Why does God answer yes to some devotions and no to others? Why does God miraculously heal some people and not others? Why does calamity ten-strike one city and not another?
I’ve been mulling these questions since Hurricane Florence devastated much of eastern North Carolina last year. I live in the center of the commonwealth, and contrary to the foreboding projections, we were relatively unaffected. In response, a pal said, “I know why “wed been” spared calamity and the hurricane clique our field and moved south. I was praying that God would keep us safe and he answered my prayers! ”
I had no words.
I know that God answers devotion. And we need to pray. God tells us to ask, and it will be given to us( Matthew 7:7 ). But my friend’s words stirred me wonder if she thought that no one in east Carolina was praying. I know people whose subsistences were destroyed in the hurricane. Everything they owned was pas. They escaped with their own lives but nothing substance left. Some of them begged God to spare their city.
One Died, Another Lived
What are we as disciples to deduce from these natural disasters? Can we simply outline straight lines between our requests and God’s answers? Times ago, I heard a rector tell of his cancer that went into remission. When he told his congregation the good news, several commented, “We knew God would mend you. He had to. So many people were praying for you.”
While the pastor was thankful for others’ prayers, he also knew God did not owe him healing. Faithful adherents throughout the ages have passionately prayed and yet not been mended. The apostle Paul was not healed in order that God might show that his influence could be made perfect in Paul’s weakness( 2 Corinthians 12:9 ).
And then there was my own son, Paul, who died as an baby. We had prayed, fasted, and requested friends to pray for his healing. Several times after his death, we met a humankind who said when he being informed of our loss, “Don’t take this wrong, but we prayed for all of our children before they were born. And they were all born healthy.” We had no words.
Why Did God Save Peter?
In considering the question of when and why God chooses to rescue, I was reminded of Behaves 12 which begins, “About that time Herod the sovereign laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter likewise . . . . So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church”( Acts 12:1 -3, 5 ). Peter was then rescued the extremely night that Herod was about to bring him out, to presumably kill him as he had killed James.
Why did God let James die and Peter live?
Peter, James, and John were three of Jesus’s closest disciples. These three were often selected to be alone with Jesus. Yet their earthly lives after Christ’s resurrection were markedly different. John was the last of the adherents to die, Peter was rescued from prison in Acts 12, but church history records that he was later martyred by being crucified upside down.
James was the first of the followers to be martyred. The Bible records that Herod killed James with no developing details. We simply know that Peter was spared while James was not. What are we to stimulate of this? Did God desire Peter more than James? Was James’s life less important? Did James have less faith? Were people not praying for James?
Our Father Knows Best
Looking at the fuller attorney of the Bible, it is clear that God has plans that we do not understand. His styles are not our lanes( Isaiah 55:8 -9 ). Because we believe that extinction is like a passage into eternal life( 2 Timothy 1:10 ), one that all of us will go through, it ultimately doesn’t topic when we pass across it. God amounts our periods before they begin, and he alone determines when we will die( Psalm 139:16 ).
Though we often cannot understand God’s purposes in this life, we can be sure that James’s life as a disciple and his death as a martyr was intentional. Everything God does has purpose( Isaiah 46:10 ). Because of that, we can be sure that at the time of James’s death, he had accomplished what God had called him to( Philippians 1:6 ), while Peter’s work on ground was unfinished( Philippians 1:24 -25 ).
Living or dying, being spared or being tortured, being delivered in this life or the next is not an indication of God’s love for us or the measure of our faith. Nothing can separate us from God’s love, and our future is determined by what he knows is best for us( Romans 8: 28, 35-39 ).
Paul understood this principle well where reference is said in Philippians 1:21 -23, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that signifies fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard-handed pressed between the two. My lust is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Departing this world and “ve been with” Christ is far better because eternal life is far better than life on earth. No matter what “peoples lives” holds, we will eventually be deliriously happy in heaven, where God has all of eternity to lavish us with his kindness( Ephesians 2:7 ).
Suffering Is Not Punishment
Even though I know these truths, I have often been discouraged that others have been rescued while I was still suffering. Prosperity gospel proponents have told me that if I had prayed in religion, my body would then be mended, my son would then be spared, and my wedding would have been regenerated. It was all up to me. If I simply had the faith, I would have had a better outcome.
Their words have left me bruised and disillusioned, wondering what I was doing wrong.
But that theology is not the gospel. God’s response to our devotions is not dependent upon our worthiness but instead rests upon on his great mercy( Daniel 9:18 ). Because of Christ, who took our penalty, God is always for us( Romans 8: 31 ). He wants to give us all things. Christ himself is ever interceding for us( Romans 8: 31-34 ).
If you are in Christ, God is altogether for you. Your suffering is not a penalty. Your struggles are not because you didn’t pray the right way, or because you didn’t pray enough, or because you have weak faith or insufficient intercessors. It is because God is utilizing your suffering in ways that you are not able to understand now, but one day you will. One day you will see how God use your affliction to prepare you for an incomparable weight of exaltation( 2 Corinthians 4:17 ). This is the gospel. And it holds for all who love Christ.