by Erin Bird
Thanks for reading this week's blog. If you read our generosity campaign posts as well, I hope you gained something from the How to Be Rich series from 1 Timothy 6:17-19. As I taught this past Sunday, even though our generosity campaign is done, may our generosity never end. May we continually overflow with generosity, opening our FISTs (Finances, Influence, Skills, & Time) toward those around us because of what Jesus has done for us.
Now I'd like to return to the series we were doing before we entered our generosity campaign. Before the generosity campaign, we were doing a series from Exodus 34:6-7 entitled God's Bio. (If you want to catch up on previous installments, head over to the blog and navigate back to August 19.) To help us get back to the series, let's do a quick recap by re-reading our key passage:
The Lord passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7 ESV)
We are ready for the final phrase in verse 6 - "abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." We will tackle "faithfulness" next week, so let's consider God's abundant, steadfast love.
This past week, I ran into an acquaintance who has been going through a battle with cancer. I naturally asked how his health and energy have been. Somehow, that introductory question led into a half-hour theological discussion.
The gentleman I was talking with would probably be considered a deist. A deist believes there most likely is a God, but once He created everything, He stepped out of the way and left humans to be responsible for themselves and creation. But this man's health battle has been causing him to consider multiple spiritual possibilities. Because he knows I am a pastor, he asked me the age-old question: "If God is good, why does He allow suffering?"
I won't try to recap our entire thirty-minute conversation (besides, Tim Keller does a far better job handling this topic than I), but I did share this thought with my friend: While I may not fully understand why God allows what He allows (cancer, abuse, kidnappings, wars, etc.), if we are going to place the blame for the bad in life on Him, then we also have to give Him credit for the good.
In my opinion, the fact God allows the sun to rise each day, supplies air for our lungs, gives us friends and family, provides food for our stomachs, and ultimately sent Jesus to die in our place on the cross shows us an immense good that overwhelms the deeply horrific evil that exists in our world today. I know it is very difficult to see all of this in the face of deep struggle and pain, but whether we feel it or not, the truth of His steadfast love remains.
But to only focus on God's allowance of evil ignores the evil done by us. While you may not have murdered anyone or embezzled any money, you've most likely lied, cut corners, gossiped, unfairly judged another person, had impure thoughts, given your primary affections to anything other than God, or said cruel things to another person. As Romans 3:23 makes clear, all of us have sinned.
Yet, despite our sin against Him and other humans, God still loves us. He may not approve of our actions or thoughts, but He is still passionately in love with us. This means His love isn't earned; He freely gives it. Romans 5:6-10 teaches us that God loved us while we were weak, sinful enemies of His.
This is why, when He is giving us His "bio" in Exodus 34:6-7, God describes Himself as "abounding in steadfast love." Through all the evil and difficulties we face in life, as well as through the sins committed by us, His love doesn't diminish or fail. I can't tell you why He allowed you to not get the job or allowed your loved one to pass away. Nor can I tell you why He didn't stop you from that stupid sin you committed. But I can tell you He loves you deeply, passionately, and consistently.
After all, the cross shows us God is not unacquainted with our pain, nor does He ignore our sins. And the resurrection of Jesus shows us that suffering is not the end, therefore we can have hope. (God teaches elsewhere in Scripture that our suffering can still be used for our good – see Romans 5:3-5 and 8:28-30.)
To help us see just how steadfast His love is, God tells us in verse 7 that He "keeps steadfast love for thousands" of generations. Think about that: God's love extends to generation after generation after generation. THAT'S steadfast! (We'll look at this idea more in three weeks.)
So no matter...
...may you find solace in the reality of God's steadfast love for you.
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