Board index Assorted Bible Questions

Assorted and general Bible questions that really don't fit any of the other categories

Why should I stick with my faith?

Postby Nic J » Wed Apr 05, 2017 11:07 am

Hi Mr. Jim. I found out about the 3rd choice from a friend and she told me to check it out and so I did. I am a high school student. I grew up in the faith and now I am questioning it. Why should I stick with my faith ? I know God is real, but right now he doesn't feel real at all ? What do I do?
Nic J

Re: Why should I stick with my faith?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Apr 05, 2017 11:23 am

I’ll answer from a couple of different angles, and then you can feel free to ask me to clarify what I said, comment back, or ask more questions.

First of all, you asked why you should stick with your faith. You would only want to stick with your faith if it’s true. None of us wants to believe in things that are just fairy tales, myth, or fiction. We want to believe in what is really the case, what is really true, and in what really works. So the most basic answer to your question is that you should stick with your faith because Christianity is true, God really exists, there is an afterlife, and it all matters. You said you grew up in the faith and now are questioning it, so before I just prattle on and on about stuff that doesn’t matter to you, it would make more sense if you told me what it is about Christianity that you are questioning. Then we can go from there to talk about the specific things you’re wondering about.

Then you said you know God is real, but right now he doesn’t feel real at all. This is where we can’t go by our feelings. Though feelings are important to us, they aren’t the decider of what is true. Some days I don’t particularly feel in love with my wife, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love her or our marriage isn’t real. It’s probably the same with you that some days you feel closer to your friends and other days you feel more distance. That’s just the flow of life. It’s just that feelings go up and down, and I get that. Sometimes God feels very close, and sometimes very far away. Some days I’m confident about my faith, and other days things happen that make me ask lots of questions. That’s OK, but I can’t judge what is true by how I feel. I have to judge what is true by what exists and is real, not necessarily by how I feel about it. Again, it would help to know more about this. What are the thoughts going through your mind, or what experiences are causing you to doubt what you used to take for truth?

Last, you want to know what to do about it. I think we should keep talking. Let me know where your questions are and what’s going on, and we can talk about them. Hopefully that will help you. And based on what we talk about, I can maybe make further suggestions about what you could do.

I’m glad you wrote. It’s better to talk about this stuff than just to walk away (if you’re questioning your faith). If you want to keep talking, just write back.
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Re: Why should I stick with my faith?

Postby Nic J » Thu Apr 06, 2017 9:18 am

I am questioning all of it. Everything I have believed my whole life. I feel so guilty for saying that. God has always been there in my life, a big part of it. Recently there have been things and I'm like, "Why would my God let that happen?" It doesn't mean these things have happened to me—just recently events I have heard. But yes, some in my life, too. This probably sounds so dumb to you. How do you know what you believe is true? You personally. I don't know how ask this question the right way.

Yes, I have been told our feelings are our worst leaders. Prayers not being answered the way I wanted them too to be. Umm, this going to sound dumb...a leader I looked up too not being who they say they are. Probably the most important one is me .. I haven't been reading my Bible and praying, so that's part of the problem most likely. This makes perfect sense in my mind. I don't know how to put in words. Thank you for the time you are putting in to talk this out with me .
Nic J

Re: Why should I stick with my faith?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Apr 06, 2017 9:47 am

You have a couple of different questions going on. I’ll try to answer them briefly, because I don’t want to write just pages and pages and you go, like, “Ugh, I can’t read all that!” But that means you’ll probably have some more questions because I didn’t explain it all as thoroughly as I could have.

So let’s start with “Why does God let stuff like that (bad stuff) happen?” It’s a good question, but if we push these thoughts in all directions we find out it’s really the only way to do things. I’ll try to keep it short. If God stopped all bad things from happening, he would have to start controlling our bodies so that we’d never trip and fall, never have accidents, never walk in front of a car, never, well, anything. He would have to control us like robots. But then gravity would stop working right, cause-and-effect would be meaningless, and science basically wouldn’t exist. You could never count on or predict anything, and we’d all just be robots. But sometimes we could still cause pain and hurt with our words and emotions, so God would have to control those, too. Now we’d REALLY be robots. Our words wouldn’t mean anything, and neither would anything we said or felt, because we’d be forced to say and feel those things. In other words, we really wouldn’t be human any more. We wouldn’t be able to think, reasoning would be non-existent, there would be no such thing as science (as I said), no such thing as emotions or feelings. This would not be a good world.

God would also have to stop all natural tragedies. If I lost my footing and slipped off the edge of a walking trail, I wouldn’t fall (or if I did, I wouldn’t get hurt). If I lost control of my bike and hit a tree, no injury! A tornado would never touch down where houses were. Tidal waves would be stopped before they ever hit land.

OK, so you can see how silly all this is. So, you might say, if God can’t stop ALL of it, why doesn’t he at least stop SOME of it? Now we’ll be complaining, “Hey, God stopped it for THAT person, how come he didn’t stop it for ME? God is a jerk, and I hate him.” Wow, we can’t go there either.

Instead, God pretty much lets nature take its course, he lets people make decisions, and he lets things happen. He doesn’t stop them very much. It’s not because he doesn’t care or he’s a jerk, but because if he didn’t he would steal away what life really is and he would steal away our humanity. Instead, he redeems suffering. He helps us through it. He teaches us stuff during it. He gives us strength and courage to endure. He teaches us persistence. And lots of times he even blesses us because of it. Yeah, we have to endure the hurts and griefs, but it’s really a better way to do things.

I’d like to hear your reactions to these ideas.

Second, how do I know what I believe is true? It’s the same way we know anything is true. Does it correspond to reality? Is it consistent with how the world works? Does it make sense out of what we see and know? Christianity meets these tests, and many others. You want to know about me personally. Why do I believe? Why am I a Christian? How do I know it’s true?

1. I’ve studied the Bible and I have become convinced it’s not only true, but divine.
2. I have studied the case for the resurrection, and I am convinced it was a historical event.
3. I have experienced God in my life.
4. My life has been changed by God’s presence in it, and I am seen the lives of other people changed because God was in them.
5. Christianity gives my life meaning and purpose
6. I find the evidence for Christianity convincing. Christianity makes logical sense and is reasonable.
7. Christianity squares with the way the world is and the way people are. It tells an honest and accurate story of humanity and life.
8. Christianity makes sense with what I see of conscience, morality, beauty, and purpose.

Those are the things that come immediately to mind. I’m sure there are more if I thought longer about it.

Third: “Prayers not being answered the way I wanted them to be.” Prayer is a tricky thing. In my years as a Christian I have learned that prayer is not mostly about asking for things, but about having a relationship with God. I just talk to him far more than I ask for stuff. But I also know that when i ask for stuff, I’m not always the best judge of what’s going on and what would be best, so I’m cool with God answering when it’s appropriate and not answering when it’s not. I’m quite aware of how little I know about stuff.

Once I did a LONG study of the New Testament, looking for “What does God do in the world?” The list I ended up with was AMAZING. But hardly any of it was circumstantial stuff—what happens to me and to others. In the NT, what God is doing in the world is almost always inner things: strength, wisdom, courage, insight, etc. It was hardly ever outer stuff: health, getting jobs, physical protection, etc. I was fascinated. I can share more of that with you if you want, but I’m trying to keep this short (and at this point I don’t think I’m succeeding!! Too much to say.) I use prayer to talk to God like I would to my wife, just sharing my day and my feelings. We can talk about this more.

I’m sorry you were betrayed by a leader not being who they were pretending to be. It’s always upsetting. Unfortunately, it happens way too often. Don’t let people’s weakness make you think God is inadequate, though. It’s not really connected to say “This person was supposed to be godly and they weren’t, so maybe God isn’t real, either.” Those two things don’t go with each other.

