Thursday, July 2, 2009

“No One Ever Learns Anything in the Good Times”

Keith Greene,the Christian singer and songwriter, in his journal, put it well, (something like) “If the only way I can learn is through bad times, then that’s the only kind of times I’ll ever have.” Similar to the teaching that God makes us sick/allows us to be sick to “teach us something”, this one indicates that the only way to really learn anything or become close to God is to have horrible or tragic events come into their lives. Therefore, if you follow this line of thinking through, studying the living Word of God (the Bible), listening to Bible teachings, spending time in prayer and observing Creation would all be a waste of time or at best, second-rate.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:14,15 emphasis added

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9,10

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5 emphasis added
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

…since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:19,20 emphasis added

The idea that the only way to really learn is through bad things sounds an awful lot like what the Serpent said to Eve…You know Eve, being surrounded here by God’s Creation, walking closely with God himself, hanging on his every word is fine, but if you want real knowledge, real wisdom, you need to know evil (the knowledge of good and evil). She should have said, “Forget it! I have God to teach me! Be gone!” I guarantee that her life did not get better or her relationship closer to God by the presence of evil (bad times) in her life! The only thing she learned from the knowledge of evil is that she didn’t want it afterall!

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, `You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' " "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:1-6 emphasis added

To the woman he (God) said,
"I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:16-19

Don’t go looking for wisdom and learning “in all the wrong places”, be like Mary and “sit at his feet”. (Luke 10:39)

Note: I’m aware that the New Testament has much to say about God’s use of suffering to discipline his children and to build our character. However, ALL of these verses are in the context of persecution for Jesus’ name’s sake--not general difficulties, tragedies or sicknesses.

“Even Though He Doesn’t Cause It, God Allows Sickness So He Can Teach Us Something.”

I know of no New Testament scripture (since we “followers of Jesus” are people of the New Covenant) that even hints at this. The only one that is remotely close is John 9:3, the account of Jesus saying of the man born blind, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Jesus immediately healed him. The work of God in this man’s life was his healing, not the blindness!

Jesus said that the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy but he (Jesus) came to give abundant life—not a lesson from sickness! (John 10:10)

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. I John 3:8

No, God permits sickness and other things that are of the devil to come into our lives so that we can fight it! That’s what the “full armor of God” is for. (Ephesians 6:11-18) That’s what the “gifts of the Spirit” are for.
(1 Corinthians 12:7:11)

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4,5

When sickness comes your way, don’t embrace it—fight it!

Note: Of course, no teacher wants to let a “teachable moment” get by without using it for teaching. God certainly makes use of every opportunity, but why not be open to his teaching while you’re in health?!

“God Works in Mysterious Ways”

This one is a version of a line from a hymn written in 1671 by J. Playford, “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform”—not the Bible. It’s most often quoted to indicate that you never can tell what God is going to do because you can never understand him anyway—he’s just one big mystery.

However, the New Testament portrays God as the revealer of mysteries.

Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him--to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. Romans 16:25 emphasis added

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. Ephesians 1:9 emphasis added

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. Colossians 2:2-4 emphasis added

Even the hymn-writer understood that God is the revealer of mysteries since he closed out the song with, “God is His own interpreter and he will make it plain.” emphasis added

Marvel at God’s wonders, yes, but don’t distance yourself from God and his ways with an air of mystery; instead look to him for the answers!