hope.

Ps 18:25-27 25 With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; 26 With the pure You will show Yourself pure; And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. 27 For You will save the humble people, But will bring down haughty looks.

A testimony of how God can orchestrate things in our life

I am not sure how God’s sovereign purposes work through the free-will of man. He somehow does seem to orchestrate things in our life, without which fulfillment of biblical prophecy is moot. I can share a story from my husband’s life when he first came to faith in Christ. He was a brand-new Christian and was relocating to another state. He packed up his car with all that he needed to move and started driving on the interstate. Suddenly in the middle of no-where, his car engine broke down and started to fume! Instead of panic or frustration, he felt incredible peace. Immediately, an employee of the same institution where he worked drove by, recognized him and stopped, and offered to move him as this person was heading in the same direction. This experience played a big role in confirming that the Holy Spirit was watching over him and guiding him as a new believer. The fact that he felt a sense of peace before the help arrived was what led to his conviction of God’s hand in the process. In my own life too, I have had instances where I knew God was averting me from unwise decisions by sending similar messages from different people even when they had no knowledge of my specific situation. So, somehow God consciously speaks to people and lets them fulfill His purposes.

Phil 2:13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Proverbs 16:9 9 A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.

Does man even know what is good and evil?

While it is fair to ask if God is responsible for both the good and evil, what we tend to forget is our basis for judging what is evil. Only God knows what is truly good for man and we sometimes mistake his goodness for evil with our limited perspective. For instance: Death of a righteous person in God’s timing can actually be good if it ushers in eternal life. Also, death entering the world because of sin can actually be considered a blessing, so we don’t go on to live eternally in sin.

Is 57:1-2 : The righteous perishes, And no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, While no one considers That the righteous is taken away from evil. 2 He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, Each one walking in his uprightness.

We don’t always know God’s reasons for judgment (Hosea 10:12-14, Hosea 4:6) and His ways of disciplining us and perfecting our character to accomplish His calling for our lives (Rom 5:3). We as humans tend to see it as evil. However, almost every story of a chosen servant of God in the Bible has both God’s favor and trials – Noah, Moses, Joseph, David, Mary etc.

If God is the one responsible for evil then whom does He promise to protect us from?

Anytime we see evil, for lack of knowledge we as humans are quick to blame God. What I find unique about Christianity is it identifies the real culprit behind all evil, promises strength to fight all evil by demonstrating it on the Cross and also promises an eternity with no evil. We should not be surprised if the darts of the evil one hit us if we are not taking cover in God’s shelter.

Ps 18:30 As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

So, to answer your question, yes God is involved consciously in our lives bringing about good that sometimes can be perceived as evil. Believers have the favor of the Lord as they walk in obedience (Is 66:2, Ps 5:12) and are disciplined when they are not (Heb12:6). We suffer in this world as we live in a fallen world under the influence of the evil one, from which only God can rescue us.

God bless you as well!

1 Like