I need to stop writing because you’re already tired of reading, but we can talk more, about this stuff or other stuff. I’m sure you have reactions to some of the things I wrote, and I’m sure you have more questions. So feel free. I’m here.
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Re: Why should I stick with my faith?

Postby Nic J » Fri Apr 07, 2017 8:31 am

So, what you seem to have just described is a perfect world and what it would be like? Or is "perfect" a totally different thing ? (Sorry. Adding to the list of questions.) Also, if so, didn't God intend for us to live in a perfect world? Also, what you described sounds awful; I wouldn't want to live life like that. But I don't like really the world we live in now. Going back to how we would live... no control over my own body, well that would stink! Yeah it does seem kind of silly, and stopping only some would put God in a pickle. So God gives us free will; okay, and that makes sense, so did God not have us live like that so he could teach us things like he wants to teach and direct us?

So, you have done all of this study of the bible and seen God in your own life and other people lives. I have seen God in my life and others, but I am still questioning him. Don't you ever question what you believe? Also, how do you come back from it, if you do question? What do you mean by "study"? Everyone's definition of that is different.

How do you know if God has answered a prayer? Is there a right way to pray? When I pray I just talk to him like a friend. My prayer journal is nothing special. So you said something from you studied is that God does more inner stuff with us then putter and one of them was physical ( health) ... doesn't God heal? The inner stuff makes sense. Don't worry about saying too much. I want to learn and know. I want my faith back to where it was.

So the leader thing—right, kinda upsets me because, like I said, I looked up to this person for awhile, and if this person was gonna not be a good leader or role model to look up to later on, then why were they a leader in the first place? I don't get it. God must have had a reason for it.
Nic J

Re: Why should I stick with my faith?

Postby jimwalton » Fri Apr 07, 2017 2:09 pm

So good to hear from you again, Nicole. I look forward to more. And I won’t be afraid to write too much, then, as long as it’s OK with you. I like to answer questions with all the information, but I don’t want to bury you with a wall of text that makes you stop reading it! : )

Ok, first point—about all the bad stuff that happens that we think, “God should just, like, stop this from happening.” As I said, he really can’t do that without making such a mess of things that he would basically ruin life. Well, we think, all that bad stuff ruins life. Except that God does stuff to redeem it: we learn from it, we get stronger, we understand that life stinks and there must be more than just this, etc. But I already covered this stuff. None of us really wants the world we live in now. Too much pain, too many tears, too many confusions and problems. That’s why the Bible tells us all is going to be changed and that someday all the garbage will be no more. We live for God, not for this world to make sense and bring us happiness, because the latter just isn’t going to happen.

You’re asking about a perfect world. We know that the world we live in has been messed up by sin. In the world to come, the Bible says God will create a new earth, and he will reconcile all things to himself, and so know things are going to be very different from what they are now. What that looks like is almost impossible to imagine, since it’s tough for us to think outside of the only realities we know. And the Bible doesn’t really tell us too much about the new world, except that it will be simply divine and we’ll love it and everything will work the way it’s supposed to work. So we hang on to that without knowing many more of the details.

“Didn’t God intend for us to live in a perfect world?” Eventually, yeah, but this world was never created to be that. This world, as beautiful and wonderful as it can be, is still a place of problems. Even back in Eden, things were going wrong (Gn. 2.5-6, the serpent, etc.).

