One of the more interesting dynamics of the Christian Faith to me is the argument that as the Elect of God, we are perfectly in his hands. Never to have calamity or evil ever cross our paths again. These are the “feel good” Christians. The idea that “if God be for me, who can be against me?”
The opposite side of the coin however are the “daily struggle” Christians. The I must “work out my faith” Christians. That every day of my life is a new challenge and I must face the Sin in the world against a constant barrage of ill will directed at me by Satan himself.
Both view points point to various Scripture to bolster their claims and to drive their points home. They will preach that you should live your life secure in the knowledge that God only wants the best for you, or that you must constantly be on your guard and struggle in your faith.
What is interesting about these studies to me is that you never hear both sides at once (or so rarely that they are almost impossible to pinpoint). You never hear someone preach “God wants to make you rich!” and “You have to put on the whole armor of God” at the same time. And so you are left with the feeling that perhaps God wants to fight all your battles for you, but only if you take up the sword and do the fighting yourself.
There are many interesting concepts found within Scripture. Some that are seemingly contradictory of each other. But only when considered from humankind perspective. When considered from God’s perspective, they begin to look a little differently to us. I’ve talked about these Scriptural paradoxes in previous posts. Perhaps the most famous one known is Calvinism vs, Arminianism, of which I have quoted Louie Giglio when he stated that it is a great mystery to man; that God is 100% in control and yet man has free will at exactly the same time. I believe our “status” here in this world is exactly one of those cases.
Consider the words of Paul of Tarsus to Timothy in I Timothy 1:15. Paul told Timothy that he was Chief amongst sinners. He said “I am”. I’ve looked up the Greek word for “I am” in this passage for you. It literally means “to be”, in this case “to be found”. It is present tense. Paul was telling Timothy that he literally was the number one sinner in the world at that time. Paul probably wrote this letter to Timothy somewhere between 58 and 64 AD. Yet in his letter to the Roman’s Paul writes that it is not he who sins, but the sin that dwells in him: Romans 7:17. Most scholars date the book of Romans to somewhere between 54 and 57 AD. Before his letter to Timothy, where he is currently, at that time, Chief amongst sinners.
So which is it? Is Paul confused? Or do we have a Biblical paradox here?
I believe that both are true at exactly the same time. At the same time Paul enjoys the completed work of Christ in him, and yet he remains Chief amongst sinners. He is both redeemed, and within the sin struggle of this world at exactly the same time.
Consider Paul’s words in Romans 8:17. Paul is so bold as to point out that we are Joint Heirs with Jesus Christ, the Name above all names. The Son of the living God. But he points out that if we share in His Glory, surely we share in His suffering as well. You might be considering that Christ’s suffering is over, and you are correct, but we should not be so naïve as to think that we can know Glory without also knowing Suffering.
So the question then comes “Does God own the Cattle on a thousand hills”? Well of course he does. He is God. And “Does God want the best for our lives”? Well of course he does. He sent his only Son to die on a cross for our sin. He plans to one day wipe away every tear and lift every burden. But do we still have to put on the whole armor of God and take up our cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus? Well yes, we do.
Why? Because there is little substitute for experience. I was talking with a very well-educated person recently. A person with many degrees and certificates. But yet this person needed some advice, even with all of their studies and academic achievements, they needed some advice in life. And the reason they needed advice is because they lacked experience. You see, experience cannot be taught. It must be gained though one’s own journey. And God desires for us to experience Him. He delights when we explore and strive to understand Him. He delights when we come to Him in order to know Him more.
And that includes with both blessings and sorrow in our lives. It includes when we struggle with sin in our lives and when we put on the armor of God and say No! to Satan. We cannot know victory without knowing defeat. And God’s blessings are all that much greater when they have been delivered in the midst of great sorrow. It is when we are weak, that He can be strong in our lives. Is it because we do not already have the Creator of all things living inside of us? No, of course not! If Christ be for me, who can stand against me? No, it is because He wants us to stand in His strength and not our own.
Are you the Redeemed of the Lord? I pray today that you are. But if you are, I pray that you will recall that it is only because of what God has done for you and not what you have done for God. Can God grant you all the blessings of Job in your life and much more? Well of course he can. However I, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, say that if God so chooses NOT to bless me, NOT to shower my life with all the peace, joy, and love, that only He can give, He is still God. And He is still upon His throne. God may choose to deliver me from the fiery furnace or He may not. But He is still God.