The Works of God Revealed
Over the last couple of weeks at Sunday and Wednesday Connect we at IgniteLife have been watching Christine Caine's 'Unashamed' video series. On Sunday we learnt that she had been abused over a period of years when she was a child. She shared a testimony of how God had enabled her to forgive and healed her of the shame that she had felt. Joyce Meyer, another well-known Christian speaker, has a similar testimony. Jeanette and I have a good friend who was savagely abused by her father when she was a little girl. She, too, has a moving testimony about how God healed her and empowered her to forgive.
Coincidentally, I read an opinion about the man born blind who received sight which is recorded in John 9:1-12. The writer stated that God ordained that the man be borne blind so He could 'reveal His works in him.' I thought to myself, 'How could a good God ordain that a man be borne blind or that children be abused just so He could reveal His works in them?' When taken in context of the whole of the Bible, I think God cannot ordain that someone be born blind or born into a situation of abuse or poverty or any other negative situation. That would not be consistent with the idea that God is love.
The context of the passage in John is that the disciples believed, as was customary at the time, that bad things happen to people because of sin. They believed that the blind man had either sinned in the womb or his parents had sinned and he was punished for that sin. Jesus unequivocally put them right. 'Neither this man sinned nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him' (v. 3). Notice that Jesus did not state that God had ordained that the man be born blind. He continued, 'I must work the works of Him who sent me while it is still day; the night is coming when no one can work'. In this statement, Jesus was emphasising that He must engage in His messianic ministry ('day') until His crucifixion ('night').
What was the messianic ministry of Jesus? We see in Luke 4:18-19 that it was to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to bring liberty to the oppressed and proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. In this famous passage Jesus summarised his position description which, in summary, was to restore shalom (wholeness in every area of life) to those who suffer because of the fallen-ness of the world.
God did not ordain that the man be born blind. God did not ordain that Christine Caine, Joyce Meyer or our friend be physically or sexually abused as children. They all suffered because of the fallen-ness of the world. Fallen-ness is not the will of God, and He is not oblivious to it. There is a way out. The way is Jesus. The blind man, Christine Caine and many others experienced shalom through faith in Him.
Questions for discussion
1. The idea that God is sovereign sometimes leads people to conclude that God ordains that some people suffer the most horrific abuse. Job 1:21b is often quoted - 'The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away', although he later said, 'Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes' (Job 42:3,6). In your experience, how does God reveal His 'works' in the results of human fallen-ness?
2. When a business deal turns sour how might you find shalom?
3. What evidence do you have that God is not oblivious to the suffering caused by human fallen-ness?