Second point. Do I ever question God? Sure I do. So did lots of people in the Bible. The Psalms are full of David’s questioning God. Habakkuk (a short book, only 3 chapters), had hard questions for God. Job. Abraham in Genesis 18 and other places. The disciples. Questioning God is healthy, and can help us to learn. But we’re still supposed to question God from a vantage point of faith, not one of rejection. As for me, I went through an extremely difficult time in my life about 12 years ago, and almost threw away my faith. So many things were going wrong, and my life was awful, and I was in a deep depression, and I seriously questioned God. I came back from it by seeking God like crazy, never giving up, reading the Bible like a madman, praying a lot a lot, reading, and thinking. I was in that mess for about 3 years—SUCH a LONG time! But I kept seeking God, and eventually I pulled out of it. I learned so much, but I never want to go through that again. But that’s how I came back from it. I can explain that a little more thoroughly if you really want to hear. You should read my journals from those three years! HA!

What do I mean by study? I study in several different ways. I meditate on a text, like I get it in my head and think about it over and over for a long time. When I do that other thoughts come to my head about it. I also study with books. I do research so I learn more stuff about it from scholars, not just from my own head. I take notes in church, because I learn stuff there, too. And sometimes I read Christian books that help me understand things.

Third point. Prayer. How do I know if God has answered a prayer? That can be pretty tough to tell sometimes, but often it’s because I understand God so well and I know how he works that I come to recognize his hand in things. Sometimes it’s what I asked for, but a lot of times it’s what I wanted even though it’s not what I asked for. Other times there’s no answer and I try to learn from that (like when you don’t do well on a test, and you learn from that what you should have done differently). But as I said, I don’t often ask God for things in prayer. So he doesn’t particularly need to “answer.” It’s part of my relationship, not just a shopping list.

My prayer journals are nothing special, either. It’s just that sometimes I think better if I write the stuff down.

Doesn’t God heal? Sometimes, but not much. When you read the Old Testament, there were maybe only about 5 healings in the whole thing. 1300 years and only 5 healings. Then, of course, during Jesus there were healings every day. But after Jesus leaves the scene, there are maybe only about 10 more healings in the whole rest of the New Testament. So does God heal? Sometimes, but most of the time, no. He’s in the business of healing hearts and saving souls, not making our bodies healthy. We can learn a lot from being sick or handicapped.

Fourth point. Your leader’s failure: “God must have had a reason for it”? No. People do lots of things that God isn’t part of, and sin is clearly one of those. When people sin and mess up, and mess up other people, I wouldn’t say God had anything to do with that, let alone had a reason for it. Now, God can still redeem it (teach us things from it), but I wouldn’t say God had a reason for it. I think these things grieve God’s heart; they aren’t part of His plan.

Why were they a leader in the first place? Two possibilities: (1) God wanted them to be a leader, but they messed up God’s idea; or (2) God didn’t want them to be a leader, but they became a leader anyway and then messed up. In neither case would I claim God had planned it or that God had a reason for it.

Let’s keep talking. I’m enjoying this conversation, and I bet you have more questions.
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Re: Why should I stick with my faith?

Postby Nic J » Sat Apr 08, 2017 11:48 am

So that was God's plan all along? He knew Adam and eve would sin, and so he knew that our world wouldn't be perfect. He has/had the power to make a perfect world ... why didn't he? Was it really just teach us things? Which, I am not saying is bad, just confusing a little. God knew from the start how things would turn out—why did he decide to do them that way ?

During that time where you were questioning God, how you did you come to the point where you knew studying and reading and researching would give the answer if you were so close to throwing out your faith? How many times during that research period did you want to stop researching? By the end was everything clear?

Is there a right way to study the bible? Can you study it the wrong way?

What about people in the hospital who are so sick and about to die but all of a sudden get healed? Doesn't have something to do about? I just watched a video on premature baby who was born and had only 15% chance to live and he did? God had to be behind??

God is in control, right? So what people's actions have to be part of God's plan? I mean he has the plan book. He knows how the story is gonna end.

P.S. thank you for talking this out with me. It's nice to talk to someone who is not your parents and are going to give you different answers.
Nic J

Re: Why should I stick with my faith?

