Questioning God (4/8/2018)

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One of my favorite shows when I was growing up was WKRP in Cincinnati. It focused on a struggling radio station run by a group of misfits.

In one episode, the station manager, Mr. Carlson, decided to promote the station at Thanksgiving by giving away live turkeys. He thought it would be a great idea to release them from a helicopter that was hovering over a mall parking lot. They threw the turkeys out of the copter…and the turkeys plummeted to the ground, smashing through car windshields while narrowly missing spectators.

Mr. Carlson had spent a lot of time and money planning everything down to the last detail. There was only one problem. His whole thought process was based on faulty information. Wild turkeys can fly. Domestic turkeys can’t. Just because Mr. Carlson believed domestic turkeys could fly didn’t mean they actually would. One untruth changed the whole outcome.

Unfortunately, there are untruths about God which have become popular in the church. We’re going to take the next few weeks and look at some of them. This week we’re going to address the question, “Can we question God?” Most of us have heard others say, “We’re not supposed to question God.” Perhaps you’ve said it yourself. Is this biblical?

I understand why people come to this conclusion. He is, after all, God. Things happen in our lives that we don’t like, that we don’t want and that we can’t explain. Often times both the Bible and God himself is silent when we search for answers.

Many of us know what this feels like. When I was growing up, I would occasionally ask my dad, “Why?” when he told me to do something – or not do something. Most of the time, I wasn’t asking because I wanted to be rebellious. I was asking because I really wanted to know the reason. Dad didn’t understand this. His response to this question was usually, “Because I said so.” That answer taught me to respect him but it often left me with unanswered questions.

We all have questions for God. I posted on our congregational Facebook page and asked you to share one question you would like to ask him.

Some of our children and youth wanted to know:

-“When is Jesus coming again? Please give the exact date and time.”

-“Is there a Wii in heaven?”

-“What is heaven like? What do You and Your Son look like?”

Questions from adults were much deeper.

– “Why did Jesus have to die? Wasn’t there another way?”

– “Why didn’t you choose women to write the Bible, because then we would know exactly who said what and when with the tone of voice they used, how everyone else reacted and a million other supporting details and stories?”

– “Why does everything have to be such a big mystery–can’t you plainly tell us what you want in an audible voice? Or better yet, in person–face to face with us?”

Other questions summed up the most common ones we ask God.

– Why does this life have to be so difficult with so much pain and suffering?

This was followed up with “Is there justice in heaven to make up for all the tears I have cried here on Earth?

Not knowing the reasons for difficult and gut-wrenching problems can leave us feeling confused, tired and angry. “Because I said so” isn’t good enough sometimes. This makes God seem distant and cruel. Our faith starts becoming hollow and weak.

So, let’s get back to our original question. Can we question God? Let’s see what the Bible has to say about it.

In Judges 6, the Israelites have turned from God so he sent the Midianites to ruin their crops and kill their livestock. Eventually, the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help. In Judges 6:12, An “angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

How did Gideon respond?  “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian (Judges 6:13).”

Did God rebuke Gideon for asking this? No. He used Gideon to drive the Midianites out of Israel.

When the prophet Habakkuk saw how wicked the world had become, he cried out to God.

In Habakkuk 1:2-4 he asks, How long, Lord, must I call for help,
    but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
    but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
    so that justice is perverted.”

How did the Lord respond?

“5 “Look at the nations and watch—
    and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
    that you would not believe,
    even if you were told.
I am raising up the Babylonians,
    that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
    to seize dwellings not their own.”

God didn’t rebuke him. God answered his questions.

In Matthew 26, we read about Jesus last night on earth. He ate the Passover Meal, which we call the Last Supper, with his disciples.

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me (Matt. 26:36-38).”

At this moment, Jesus is struggling. The responsibility of what he’s facing is more than he wants to shoulder. He doesn’t want to endure the suffering that’s coming his way any more than we would. What does he do?

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will (Matt. 26:39a).”

He asks God, “Father, why does redemption for creation have to happen like this? Why do I have to suffer? Can’t you find another way?”

As we can plainly see in these examples from the Bible, God doesn’t seem to mind when we question him. As we do this, there are some important concepts we need to understand. We find them in Psalm 13:1-6. It says,  1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

The first important point we need to know is it’s OK to question God. This psalm was written by David. We don’t know exactly when he wrote this or who his enemy was. However, David makes it plain he’s struggling and he wonders where God is in all of this.

David starts out by asking God where he is. Not only has God not delivered David from his enemies, David feels like God has totally abandoned him. David asks him, “How long will you hide your face from me?” Hiding your face from someone is a sign of displeasure or, even worse, indifference. After David questions God, he gets bold. In verse 3, he has the nerve to give God an order. He says, “Look on me and answer, LORD my God.” He’s suffering and wants God to defend himself.

Then, in verse 5, David’s tone changes. After all of his questions and demands to God, he says, “But I trust in your unfailing love.” Jesus had the same attitude in Matthew 26. After he asked God if there was another way for us to be saved from our sins, he said, “Yet not as I will, but as you will (Matt. 26:39b).”

This brings us to our next point. It’s fine to question God as long as we remember that he is God. We don’t want to fool ourselves into thinking we’re equal with him. He’s God. We’re his creation.

Please read Psalm 13 one more time. How did David’s situation turn out? Did God destroy his enemy and restore joy to his heart?

We don’t know. The psalm doesn’t tell us. This brings us to our last point. God isn’t obligated to tell us all of the details or answer “Why.” There comes a certain point in our lives where we just have to trust him. If he doesn’t give us the answers we seek, we must not give up on him. He will give us the strength and peace we need to keep moving forward in the silence.

Remember God isn’t distant or cruel. Our faith isn’t hollow. Jesus died on the cross for our salvation because God the Father sent him to do it. If we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will go to heaven when we die.

Remember that God doesn’t promise us an easy life. Actually, he promises to send trials that will test and, ultimately, strengthen our faith.

It’s one thing for Mr. Carlson to be misinformed about turkeys. It’s much more serious for us to believe untruths about God. We don’t need to be silent when it’s OK to ask him questions.

In prayer, ask God any questions you’ve been afraid to ask him before now.