Thoughts to Ponder

Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

We as humans love to make judgments and we seldom allow the facts to get in the way of those judgments. I have had this happen to me personally. Someone will judge my thoughts or my motives when they have no idea what my thoughts or motives were, they just didn't like what I had to say, so they attributed to me what they thought I thought or what they thought my motive was.

This is bad enough when we do it to other human beings, but we don't stop there, we tend to do it with God too. We make judgments about what God does or doesn't do and we attribute our thoughts of the situation to Him and then decide He acted unloving, or uncaring, or cruelly, etc...

Trust me God doesn't need me to defend Him and I won't try. He is God and can do whatever He likes and no one can do anything about it. He also tells us that we don't think on the same plane as He does:

Isaiah 55:8-9
    "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
        neither are your ways my ways,"

declares the Lord.
    [9] "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
        so are my ways higher than your ways
        and my thoughts than your thoughts."  [NIV]

Yes we prove over and over again what a bunch of rebellious blowhards we are. As I said I am not attempting to speak for God nor am I attempting to defend God in this article. What I do want to attempt to do is show people why we need to be very careful making judgments without knowledge.

I get letters almost every week with statements like these:

"I think God loves to torment me."

"God doesn't love or care about me. He allows me to have something nice just so He can take it away from me!"

"How can I ever trust God again, when He refuses to answer my prayers?"

"All my problems started when I became a Christian, before that I was happy and had everything."

Find those statements hard to believe? I used to be shocked by them, but no longer, I have seen them and things like them way too much. Just so you know; I am talking about comments from people who at least claim to be Christians.

Some of this is due to the condition of the church as a whole today. I have talked about this often, the cheap, feel good gospel that is preached in most churches. People are told to come to Christ and their lives will be better, that God loves them and has many blessings to give them. Technically none of that is wrong, but if given without also giving a warning about the cost of discipleship they are doing the people a disservice.

Luke 14:25-33
    Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: [26] "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. [27] And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
    [28] "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? [29] For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, [30] saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'
    [31] "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? [32] If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. [33] In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.  [NIV]

When was the last time you heard that preached on Sunday morning? If I had to guess it was probably never. If you have heard it preached, then praise God for your pastor and pray for him.

Let me address that passage for a moment. First Jesus tells the crowd that if they don't hate their family and even themselves they can't follow Him. We have to understand that hate doesn't mean what we think of today, rather it should be more like reject. So anyone who doesn't put Christ before or reject his family and even himself can't be a true follower of Christ. Then Jesus goes on to explain that if a person is going to build a tower, or go to war wouldn't they first take stock and decide if they could finish what they started? Again He is speaking about salvation, telling people that before deciding to accept His free gift of salvation they better count the cost and see if they will be able to follow through to the end.

This isn't popular, no one wants to admit that there are responsibilities and even costs to salvation. I will probably even be accused of preaching a works salvation, but that isn't what this is about. What it is about is cold hard facts. When we take the Name of Jesus as our own then the world and the demons see and associate us with that Name. We belong to Him and we are part of Him and He is part of us.

John 15:18
    "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first."  [NIV]

If you are wondering what this all has with giving God the benefit of the doubt, I will get to that. It is important to understand what salvation is and what salvation isn't. Salvation is the forgiveness of our sins; a pardon for our rebellion. What it is not, is a ticket to easy street. God promises us that He will never leave us. He promises us that all things work together for good for those who love Him, but He doesn't say every step of the way will be pleasant.

I often remember taking my daughter to the emergency room. She was about 4 years old and had an ear infection. She was in her car seat in the back seat of the car and she asked me if she would need a shot. She didn't want a shot and I knew that, but I wouldn't lie to her. I told her that I wasn't sure, if the doctor thought that she needed a shot then she would have to get one. She wasn't happy about that news, but I told her that she would only get a shot if she needed it and if she needed it that meant that if she didn't get it she would get even sicker. She understood and was willing to do what had to be done. She trusted me enough to know that if she got a shot it was for her own good in the long run. This is what God is telling us (His children) in the end we can know what happens is good for us no matter how it looks now, no matter how bad it feels, no matter what others say.

So if we view our lives as Christians with the understanding that there will be trials and tribulations and persecutions and yet that in the end all things will work together for our eternal good, we will have a good foundation to understand some of the things that come our way.

