Matthew Smith column: We must trust in God
Editor’s note:Matthew Smith lives in Rowan County with his wife, Angie, and four children, Megan, Matthew, Madison and Malachi. He has a degree in mechanical engineering and is employed by Freightliner, as an application engineer. He is pursuing a master’s degree in religion at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews.So your life is moving along without difficulties, everything is going to suit you, and then it strikes ó whatever it is. It can be a job loss or relocation, house fire, death or illness.
Similar questions always result: Why me? Why now? What did I do to deserve this?
Unfortunately, many Christians direct the question towards God, almost blaming God for this rash of bad luck. Others, however, use the opportunity to question the very existence of God. Where is your God now, they ask.
Each of us has different ways to deal with life-altering issues. The common thread we share is no one is immune. No matter how prepared we are to face these challenges, the actual realization of the challenge usually proves to be more difficult.
As Christians, the way we handle our difficulties often defines our walk with Christ ó especially to unbelievers. In fact, our actions during these times are an excellent witness to the transforming power of Christ. Although we will never know with certainty, our witness could have a profound effect on the kingdom of God.
As a blueprint for our actions, we need to look no further than the Bible to see how Jesus’ handled himself leading up to and during his crucifixion. Crucifixion is one of the most heinous forms of execution the world has ever known; yet it was predetermined from the foundation of the earth that Jesus would die this way. He came to earth willingly, knowing his ultimate fate, and embraced it. When I think of the torture he endured, I shudder. Yet, he did it all for you and me.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:5-7).
Although Isaiah wrote those words more than 700 years before Christ, they are an exact match to the accounts described in the Gospels. Amazingly, Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Hebrew and Aramaic writings discovered in 1947, includes a scroll of Isaiah 53 that is nearly an exact match of Isaiah 53 in today’s Bible. Since most scholars date the Dead Sea Scrolls before Christ, this not only helps to confirm the accuracy of our modern versions but also supports the divine nature of the Bible.
Granted, the example given by Jesus is impossible to follow exactly. He lived as a man, with many of the same temptations we experience, yet He was without sin (1 Peter 2:22). We, on the other hand, fall prey to the trappings of the devil and the snares of sin (Romans 3:23).
Thankfully, despite our propensity for sin, God never gives us more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13), and we have all the armor necessary to stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:11-17). Ultimately, as our Christian walk matures, not only does our armor become more difficult to penetrate, but the image of Christ emerges out of our actions. In fact, the highest compliment a Christian could receive is our actions are Christ-like.
For me, the life altering “it” was the discovery of metastatic colon cancer in my liver in October. Although doctors discovered cancer in my colon in December 2006, the initial knowledge was easier for me to accept than the discovery 10 months later that it had moved to another organ.
Two surgeries and six months of chemotherapy were supposed to prevent reoccurrence. As a father of four small children, an active member of Landmark Church and a seminary student pursuing a master’s degree in religion, I thought God would not allow this misfortune on me.
I mean, I was already committed to the growth of his kingdom. Then it hit me: His ways are not my ways, and my ways are not his ways. As someone who knows the beginning from the end, he knows the effect my illness will have on those around me. Although I have no idea how my sickness can positively affect God’s kingdom, my chore is to be faithful to him.
It is very natural to question why, as long as we do not lose sight of God’s sovereignty. It is also natural to question God’s will for our lives. Even Jesus, at Gethsemane, asked God if that cup, which included crucifixion, could be taken from him. But he resigned himself to allow God’s will be done.
Once God’s will is known, it is up to us to live and act accordingly. When we live this way, we are living the gospel. For those who never open the Bible, the way we live may be the only gospel they will ever read. God’s word says, “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost” (2 Corinthians 4:3).
There is an old adage that suggests you only get one chance to make a good impression, and that applies to our walk with Christ, as well. If we are observed moping and swearing while we cope with our situation, it does not say much about our walk with Christ. However, if we cope with grace and dignity, people will see Christ in our actions, and it can lead to witnessing opportunities. Most importantly, others will see us living our faith.
For those who use sickness as an opportunity to question the existence of God, they usually fail to see the hypocrisy of their question. They have no problem believing objective evil exists and sickness is a form of evil. However, you cannot have evil unless you have an absolute standard of morals.
If you do not believe there is an absolute standard of morals, which God represents, then there cannot be evil either. As a result, an individual’s definition of good and evil would be relative ó a shifting opinion based upon the circumstances surrounding his upbringing and influences. Conversely, to believe in evil is to inadvertently recognize the existence of an absolute moral standard and the existence of God. Moral relativism and objective evil cannot be true at the same time; consequently, if you believe in objective evil, relativism must be false.
As of today, I am still battling cancer. I am undergoing my third chemotherapy regimen and have had limited success so far. However, the current regimen, which I just started a few weeks ago, is, I believe, the one that will ultimately heal me.
I am excited the end is near.
I have experienced numerous peaks, valleys and winding roads along the way. There have been times when it seemed too difficult to continue. God’s word, however, says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
During these difficult times, I simply drop my burdens at the foot of the cross. He is also the ultimate source of strength and his strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I count myself blessed to have this source of strength to rely on.
Ultimately, when I receive my great reward, I look forward to the salutation of “my good and faithful servant.” Notice, God’s word does not say successful servant, for we are not judged by the number we help lead to the Lord. Instead, we are to be faithful to his will, whatever that is. He will do the rest.
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