Postby jimwalton » Sat Apr 08, 2017 2:34 pm

The fun continues! Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Yes, it was God’s plan all along. Only God is uncreated, so God knew that anything he created would be less than God, and therefore wouldn’t be perfect and would be susceptible to error (sin). There’s really no way around that. Therefore, God DIDN’T have the power to make a perfect world. Only God is perfect, in that sense, just as Jesus said “There is none good except God” when he was talking to the rich young ruler. So God couldn’t create a perfect world, because perfection is only in Him. Instead, he created a world that was intensely complex and beautiful, a suitable place to be His temple and to reflect his glory. It’s also a place where it was possible to know Him and to be in relationship with Him, despite its susceptibility to problems. God did know from the start how things would turn out, and that’s why He built into the system a way to be redeemed from sin, a way to have relationship with Him, and a plan by which He would one day reconcile all things to Himself.

Second thing—that time period when I was questioning God so deeply and severely. Things got so bad that I was ready to renounce my faith and walk away from it, but I couldn’t get around the resurrection. It seemed to me that God wasn’t answering my prayers, I was doubting His love for me, I was doubting even the truth of what the Bible was teaching, but I couldn’t ditch the resurrection. The resurrection had historical evidences, and I knew it was true, and because the resurrection is true, then that has repercussions for all of the Bible, the existence of God, and the truth of Christianity. So I kept fighting, reading, screaming, praying, crying, learning, and wrestling. Because I knew the resurrection was true, I knew that studying, reading, and researching would eventually give me the answer.

How many times did I want to stop researching? Never, actually, except the night I almost killed myself. I was at a very low point, to say the least. Other than that, I never stopped researching. I knew that God was my only hope and the Bible was my only access to him.

“By the end was everything clear?” Coming into clarity was a very gradual process, not a sudden eureka moment like a light bulb going on. Little by little, I would say, God put me back together, I grew in my understanding, and came into clarity. Now, though, I can say with confidence, I live in that clarity. Wow. It’s amazing.

Third thing. "Is there a right way to study the Bible?” There are many many right ways, but yes, there are also wrong ways. There are things we have to be careful of that can lead us in the wrong direction:

1. Taking verses out of context—not studying in bigger chunks. Taking verses out of context can make us read them wrong.
2. Going to the Bible to find specific answers rather than letting the Bible teach us whatever it wants to. We must start with the Bible, not with us.
3. Reading the Bible in the context of our modern world. We have to understand what the author meant when he wrote it, as much as possible.

Those are 3 things that come to mind. There are probably more.

Fourth thing—healing. "What about people in the hospital who are so sick…but all of a sudden get healed? Doesn’t [God] have something to do [with] that?” Probably. I wasn’t suggesting God doesn’t heal, only that those things are few and far between, and we should let non-healings crush our faith. There are so many times He doesn’t, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t listening, doesn’t care, doesn’t love us, isn’t good, or isn’t strong enough. It means that God is mostly interested in our insides (our hearts and souls) than he is in physical healing. God is in the business of salvation and resurrection, not doctoring. But He can heal, and sometimes does. I have an example from our own lives. When our son was 19 he had a life-threatening stroke (in his brain stem, where all the life functions reside). He was at college at the time. The doctors told us they had done all they could, they didn’t know his prognosis, and we should come be by his side. He couldn’t even speak, but just garbled mumblings. We were devastated. The church met for prayer that night as we drove to where he was. They met again for prayer early in the morning. When our son woke up in the morning, he said to us, “Hi Mom, hi, Dad.” Within about a month he was back at college. God? Absolutely. There are lots of stories like this, but there are many many more where the person isn’t healed. We can’t let non-healings make us doubt our faith.

Fifth: “God is in control, right?” I know a lot of Christians say this, but I don’t buy it. Was God in control of Hitler when he slaughtered the Jews? No. God was not making Hitler do that, He was not in that process, He was not “in control.” The Bible says Satan is the prince of this world, and lots of things happen that are not God’s doing and that God is not involved in. I would say God is sovereign, but not that He is in control.

