Promises Not Explanations

We live in a world full of unanswered, “Whys?”  For most Christians, we have a stock of answers to help us reconcile the existence of evil with the goodness of God.  We know that we live in a fallen world where people make sinful and hurtful choices.  We know that the earth itself is cursed because of our sin.  The thorns and thistles God promised Adam in the Garden have grown into hurricanes, tsunamis and epidemics.  And we know that death, which came into the world with sin, is no respecter of persons.  It takes wealthy and poor, young and old, the good and the malicious.
None of this knowledge prevents us from questioning the justness of God when tragedy and injustice strike us personally.  Perhaps, it isn’t even the sudden calamity.  Maybe it’s just that gnawing, persistent problem that won’t go away – the relationship that never heals, the loved one who never repents, the financial problems that are never resolved, the big break that never comes our way.  God seems to favor others over us.  He seems to bless them more than He blesses us.  We cry out like Esau, “Have you but one blessing, my father?  Bless me, even me also, O my father!” (Gen. 27:38).
I’ve been reading Warren Wiersbe’s book on Ecclesiastes – Be Satisfied.  Wiersbe notes that wisdom, human understanding, cannot solve every problem because there are always some things that cannot be explained.  He states, “God has ordained that His people live by promises and not by explanations, by faith and not by sight” (35).  It is normal to want explanations for the things that are happening around us, especially when we hear unbelievers mocking our faith because we don’t have those explanations to give them.
Having thought about Wiersbe’s statement, though, it seems easy to understand why God insists on faith and not sight.  The desire for explanations keeps us looking backward, fixated on the past and things we could not change even if we understood them.  Faith looks forward to the future, and faith always involves expectation.  There is undoubtedly value in learning lessons from our past experiences, but only insofar as those lessons push us forward to the things God has for us in the future.  Let us not be like Lot’s wife who missed her deliverance because she could not keep herself from turning back to the things she was leaving behind.
Instead, the pursuit of God’s promises offers two things that are desperately wanting in the world:  happiness and holiness.  The word that is translated “blessed” in Scripture also means “happy.”  The world knows the secret to good advertising:  it doesn’t offer what we really want, but rather makes us want what it has to offer.  God operates differently.  He made us and knows us inside out.  As our Creator, He knows what will truly satisfy us – not just as human beings, but as individuals made to fill a specific purpose in His plan for history.
So the pursuit of God is the choice to take expectation over explanation, and this takes us on a truly transforming journey of faith.  The apostle states, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him  who called us to  his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become  partakers of the divine nature,  having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4, ESV)  The pursuit of God’s promises leads to holiness because in the process we learn to desire the things of God rather than the things of the world.  We partake of the divine nature rather than the corrupt and sinful desires of the world.  We long for the kingdom of God, which His promises are always part of, rather than the empty culture around us.
This does not mean that our “whys” have no value.  Rather, they are symptoms of a necessary discontent.  To ask if life must be a certain way is also to ask why it can’t be better.  And if it can be better, how would that work?  These are the questions that God answers in the pages of Scripture.  The “why” leads us to the “how,” and the “how” is always based on God’s promises.
In Hebrews 11:16, it says of the Old Testament heroes that they “desired a better country,” and for this reason, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.”  It was not their good works God applauded, so much as their good taste.  They desired better things — godly things — and pursued them with expectation and became godly themselves in the process.  What, then, would God have me desire?  Let me find His promises and live in them.

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