Sometimes we suffer because we are Christians:

1 Peter 4:12-14
    Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. [13] But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. [14] If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  [NIV]

Do we rejoice when we are singled out and suffer injustice? Not many of us, we tend to complain pretty loudly at the people who did it to us and then we often turn our attention to God and complain that He allowed it to happen. We are shocked, shocked I tell you to think that we might suffer because of being a follower of Christ! We are shocked  and surprised only because we don't know our Bibles very well.

Sometimes we suffer to be taught a lesson:

2 Cor. 1:8-11
    We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. [9] Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. [10] He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, [11] as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.  [NIV]

Churches teach today that God will never give you more than you can handle. Tell that to Paul when you see him! Paul tells us they were under great pressure, far beyond their ability to endure. He tells us that they despaired even of life. In their hearts they felt the sentence of death. But praise God, Paul tells us why this happened; so they would learn to lean on God. If Paul needed this lesson why would we think we will never need it? The problem is that because of how we have been sold a bill of goods about God never giving us more than we can handle when this happens to a Christian instead of leaning to lean on God, they begin to question Him and their faith in Him.

They don't give Him the benefit of the doubt that maybe He is doing this for their own good. That never crosses their minds, they jump to the conclusion that He doesn't really care about them. How sad.

What if a loved one of ours is taken away? Now I am speaking about another believer, not just a person we know or are related to, but a loved one who knows Christ. I get letters like this all too often too. Telling me that as a parent they would do anything to save the life of their child, and yet God being our Father didn't lift a figure to save their child, so He isn't as good a father as they are. Yes, believe it or not I have heard almost those exact words from Christians.

No benefit of the doubt is given to God, none! Does He deserve the benefit of the doubt? I can give you my opinion, but let's look at His word and see what He says about this very issue:

Isaiah 57:1
    The righteous perish,
        and no one ponders it in his heart;
    devout men are taken away,
        and no one understands
    that the righteous are taken away
        to be spared from evil.  [NIV]

Is it possible that as horrible as that automobile accident was it actually spared the individual something much worse in the future? Oh we are so smart that we think we know it all, so of course it was just God not caring about our pain and suffering or otherwise He would have done what we would have done and kept them from the accident in the first place. Of course we can't go ask that loved one any questions, but if we could what would their response be? We don't know, but if they are with Christ, first I think they would tell us as much as they love us, they wouldn't come back even if they could, secondly if they now know what evil they were spared from, might they tell us to sit down and shut up, God knows what He is doing?

There is also this passage:

Psalm 116:15
    Precious in the sight of the Lord
        is the death of his saints.  [NIV]

To our human ears that, sounds stupid, but step back and think about it for a moment. In this world we are under pressure, Satan dogs our steps, we dread our eventual death because it scares us, we experience pain and suffering. But once we die if we know Christ we go to be with Him, He comforts us and we bask in His love and care and will never suffer again. Why wouldn't our death be precious to our Lord and Savior, we are now with Him and out of the furnace so to speak. Yet we never think of it that way when a loved one is taken do we?

Every soul is precious to God and we have no way of knowing how our suffering might be used by God to reach some unsaved soul. We might never know, this side of eternity how the things we went through affected the unsaved around us and maybe helped bring one more soul into heaven.

We judge and often God comes up short because we don't understand the things that happen around us and we fail to give Him the benefit of the doubt. We mouth the words that He is all knowing and all loving, but when the rubber hit the highway we are all too quick to assume the worst.

We also fail most of the time to praise God for what He actually did for us. Let me give you an example; Christian parents have a wonder child. They love the child and everything is wonderful. Then when the child is 6 years old they run into trouble, some disease or accident takes the child from them and they wonder where God was. They wonder why God didn't care about them and their child. Aside from the things above; sparing the child from some evil, etc… Think about this, should they praise God for the 6 wonderful years they had? Or should they curse God for allowing them to have the child in the first place because they have experienced this pain now?

Would they rather that their child had never been born? Maybe, but if they think about it, that would mean they would never have known the love for or from this child and would never see that child again in eternity.

I am not saying any of this is easy, but what I am saying is that sometimes we have to look past the pain and give God the benefit of the doubt because we don't have even half of the facts much less all of the facts. Satan loves to put doubts in our minds about God, we must fight it. Satan is at war with our souls and anything is fair game, we must put on the armor of God daily and remind ourselves that God loves us and truly does have our eternal best interest at heart.

E-Mail Ralph

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May 2010