“So [don’t] people’s action have to be part of God’s plan?” In the Bible God’s plan is the plan of salvation. God doesn’t have all of our lives planned out for us as if we’re robots—the Bible never teaches that. We have free will, and make our own decisions, some of which please God and some of which grieve him. You’re right that he knows how the story is gonna end, but He doesn’t have ever inch of it planned. If that’s true, we’re just robots and free will is a cruel illusion.

Let’s talk more.
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Re: Why should I stick with my faith?

Postby Nic J » Sun Apr 09, 2017 7:41 am

So you are telling me that God doesn't have the power to have made a perfect world? Also that he is not control? What about that song "God is in control"? I don't know who it is by, but still ... also that he doesn't plan? Jeremiah 29:11? But he wants a relationship with me and loves me?how does this make sense? I have been taught this my whole life, now you're telling me it's wrong. This is gonna sound bad, but then why would continue with this faith? Why am I trusting in Him? I have a knot in my stomach.

How do you know if you are taking a verse out of context, and how do you know if a teacher is not taking a verse out of context? Where do I go from there? What do you mean we have to understand what the author meant when he wrote it? Like taking it literally, word for word? Aren't we supposed to go the Bible to find the answers?

So why does God heal some people and not others ?

It's nice to know that someone like you has struggled in their faith and is human. You have struggled with things and had to work to get through them. I think sometimes people who have studied the Bible act like they have everything together and everything in their life is good. I don't know why they do that, because it's not easy to approach them and talk them because I feel like I am going get judged. All I am saying it's real nice to talk a human and not feel like I am talking to a robot.
Nic J

Re: Why should I stick with my faith?

Postby jimwalton » Sun Apr 09, 2017 8:51 am

I’m glad you like talking to me. I like talking to you, too, because your questions are honest. You’re not just arguing to argue, or just putting on a false front.

First, let’s talk about God’s control. God’s power doesn’t mean he can do anything. You know that, right? There are lots of things that God can’t do. Mark 6.5 is an obvious example. What we mean when we say God is all-powerful is that he can do whatever is possible, and whatever he sets out to do. He has power over nature, power over the course of history (when he chooses to use it), power to change people (only when they let him), power over death and sin, power of salvation, and power over the spiritual realm. What it means is that God’s will is never frustrated. What he chooses to do, he is able to do. But that doesn’t mean he can do anything and everything, because he can’t.

He can’t do what is contradictory. He can’t make a square circle, a rock he can’t lift, or blue that is red. Those are just silly things, and absurd.
He can’t act contrary to his nature. He can’t lie, be unfaithful, be immoral, whatever. He just can’t.
He’s can’t fail to do what he has promised. What he chooses to do, he is able to do.
He can’t interfere with our free will. Our free will isn’t free if God can just change it on a whim, or even for a purpose.
He can’t change the past. He honors the linear nature of time for us.

And so we come to your question: does God have the power to have made a perfect world? Perfection belongs to God alone, and so anything created falls short of the glory of God, by definition. God is uncreated; everything else is less than that. I would say that after the time of probation (the era we call history), after God has revealed himself through his Word, his prophets, and His Son (in the Bible), after Jesus has come and died for our sins, and after humans have made their free-will choices about salvation, God is now set free to create a different kind of world than the first time around. Just as Jesus, in Mark 6.5, was only able to exercise his power in certain ways when faith was present, now God will be able to create a different kind of world than before (because only the faithful will still be “alive” (the unbelievers will have experienced even the second death).

And what about “God is in control”? Exactly what do you (or people) mean by that? Do you mean that God made Hitler do what he did? That’s not biblical. God doesn’t cause sin, and God doesn’t tempt people to sin(James 1.13). So when people sin, God didn’t do that, and God wasn’t in control of that. That’s not biblical. Those people acted on their own (James 1.14), not under God’s control. There are a lot of things that happen in the world that grieve God and go directly against what He said and wants. It doesn’t make any sense that God contradicts himself (Mark 3.24-25). God can’t oppose himself, and so he can’t possibly be in control of everything that happens. If God does control everything, then God is responsible for sin, God opposes himself, and God does a lot of things that contradict His nature. I can’t go with ANY of those choices, and so I can’t go with the common Christian thought of “God is in control.”

