In starting this blog there’s a couple of things I need to get out of way so those of you who know me well can turn off because you’ve heard me say these things before. For others, let me say these are two of the most important things I learned that are not overtly stated in the Bible, but truths that are absolutely scriptural.
We all know the Golden Rule. I have two “Silver Rules” that keep me sane. I wish I learned these before I set out in ministry. The rules are simple:
- Do not confuse God and life.
- Do not confuse Christ and Christians.
I could have saved myself a heap of heart ache and confusion if I had gotten a handle on those truths many years ago. Today I will just tackle silver rule number one.
Never Confuse God and Life
More Christians think the Lord is unkind and has singled them out for special treatment because they miss this truth. God is God and life is life. When Jesus said He is “The Life”, He did not mean He is the author of the day to day insanity that takes place on this fallen planet. He did not put your family on food stamps, decide to downsize the workforce at the plant, give you cancer, or promote terrorism. He did not cause the unbelieving next door neighbor to enjoy great health while you struggle to stay ahead of the doctor’s bills. Life in a fallen world is random, unfair and unkind. It looks absolutely nothing like our God.
God is everything life is not. He is more than fair, He is gracious. He is not random but equally compassionate to all. He is not unkind but so full of mercy that when we could not save ourselves He chose to step in and do it for us. He came to this mess we call “life”, to show us that “The Life” looks nothing like this pathetic flurry of activity that fills our day. He willingly subjected Himself to the harshness of the fallen world, to the point of death at Calvary. For six hours He willingly chose to hang on the cross when He had the power to “opt out” any time He chose. That’s pretty astonishing. That’s real love.
Suffice to say, everything that is true of “life’ is not true of God.
Why People Get Confused
We’ve all heard pithy sayings intended to encourage us when life is hard. “God never gives you more than you can handle”. People mean well but that’s a ridiculous statement. There’s a host of things I can’t handle but God will never abandon me so there’s nothing life can do to me that He can’t handle. Yet millions of people recite that phrase like it was true and conclude that God is either a very poor judge of character, or He’s not very nice.
There are Christian songs that suggest that God sends devastating circumstances to teach us something. While it is true we can learn of God’s faithfulness and love in tough times, the idea that He singled us out for special treatment would suggest that American Christians have less to learn than our brothers and sisters who suffer for their faith elsewhere. Do we really believe that persecuted Christians need to learn more about Jesus than the rest of us? Of course not. But that is the logical conclusion if every harsh thing that happens occurs so God can teach us something new. I’ve read my Bible and every hard thing does not come from above. It actually comes from being on a sinful planet and if I never sinned I could put in a complaint. I haven’t got that luxury.
Never Forget Silver Rule Number One
It is guaranteed that difficult things will happen in life. Christians who mistakenly believe the Lord is the Machiavellian hand behind every circumstance will live with a great deal of tension in their relationship with God. Every hardship will seem a personal attempt to improve their overall character and they will constantly be hoping they are “good enough” to avoid the next “test”.
The truth is simpler: every hard thing in life shows us the cost of sin and should cause us to fall “out of love” with the world. At the same time, knowing that the Lord who loves you and redeems you and is nothing at all like this temporary mess we call “life” will cause you to invest your treasure where life cannot spoil or ruin it. This edition of “life” will ultimately kill you. The Lord of Life will ultimately save you. He is the strong shelter you can run to in a time of need.
Hang on to that first silver rule and share it with others: Never Confuse God and Life.