Is God Gracious?
Recently I read of a professor at a large state university who had been the president of the atheist club on campus. He had been very active in promulgating atheism among the students; that is, until he became a Christian in the last year. His atheism, he said, stemmed from childhood when he saw graphic pictures of starving children in Africa and concluded that there must not be a God, else this would not happen. Of course, this is the age old question that prompted C.S. Lewis to write his classic The Problem of Pain. Pain of every sort in the world causes many to question God and his existence. It is probably the primary problem from man’s perspective in accepting that God is, especially a gracious and good God as presented in the Scriptures. The stumbling block of pain and suffering even causes many Christians to question or lose confidence in their faith.
Is God really gracious; is He really good, since pain and suffering are such a large part of the nature of this present world? The Psalmist in Psalm 118 states emphatically that God is gracious; that He is good. He then in the following three verses encourages Israel and those who fear the Lord in the strongest language possible to confess the truth that God is who He says He is: gracious, good, and merciful forever. The strength of this plea is seen in its triple repetition. But the crux of his argument is found in verses 8 and 9. “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put any confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put any confidence in princes. “Man represents humanity. It represents you with your own observation and reasoning. “Princes includes every authority, expert, scientist, you name it; anyone whose observations you are tempted to trust over God’s Word.
Whether you accept the diagnosis or not, God tells us that man sees in part, that you see through murky glass, that our perspective is not His and is deficient. We often lose sight of that fact and believe we see as well or better than the God of the Universe; and what is more there is always a shrewd, deceptive “voice in our ear telling us our sight is just fine and can be fully trusted. He spoke in Eve’s ear, “Did God really say?
If we truly live, we live by faith. Faith is receiving and trusting God at His word, even though our immediate observation tells us differently. Human observation uninformed by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit is filled with error and will lead you astray. Man is a marvelously made creature, and has accomplished a great deal in amassing knowledge concerning the universe, but he is still deficient in seeing it perfectly as it is and will be; he is deficient in wisdom in coming to the right conclusions of what he believes he knows and has observed. History has taught us the truth of this. In millenniums of history man has been unable to conquer the universe, the society, or eradicate evil. Hope lies only in the message of God’s Word, and in accepting Him at His word. This is where our confidence must find its refuge.
I do not pretend to understand the fullness of God’s plan from beginning to end. His ways are higher than mine or yours. It is why His plan and the present order of the universe are called in Scripture a MYSTERY. I am willing to accept this mystery and to marvel at my gracious God as He works it out in His Son, Jesus Christ. My triune God has given me plenty of reasons to know that my confidence is not in vain. I pray this is true for you as well.
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