Instead, God is sovereign. He is the Lord of all. He has enemies who work against Him, but they will be conquered, without a doubt. The strongest enemy is death, but death has been conquered. His plan of salvation will come to completion, and nothing will stop it. We may sin (God can’t interfere with our free will, and he is not in control of it), but God is stronger than sin and can provide a way of escape (1 Cor. 10.13). Never doubt the power of God to help you conquer sin, to bring you salvation, to save you from sin and death, and to bring you to heaven. His power is all-sufficient. He can do what He has set out to do.

Second, God’s plan. God’s plan is the plan of salvation, not an individual plan for our lives (a “will” that we have to find and follow). The idea that God has a set plan for our lives that we to find and follow isn’t a biblical idea. God’s plan is a plan of salvation. God does call us to specific tasks sometimes, but other than that we have free will to serve Him as we wish, to make our choices as we wish, to go to the college of our choice, to marry the person of our choice, and to live our lives as we decide, and God will work with us in whatever we choose. Our hearts are more important than our circumstances. We can go to whatever college we choose, as long as we serve the Lord there, live for Him, grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him, and be the kind of person God wants us to be. You can marry the man you choose, but love him with godly love and help him to be the man God called him to be, as you yourself be the woman God called you to be.

You’re not a robot. God doesn’t have every minute of your life planned down to what socks you should wear, what food you should order for lunch, or even what job you should take. You are free (Gal. 5.1, 13). It causes us so much agony to try to find “God’s will” when we just hear silence. It’s because we are free to make our own choices! If God really wants you somewhere (like a certain college or a certain job), He will make sure you get there—no doubt about that one (Jonah)! But God is far more interested in your heart than in which job you take. Make your decisions, and be a faithful child of God. It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.

Jeremiah 29.11. This was a promise given to the nation of Israel. It was not addressed to individuals. It pertains to their return from the exile, not to a guaranteed positive future for anyone in the 21st century who happens to read it. Even Hebrews 11.35-37 lets us know with certainty that not every believer has a wonderful life of prosperity ahead of them. It’s just not true that God plans to prosper all of us. Christians even right now in the Middle East are being martyred. A school of Christian girls in Africa even right now were kidnapped by Boko Haram were kidnapped as sex slaves. Persecution is real, and God doesn’t protect us from all of it. This verse was for ISRAEL. And even though there are times where God prospers us, and there are times when God when God moves us into comfortable places, this is not a promise for us. And remember, even for the Israelites, God’s plans for them included 70 years of exile and oppression.

Why would you continue with this faith? We don’t trust God because he makes our lives prosperous, but because he saves us from sin. We don’t trust him because he protects us from all harm, but because His Word is truth. I believe in God because He’s real, not because He does awesome things for me. It’s not about me, it’s about Him and about truth; it’s about sin and salvation. Even if God never answered a single prayer of mine, He’s still there, and He is God, and the Bible is true, and I need God to take away my sin. I trust God because I want a relationship with Him, not because I expect Him to make my life easy.

I”m sorry you have a knot in your stomach. My aim is to teach the truth about Scripture. It sounds like I’m creating some “adjustments” in your thinking. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe God can use me to guide you into deeper truths than you have been previously exposed to.

