One of the more profound questions which often comes up in discussion with people who are wondering about spiritual things is the question of God.
The other day, I was speaking with one of my neighbors just getting to know him and he was proclaiming that even though he had not been very open in acknowledging him, he knew that “the man upstairs” had been good to him throughout his life, and in many cases, had been watching over him and protecting him.
Many of us are that way, aren’t we? We acknowledge that God exists, but we do not want to honor him much in our daily living, lest he make some demands on our lives that we do not like or want to fulfill. So, in practicality, we live an atheistic life, essentially denying the very existence of God.
The Christian philosopher Ravi Zacharias was lecturing to the officers and leaders at the Lenin Military Academy in Moscow, Russia several years ago on the topic of the existence of God. It was quite amazing that he was there at all, but he had been invited by the general in charge of the academy.
Not being fluent in the Russian language, Zacharias was doing what he could to be clear in his lecture, even though he knew the process of translation would make his philosophical statements difficult to interpret. In his description of the event, he tells of the visibly hostile expressions on the faces of the members of the audience. At the conclusion of his lecture, one of the men in the audience stood to his feet and began to rudely sputter out a series of sentences toward Zacharias.
Through the interpreter’s translation, the comments the man made in outrage boiled down to one question: “You’ve been using the word God repeatedly. What on earth are you talking about?” Zacharias then inquired of the questioner if he claimed to be an atheist. He vigorously claimed that he was.
In response to that, Zacharias then asked him, “What, then, are you denying?”,for you see, by definition, an atheist is one who denies the existence of God!
Now you and I may never come to that point where we openly deny the very existence of God, but may I suggest that we do that very thing when we go through trials and difficulties? It does not matter what the difficulty is – whether it is a sickness that has been described as terminal, or a financial crisis which seems to threaten our livelihoods and our very existence, a job loss which may seem debilitating in and of itself, or the loss of a relationship through death or divorce or some other trauma.
In the words of author Philip Yancey, in times like these, we all ask, “Where is God when it hurts?” If we are not careful, we may find ourselves delving into that denial of the very existence of God.
But it does not have to be that way. In fact, a simple (not simplistic!) understanding of the very nature of God helps us when we are on the verge of doubt.
There are three of the very essential characteristics of God’s character which will help us in times like these:
First of all, we need to understand that as a part of His very nature, God is OMNISCIENT. That fifty-cent term simply means that God is “all” (that’s the “omni” part!)- “knowing” (that’s the “scient” part!). Check out Psalm 139:1-4.
In other words, God knows everything! He knew when you would get up this morning. He knows when you will go to bed tonight. He knows everything about you, everything that has happened in your life, and everything that will happen to you!
There is not one detail of your life that is outside the realm of his knowledge. There is nothing about you that catches him off-guard.
While that may surprise you that God is all-knowing, the second characteristic of God is also amazing — God is not only omniscient, He is also OMNIPOTENT. Literally, that means He is “all-powerful.”
Whenever you read in the Bible that God is “Almighty”, that is a declaration of his omnipotence. He is “all mighty”! That means he can do anything he sets his mind to do. There is nothing outside the realm of possibility with God. He can do anything!
Now before you jump to conclusions, let me also say, God can do anything that is consistent with His own nature. There are limitations to what He can do. For example, He cannot lie. He cannot be tempted to sin. He cannot deny Himself. But by and large, there is nothing He cannot do!
Now that leads me to a question: If God knows everything (OMNISCIENT), then He knows about the good and the bad that are going to occur in my life today. If God can do anything (OMNIPOTENCE), then He could prevent the bad things from occurring in my life today. So why doesn’t He prevent those things from happening?
That brings me to the third characteristic of God which we need to consider: God is also LOVE. (Check out 1 John 4:8). At its core, LOVE means having the best interests at heart for the object loved. It means that God has yours and my best interest at heart in everything that happens in our lives – both the good AND the bad.
Just like parents who truly love their children, He sometimes disciplines us when we go astray (Hebrews 12:6). His love for us allowed Him to send His own Son to die a cruel and very painful death on a cross so that the penalty for sin could be paid once for all (John 3:16).
God’s omniscience, omnipotence and love are three characteristics which define in a nutshell who He is, and what He has for you and for me. He simply asks us to trust Him!
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC.