Does God Care? Is He able to overcome evil in the world? Does He limit His intervention because He does not want to infringe on human free will? These are questions that many ask about God and His interaction with the world. Evil, both moral and physical (i.e. calamity), are a regular part of our existence. Many believe that the existence of evil proves that either God is not there, or that He is either not loving enough or not powerful enough to deal with it. As we look at Jonah’s story we see that God is at work in the life of His prophet. He is there. He is interacting with evil, both moral and natural. He is acting contrary to Jonah’s will, which is to run from His command.
You know the story, God commands Jonah, His prophet, to go and preach to the Assyrians in Nineveh. Jonah can’t even stomach the thought because these are the enemies of his people and the greatest and most aggressive nation in the region. So God says “Go!” and Jonah says, “No!” Does that leave the Lord in a bind? Is He now helpless until Jonah decides of his own accord to change his behavior? Should God start working plan B?
Jonah 1:4-7 But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.” 7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
Here we see that God takes some extreme measures to stick with the plan that He has. Jonah is dead set against it (quite literally as we see in Jonah 1:12). From the wind to the roll of the dice, God sovereignly brings about His intended purpose. He brings Jonah to account with the sailors and forces his hand. Still obstinate, Jonah tries to end it by sacrificing himself but God is one step ahead of him.
Jonah 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Knowing what he would do, the Lord had already prepared the final circumstance that was needed to change the mind of His prophet. And maybe you are saying, “That is an extreme example. Certainly God would never go to that length to work in my life. I have never been that disobedient.” And I would tell you that we are all disobedient and self seeking on some level. The reason that most of us feel that we have never disobeyed to the degree that Jonah did is because we, like he did, manage to diffuse the command of God in our conscience because we interpret it through our own cultural and personal grids. God has command us to preach repentance to our enemies and we can refuse and seek our own comfort without bating an eye because that is what most people in our culture who call themselves do. And God brings chastening into our lives if we truly belong to Him (Hebrews 12:7-8). 1 Peter 4:12-13 “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”
Believe it or not we all need correction. James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” It is what God uses to conform us to the image of His Son. It is also what He uses to call to account those who reject His will. All circumstances from the wind to the roll of the dice are under His control. If you are serving Him He will bring the appropriate circumstances, tailor made for you, into your life to help you grow. If you are in rebellion, He will bring those circumstances and they will either break your stubborn will or become a testimony against you when you stand before Him on the last day.
God does care. He cares so much that He is active in the smallest details of your life.
God can overcome evil. He does it everyday by using calamity for good purposes, to mature and develop our faith. He even uses moral evil. He is not the author of moral evil because evil is really rebellion against His will and purpose. God cannot do evil in that sense, it would be impossible. But even when men do evil, He still uses it in His sovereignty for producing good results (Acts 2:23-24, Romans 8:28, Genesis 50:20).
Finally, Human free will does not limit God in His actions. The Scriptures clearly set God’s sovereign action and man’s moral accountability side by side. We may not be able to reconcile that in our minds, but God is able to act in a sovereign capacity, exercising control over the smallest details and yet allowing man to act freely. (Acts 2:23-24, Acts 4:27-29). However, at times He overrides our freedom and acts to change our will as He did in the case of Jonah. Left to our free will we would all be like him, running from the command of God. We should be thankful that He works in us to change our will (Philippians 2:13).
When it is all said and done, God is here and is working, even in the pain and suffering of life. He is able to make what is horrible in this life work out for good in an eternal sense. Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” So let us bow to the sovereign Hand of God and look for His purpose in our suffering. Is it our own rebellion? It is our need to be conformed to the Image of His Son? Is He using us for the benefit of someone else who needs to see us trust Him even when life is most difficult? He has a reason and a purpose that He is working out. The big question is, Do you trust him?
You can listen to this sermon by clicking on the link below. I would love to discuss it with you if you want to make a comment.