The official Philippine disaster agency’s latest figures record 3,633 people dead, 12,487 injured, and 1,179 missing as a result of Typhoon Haiyan. How many in this devastated country remember Jesus’ words “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Or, “The Lord is with you”. How many believe it? Do you?
Some may feel the Bible was written only to those who lived a long time ago in a far flung place. In fact, the Bible is as contemporary in the truth it teaches today as it was to those who heard it first. Take, for example, the Apostle Paul.
Born Saul of Tarsus to a wealthy family on the southern coast of what is Turkey today, he was afforded the privileges bestowed by the best education money could buy in Jerusalem and those of Roman citizenship. Passionate for God, he chose to be a Pharisee, one of the strictest religious sects in the country.
Jesus Christ changed Saul’s life. Many would say for the worse. After choosing to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord, Paul said, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked”. And yet, Paul considered them nothing more than a “slight momentary affliction”. How could he feel this way?
Because he knew that “God is love” and He derives no pleasure or glory from hell much less the daily pain and suffering so many experience.
Because he knew he was not receiving what he deserved as a consequence of all the wrong things he had done in thought if not in actions. Instead, through God’s unmerited favor he knew and experienced “The Lord is with you” and that Jesus would never leave him or forsake him even in the darkest moments of life.
Because he knew all the challenges he encountered were somewhat of a “conditioning center” preparing him for the “eternal weight of glory beyond all measure”, i.e. is heaven. God is in no sense the author of sin and evil and does not design nor ordain evil.
“God is sovereign, but he is sovereign over his own sovereignty” as Roger E. Olson phrases it. The fact that nothing can happen without God either causing it or allowing it does not diminish God’s sovereignly bestowed gift to choose to accept the gift of His Son, salvation, and will.
We live in an imperfect world due to the choices of men and women before us. Bad things happen to good people and rain falls on the just and the unjust. God’s ultimate will is to restore perfection in “a new heaven and a new earth”. In the meantime, His circumstantial will encompass’ a good deal of human choice.
We can work hard and sleep well in the sure knowledge “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him”. Paul believed it. Do you?