Third: Bible study. We learn context by understanding the point of the whole book, the point of the section, and the point of the paragraph. Like the Jeremiah passage. There are books to help with such things, and it does matter. The Bible is a fantastic book. In ways we can just read it and understand it and benefit from it. It’s like a treasure chest where we can pick up the jewels and put them around our necks. On another level I can study it for my whole life and still find there is more to learn. It’s the deepest book of truths you’ll ever find. I can pick the words apart to the nth degree and never exhaust its riches. And by doing that, I’ll discover even more treasure than the “daily devotion” and simple reading methods. So we study. We pick up books. We go to classes. We are life-long learners. It’s a lot of work, but SO beneficial.

“We have to understand what the author meant when he wrote it.” Let’s take the Jeremiah passage as an example. All of Jeremiah is a prophecy about Judah’s demise as a judgment of God for their refusal to repent from their sin. They are headed for national ruin. Jeremiah prophesies that the Babylonians are coming to destroy the city, kill the people, and drag some away into exile. But that exile will only last 70 years (chapter 25), and then a remnant will return. The people don’t believe Jeremiah, and they ridicule and persecute him for his negative message (chapter 26). They would rather listen to prophets who tell them good, nice, and comforting things about God. Jeremiah doesn’t buckle under the pressure, but keeps teaching the truth. That’s when he says the famous lines of Jeremiah 29.10-14. Read them and you’ll get the idea. But then people like this verse because it speaks to them of nice things and a bright future—we like to think we’ll have nice things and a bright future, so we seize on that verse as if it’s a promise from God for us. But it’s not. It’s a promise of God for THEM. That’s not to say God is never nice to us or that He never gives us a bright future. But we’re not to accuse God of being unfaithful when things get rough or our future is less than stellar.

“Taking the Bible literally.” The Bible is a rich collection of literature styles containing music, poetry, metaphor, allegory, archetypes, parable, hyperbole, metonymy, irony, simile, and many other literary forms, as well as genres such as prayer, prophecy, blessing, covenant language, legal language, etc. "Literally" quickly becomes a word with very little meaning or helpfulness. If a poet says the trees of the field will clap their hands and the mountains will jump for joy, is that literal? Of course not, it's poetry. If a man prays, "God, kill all those people," we may all understand that his prayer is inappropriate, and is not blessed by God, but is it literal? Well, how does that word even apply? And how does it apply to archetype, allegory, parable, and all the others? It's a word that should be dropped from the discussion because it doesn't take us anywhere except to the Land of Misunderstanding. It's better to think that the Bible should be taken the way the author intended it to be taken. If he was using hyperbole, we're to take it that way. So also allegorically, historically, parabolic, poetic, etc. Our quest is to understand the intent of the author. In that case we'll take the Bible seriously, but "literally" doesn't take us anywhere.

So I don’t like the word “literally” to use with the Bible. In my opinion, it’s an inadequate word for the intricacies of biblical writing. It’s too weak, generally unhelpful, and at times even misleading.

“Aren’t we supposed to go to the Bible to find answers?” The Bible is a book about God. It’s where He reveals Himself. Those are the answers it gives us. It doesn’t answer our questions about drug abuse, TV watching, technology, or bioethics. It certainly gives us guiding principles about those subjects, but it doesn’t answer our questions. It won’t answer your questions about which college to attend or whom to marry. That’s not what it’s for, and it doesn’t do those things. You can’t open it and point to a verse to get guidance for the day. It’s not a crystal ball. It’s a book where God reveals Himself to us through the covenant, through the prophets, and through His Son. It’s where we learn all that we need to know about God, but even about God it doesn’t answer all our questions.

Fourth: "Why does God heal some people and not others?” We’re never told the rationale (another answer we don’t get). We are told that God is wise, He has his reasons, and we are to trust Him. We are never shown the criteria for how He decides. So we pray for all of them, we are grateful when someone is healed, but it doesn’t cause us to lose our faith when He doesn’t heal others. As I said, in the Bible he hardly healed anyone (except during the 3-year ministry of Jesus). And sickness and injury were much more severe then, before our era of modern medicine and surgery. People didn’t base their faith on whether or not they got healed. Neither should we.
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