I don’t know!

Yesterday I had to use a phrase that I hate. It’s one I find myself speaking more as I grow older, but I hate to say it. I actually had to answer a very sincere question with “I don’t know.” I am sure that part of my hatred of that expression has to do with my pride. I really like to come across as the man with the answer, the one who is always right, the person who engenders confidence. It is a humbling thing to express my ignorance! That is why in times past I would probably have attempted to answer the question with a lot of words; at the end of which the person who asked the question would have just said to themselves, “he really doesn’t know.”

Pride is silly – there are millions of things that each of us does not know, but the real frustration yesterday was that the answer was not only unknown, it was in some way unknowable. It reminded me of my human limitation in knowing the mind and will of God. I am certainly familiar with Isaiah 55:8 which states; ” For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” We do not think like God thinks, thus we sometimes say “I don’t know” when the truth is really, “I can’t know, because God has not chosen to reveal that to us.”

The question was one I have been asked a number of times in slightly different ways. I was looking into the teary eyes of a lady who with much emotion asked, “Why hasn’t God answered my prayer?” She is currently not able to walk and is at the third facility where she has been encouraged with promises of therapy making it possible for her to walk again. She has her friends and church family praying for her and it seems like heaven is silent. She still finds herself confined to a wheelchair. I could, of course, tell her some of the reasons why God says no (or at least “wait”) to our prayers. I could not, however, with certainty tell her why God had not responded positively to her very specific request.

That does not mean that I was unable to offer comfort and hope. I had to say, “I don’t know,” but then I was able to share with her what I do know authoritatively from the very word of God. I could tell her that God’s silence had nothing to do with a lack of love. He demonstrated His love when His son died for us on the cross of Calvary. I could tell her that His will is perfect and His wisdom is without fail. I could tell her that while we live in a broken world with hurt with pain and frustration, there is another world that we will one day inhabit if we trust in Christ – a world that knows no suffering. I could tell her that God uses our pain along with all the other things in our life to mold and shape us into the image of His son, thus fulfilling the very purpose for which we were created. I could tell her that we are never alone. I could tell her that God himself suffered for us, and perfectly understands our suffering. These things I know for certain, as God has clearly revealed them in His infallible word.

There is much that we do not understand, but there is also much we can know with certainty because we have the Bible, God’s word which his Spirit helps us understand. It is without error and it is enough!

In Him,

Pastor Nord

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WDTBS

One hundred fifteen years ago a pastor in Topeka Kansas preached a series of sermons that have affected the thinking of many Christians right up to our present day. Pastor Charles Sheldon wrote a novel based upon his sermon series entitled “In His Steps.” The book was translated into 21 languages by 1935 and certainly has achieved the status of being a best-seller and a classic. If Wikipedia is to be trusted (an uncertain statement), the book was a major influence upon Walter Rauschenbusch who was one of the early proponents of the social gospel – a movement that had a profound impact on American church culture.

It was a youth movement in the 1990’s that gave new life to the then 100 year old book. The subtitle of the book is “What Would Jesus Do?” and that question was presented as a basis for making decisions in every area of life. A whole business sprouted producing first bracelets, then all sorts of accessories and decorations emblazoned with the now-familiar acronym, WWJD. It became the basis for a movie in 2010 and almost anyone even slightly connected with Christianity knows today what those letters mean.

A quick look at Amazon shows how broadly the expression has been used. One finds books entitled, “What Would Jesus Drive?” “What Would Jesus Eat?” “What would Jesus Deconstruct?” “What Would Jesus Read?” and “What Would Jesus Do About Domestic Violence and Abuse Towards Christian Women?” I haven’t read any of those, but I’m sure one finds a variety of ideas attributed to Jesus.

“What would Jesus do?” is certainly a thought provoking question, and any question that makes us think about life is good. I would suggest, however that it is flawed as a basis for determining how a Christian should live. The flaw is that it depends upon our being able to speculate what Jesus would do in any given situation. The key word in the last sentence is “speculate.” The question fails us because it assumes that we actually know what Jesus would do. It can lead to wrong conclusions, because it depends upon our fallible thinking. I tend to always think I’m right and therefore I assume that Jesus would agree with me. By itself, the question is woefully inadequate as a means of determining correct behavior.

A much better approach is to go to an infallible source of truth – the very word of God! The Apostle Paul writing to young Timothy said, ” All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV). I’m not sure how a bracelet would sell with WDTBS printed on it, but the best question to ask as we face life issues is; “What does the Bible say?” Check it out – you will be amazed at how much it clearly says about many things!

In Christ,

Pastor Nord