Wisdom to Face Life’s Trials

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:2-8 NKJV

Many of us have been struggling.  Many people are having a tough time just making ends meet.  Household incomes are going down, while expenses have been skyrocketing.  Jobs are hard to find, and the few that are available usually don’t pay enough to live on.  About 100 million Americans — one in every three — live either in poverty or in the distressed zone just above it.  The Democrats blame the Republicans for the failing economy; the Republicans blame the Democrats; and most Americans blame both.

Americans are worried and scared.  We’re uncertain about the future, and are fearful that we will lose everything we have worked for all of our lives.

Yet, James tells us to “count it all joy” when we face trials.  How is this possible?  First, notice that James addresses this comment to the brethren.  He’s talking to Christian believers.  Apart from a relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ, it is impossible to truly have joy in the face of distress and suffering.  It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that God can supernaturally bestow on us peace and joy despite difficult times.

James acknowledges that such times are a test of our faith.  Do we truly trust God despite the fear and uncertainties, or not?  Do we continue to believe in God’s love and power, even though everything seems to be crashing down all around us?  God’s purpose for trials, at least in part, is to produce patience and perseverance, which, in turn, produces mature Christian character which lacks nothing.

TRIAL => TESTING => PERSEVERANCE => MATURITY

If our response to trials is to resist God’s working to produce Christ-like character in our lives, we set ourselves up for a very difficult time indeed.

James continues by reminding us to seek wisdom from God when facing trials.  In biblical terms, to be wise is to know and understand godliness, and to do what is pleasing to God.  God desires us to be godly and wise, so when we truly seek wisdom from Him, He will surely grant it to us.  This does not necessarily mean God will give us the wisdom to solve our problems or end our struggles; rather, He gives us the wisdom to become more Christ-like in how we overcome the struggles we face.

We are next warned to ask God in faith, without doubting.  We are to avoid becoming double-minded.  “Double-minded” literally means “two-souled.” This refers not to mere mental hesitancy, but rather to having one’s thinking divided within himself, such as an inner moral conflict, or a distrust of God.  It comes back again to faith.  James compares this division between faith and distrust with being tossed about like a ship in a storm.  Faith in God’s love and character is the anchor that holds us despite the storms that rage around us.  Sin and mistrust of God remove this spiritual anchor.  To ask for wisdom in faith is to cling to God’s way of righteousness and to be committed to it, despite the difficulties we struggle with daily.  If we are not willing to commit to allowing God to produce godly character in our lives, we should have no expectation that He will give it to us.  Spiritual growth and maturity require commitment, and cannot be attained without it.

Economic uncertainty and the fear it produces are natural consequences of sin in a fallen world.  Overcoming the fear and distress is only possible by seeking wisdom from God.  Although He may or may not take the physical struggles and suffering away in this life, He can grant us the peace and strength to grow closer to Him through the trials, if we seek His wisdom, and commit to following Him, whatever the circumstances.  We may be poor in worldly goods, but be richly blessed with God’s righteousness and power to overcome the difficulties we face in this life, and with the promise of unimaginable blessings in eternity.


Please pray for those of us who are struggling in these tough economic times, and for all who are struggling to grow in their faith in Jesus Christ.

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you!

How Can God Allow Evil?

The Problem of Evil

One of the main arguments skeptics use to challenge Christianity is the issue of a loving God permitting evil.

The Argument against the Existence of God Because of Evil

According to the Bible, God is:

  1. God is all-knowing
  2. God is all-powerful
  3. God is all Loving

Yet evil exists.

Therefore, the God of the Bible cannot exist because He is either not all-knowing, not all-powerful, or not all loving.

Problems with the Argument

  1. If there is no God, then what is evil?  There cannot be an absolute standard of good and evil without God.  In order to claim that evil exists, the skeptic must steal the concept of good and evil from the Christian worldview.  In fact, from an evolutionary worldview, death and suffering must be good, because they are the causes of natural selection (survival of the fittest).  This leads to a self-contradictory argument.
  2. God’s love does not imply that pain and suffering cannot exist.  God uses pain and suffering to discipline us, much like a shepherd uses pain to direct his sheep or a parent uses pain to direct a child.
  3. The fact that God is all-powerful does not imply that God can do everything.  God cannot violate His own nature.  God cannot lie, cannot act irrationally, and cannot be immoral.  Because He created us in His image, He also cannot violate our nature.  He gave us a will, and cannot force us to act against our wills.

The argument against God because of evil can be refuted by the addition of a fourth premise:

  1. God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists.

As long as there exists at least one morally sufficient reason why God allows evil to exist, the skeptic’s argument falls apart.  What could such a “morally sufficient” reason be?  Some options:

  1.  One might argue that God has reasons He has not revealed to us.  Although this is a weak argument, it would solve the problem of evil.
  2. The second argument is that evil is caused by mankind’s sin rather than God’s will.  This is the traditional argument. Because they were created in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27), Adam and Eve had a free will choice to follow God or disobey.  Unfortunately, they chose disobedience.  Evil, then, is the result of Adam’s sin, which resulted in a curse upon the whole earth, since the whole earth was under his dominion (Gen 1:28, 3:17; Rom 8:19–22; Rev 22:3).
  3. The third approach to providing a morally sufficient reason for evil is that evil serves redemptive or revelational purposes.  God uses evil for a greater good, the redemption of sinners and/or the revelation of Himself to His creation.
  4. The fourth approach to providing a morally sufficient reason for the existence of evil is the “best of all worlds” theodicy.  Gottfried Leibniz argued that of all the worlds God could have created, the one He actually created is the best of all possible options.  He argued, “It is true that one may imagine possible worlds without sin and without unhappiness, and one could make some like Utopian or Sevarambian romances:  but these same worlds again would be very inferior to ours in goodness.”   Although God could have hypothetically created a world without evil, such a world would not have the benefit of freedom of will.
  5. The final approach to the logical problem of evil is known as the free will argument.  This argument overlaps significantly with the other approaches, and has been proposed in various forms since the second century.  Simply stated, the free will defense claims that God could not have created humans with a free will without permitting them to exercise that will to do evil.  Alvin Plantinga proposed the following:
  • Free will is of moral value. That is, a world with free will is better than one without it.
  • It is a contradiction to say that God brings it about that humans freely will only the good
  • God must bring about the best possible world in his capacity.
  • Therefore, God must create a world with free will
  • But then God is not responsible for evil (choices), since it is not in His power to bring it about that men freely choose only the good.

If God changed everyone’s personality so that they could not cause evil, it would also mean that we would not have a free will. We would not be able to choose right or wrong because we would be “programmed” to only do right. Had God chosen to do this, there would be no meaningful relationships between Him and His creation.

As long as at least one of these arguments – or another argument – is true, then God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil, and the skeptic’s argument is invalid.

Conclusion

The logical problem of evil, it seems, is more of a problem for the non-Christian than for the Christian.  Within Christian theology, there are several non-contradictory answers to the question of why God allows evil to exist.  Several of these morally sufficient reasons for God allowing evil have been presented here; undoubtedly, others also exist.  The problem for non-Christians is that they reject Christian theology.  Because they approach the problem of evil with false presuppositions, the problem of evil can never be resolved to their satisfaction.  The very syllogism they propose is fallacious, and no answer consistent with the teaching of the Bible can ever be consistent with a non-Christian’s worldview.  Thus, for the non-Christian, the so-called logical problem of evil is merely a symptom of a larger problem, the rejection of God and His Word.