For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who revere Him.
— Psalm 103:11
As I have been studying through Psalm 103, I can’t help but think about people who live their life without God. They run through life completely without God. They do everything without a thought of God. Yet, when calamity strikes they shake their fist at God and question why.
People will give a multitude of reasons why they don’t follow or believe in God. But the underlying issue why they won’t surrender to the God of the Bible is this; they like their sin and they don’t want to give it up.
People know that God exists. In Romans 1:19, it states that what “is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” And Acts 14:16-17 shows to unbelievers that “in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” This all very telling that it is not a matter of knowing if God exists, but a matter of whether people will acknowledge Him or not.
I’m convinced that there is no such thing as an atheist. It is just a title claimed by those who don’t want to face up to God. They all secretly know deep down that there is a God, it’s just that they prevaricate when the topic arises. If people have a knowledge of God (whether they accept it or not), why on earth wouldn’t they want to know the Creator of all things? How could a rational person think that they can exist just fine without recognizing the source of all things: God? Does humanity have such an arrogance that they think there won’t be consequences of their selfish actions?
Part of the blame, I think, is that a complacent life is fueled by excess comforts. Most don’t think that they need God in their life because they have what they need. Jesus taught in Matthew 5:45 that “…He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” So, since they feel that there isn’t an issue in life, they can continue on, wandering the earth to and fro, doing whatever their heart desires!
Unfortunately, the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9a).
So, what if the creature comforts in life are removed? What you would see are people who would start to complain how unfair and unjust life is! If you need further examples of that, just read the dialogs between Job and his three friends! When we look around the world we see, with obviousness, that not every person has the same allotments. Some have excess riches and material things. Some live in abject poverty and suffer daily for even a morsel of food. And then there are the majority who are in the middle; wanting, but yet not without.
I think about the Israelites in the Old Testament and how they were provided with so much from God, yet continued to live their lives as if God wasn’t around. There was a cyclic process with them: follow God, get comfortable, forget God, face judgements, repent, follow God, get comfortable…and over and over again! We can easily see where they took their eyes off of God; when they were most comfortable. We also see when they turned their eyes back to God; during their great discomforts. And so it is with people today! People live day to day with their comforts and give no recognition to the true source of these gifts. That is until calamity strikes!
As a military veteran, I often heard the phrase “there are no atheists in foxholes”. Everyone under fire wants to reach out to a higher power for help, comfort, and to deliver them from the trials they are facing. When people are taken out of their comfort zones, facing challenges that look daunting, the natural inclination is to cry out for help. As tough as some people may think they are, when faced with disaster or conflicts, they will often look for others to stand with in support. As the Israelites would often do, they would cry out to God for salvation from their problems. And so do many people today. When floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and the like hit, people all have one thing in common: they call upon God!
So, we don’t want God when we’re enjoying life, but want God when life is throwing problems.
When Jonah ran from God after he was called to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh, he didn’t want to go, and subsequently was tossed into the ocean and swallowed by a great fish. We all know the story. Chapter 2, verses 1-2 is an example of how many react when faced with hardships:
Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.”
You see the pleading, the begging, and the crying out to God during times of unrest! Verse 9 concludes with Jonah’s promise to God, if God would deliver him:
“But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”
We’ve all heard the stories of people who were facing adversity and call out to the very God they ignore in their daily lives, often times making promises to Him that if He delivers them from their strife, that they will do such-and-such in return. I call this desperate negotiations! The Israelites were masters of this technique! They would be troubled, whether as a punishment from God for apostasy or needing correction from waywardness, and a prophet would come along and let them know that God was not happy with them. Unfortunately many times they would ignore the warnings and wind up facing God’s wrath.
So, no matter what problems we face, whether they are consequences of our actions or just naturally occurring disasters, we all want God’s deliverance. But God isn’t just there for us in the storms. He is the same God that is there in the prospering times as well! He isn’t a cosmic vending machine to dispense mercies at our calling. He is the God who created all things for His glory and worship. And until we get a proper perspective of who God is, we may be drawing His wrath rather than His mercies!
People tend to have such a narrow view of God and try to put Him in a box, defined by themselves, and use Him as their personal puppet. Sadly, many self-professing Christians do this very thing. They have a humanistic viewpoint of the God of the Bible and their approach is flippant, at best. To have this irreverent attitude and callous demeanor is truly an insult to God. He is Holy and we are to keep this in perspective when we think about approaching His Throne!
From the Old Testament to the New, there are numerous examples of God’s declaration of how we are to have reverence toward Him. From keeping His Sabbaths and reverence of His Sanctuary (Leviticus 19:30), to keeping His Commandments (Deuteronomy 5), God continually explains to us that He alone is God; the Great I Am! We are to worship Him as God! Jesus taught that when we pray we are to first acknowledge that He is our Lord, our Father in heaven, and that He alone is Holy (hallowed be Thy Name in Matthew 6). Not only do we need to revere His Holy name, but we are to show that reverence by the way we live.
All of us are sinners and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). With the defilement of sins, we cannot approach the Lord, since sin is an abomination and detestable to His Holiness. If we take serious His hatred of sin and understand the wrath that will be poured out on the unrepentant, we would be seeing God in a different light. There has to be a payment for sin. And the payment is a blood sacrifice. In the Old Testament, Israel was commanded to sacrifice an unblemished animal (shed blood) for their sins as an atonement. In the New Testament, God provided us the perfect sacrifice for atonement…His Son Jesus. And by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are washed clean of our sins by His blood sacrifice. Jesus took our place and received the punishment for sin when He went to the cross!
And, as He is the Son of God, He passed through death and rose again to life, seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father! He paid the penalty for our sins and He will be the judge of all! Without Him as Lord, you face the wrath judgement of God.
Which that brings me back to the irreverent approach people have toward God. People are either living life denying God, or, claiming to know God but living life their way (instead of the way God demands: “You shall be be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16). Either way, all will face a judgement before God. There will be no second chances! If you have Jesus as Lord of your life, you will be saved from God’s judgement! Until a soul recognizes their crimes against a Holy God, they will not recognize their need for a Holy God.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
You have choices in life. You may not be living in catastrophe at the moment and the storms may be calm, but tomorrow is never promised. Just know that God will not accept a casual, off-and-on approach to Him. He is the God of “all or nothing”. Living your life under your priorities and then pulling God in when it is convenient is not a walk of faith that is pleasing to God. In fact, God finds the prayers of the unrighteous to be insulting and detestable. John 9:31 says “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.”
To the denier: hiding your head in the sand doesn’t make Him go away. His patience is only for a season, and after that the judgement. Eternity is a long time!
To the complacent: Jesus says in Revelation 3:15 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” There is no time like the present to fully surrender!
The time is short and we should never gamble with eternity! Jesus said “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) He also said “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus gives us not only the gift of salvation from the wrath to come, but peace within us for the storms we may face. In Luke 11 we are promised “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” You see, we don’t lose anything by rejecting the ways of this world, we gain happiness and joy and peace from God by having the assurance of knowing that God, through Jesus Christ, knows us, hears us, and is leading us to His Celestial City! All we have to do is surrender our ways for His! Amen