confusedI suppose one of the most important, as well as perhaps the most frustrating, studies for a new Christian is the study of God’s present work and how God deals with us as believers. We come into our Christian life supposing that now that we are on the side of God, great blessings must be just lined up waiting to come our way. That God has a definite program and plan for us we are certain, and we look to our church leaders and the mature Christians around us to point us in that direction and explain to us just exactly what God is doing and what we are to expect from Him. All too often, though, the message which young Christians get concerning God’s dealings with us today are either confused, incomplete and dissatisfying, or just plain wrong. In some ways, the church leaders and mature Christians no more understand God’s workings than do the young Christians, and thus can provide all too little leadership or help in this area. Thus the young Christian is left on his own to learn through experience the way God is dealing with people today. How many young Christians have started out fired up for the Lord and certain that God is going to do thus and thus and thus for them, only to discover that their expectations just do not pan out? And all the older Christians can do is watch with sympathy but all too little explanation.

What is the problem here? It all centers in the confusion regarding the interpretation and application of the New Testament. We go there and see the great things which God did at that time. The wonderful, mighty acts, the powerful miracles and signs, the promises, the heavenly help which was ever and always with the disciples as they spread Christ’s message to the world, and we think how wonderful it would be to see God work in this way today. Then we look around at our churches and missions and work today, at the state of Christianity and the people involved in it, and we just do not see that heavenly help, that great shower of blessings, that wealth of signs and wonders and healings, and, yes, even the fulfillment of promises which we see so evident in various verses and which we love to read and quote. And we wonder, what is wrong? Is it something wrong with us? Are we not doing something right? Are we failing somehow to meet the divine criteria for such things to occur in our lives and our world? Or is, heaven forbid, our faith in vain?

This may sound like a rather pessimistic way to look at things, but I doubt there are many thinking Christians out there who haven’t wrestled with these sorts of questions at one time or another. This is the kind of question, I think, that makes many would-be Bible scholars throw up their hands in despair and decide, “This is just too much for me. I’ll just let the pastor and the college professors and the other experts study these things, for they are surely too difficult for me ever hope to come upon an answer.” I believe that this is the biggest and most important question that the majority of the Christian world has simply no answer for today, that is, why are things now…different?

What is needed more than anything else by most Christians today is a simple, sweeping knowledge of what exactly God is trying to accomplish today and why and how He is going about accomplishing it. Most would say He’s trying to get people saved, and yet, if that were His only purpose, then signs and wonders should be rampant, for these would surely lend great credibility to the message and cause many skeptics to come to God when they see the outworking of His power. Oh, I know some are sure to point out that all of Christ’s miracles didn’t cause many of the Jewish people to come to Him, but just read the book of John and you will see that “many believed on Him, when they saw the miracles that He did.” Miracles are not an ineffective tool!

Then, there must be more to God’s plan than merely bringing men to Himself. Some would say then that His purpose is to “build the church.” But as a satisfying definition of the “church” is hard to find among Christians today, we cannot really comment on the importance of this or why God would wish to do it. When we boil it down, it is basically the same thing as saying He is out to save people, only in a globalized and organized religion type of way. And surely more would come into the churches if, say, a pastor could go into a hospital and clean out the wards by healing all of the sick, as Paul did at Melita in Acts chapter 28. And don’t try to tell me that the problem is that men today do not have enough faith. Am I expected to believe that these “barbarous people” were spiritual giants? So, then, why no healings?

Then, there is tragedy. Who among God’s people has not heard someone ask or asked themselves the question, “Why, God?” This is usually after some great tragedy or when going through some great turmoil. And we cannot understand it or why God would allow it to happen to us and we question ourselves and we question our faith and we question whether we have sinned and we question whether God is angry at us and we question whether God is there at all and there are no answers and we are only frustrated if we try to find any and all we can do is just give up and go through it and hope we come out stronger and with our faith intact on the other side. And what is the answer to the “why” question? Why does God allow the current state of affairs to go on? This question has no answers among most of the Bible teachers of today.

It is interesting to me in studying the Psalms how many of the Psalmists go through these same types of questions themselves. And the answer usually arrived at among thinking Christians today is that we just must learn to trust God more. And this is true. But we still must ask ourselves, with all the hopes and miracles and signs of something great and, yes, the promises to be fulfilled, of the gospels and the Acts, why do we not see great signs and workings of God today? Why do the heavens appear to be silent? Do these things merely need to be stirred up again by some enthusiastic and spiritual revival? Or is there another reason why God now remains so disturbingly silent?

I believe that these questions only have one answer. There is a truth which is so sweeping in scope and so revealing in nature that once we discover it, we will have the answer to these so disturbing questions. This truth is the great truth of the purpose of God in His dealings with mankind today. Once we understand this purpose and the reason for it and the way God is working to accomplish it, these questions will at once have their answer. Oh, we will not understand completely, and certainly not all at once. But if we come to this truth we will have reached the point where we are finally able to look upon the work of God today and not see an unexplained lack, as if something was missing. We will no longer have to look at the feeble efforts of men and fail to understand why God does not intervene and do something. We will have the answer we seek and will be able to look at God’s working today and say, “Ah, yes, that is what God is doing. Yes, that is what God is accomplishing. That is what God is doing now, and He is accomplishing it perfectly, in every way and every situation.” And at last we will be able to be at peace with God, for we will know what His plan is, and will not be straining against it, as the young Christian in my earlier example, hoping and praying for Him to do something which He will not do.

Sometimes I wish I could simply be like so many Christians are, looking down their noses at those who don’t believe as they do. Assured that everything I believe is right and everything they believe is wrong, I could go through my Christian life in blissful ignorance, always knowing that I had the final word on everything, assured that I was the one on God’s good side, knowing that when I saw Him He would say to me, “Well done, my faithful servant! You didn’t believe all the silly things that the people in that other foolish church believed! You stayed true to My truth as you were taught in My true church, and you are therefore the best and most praiseworthy of Christians!” I suppose if I believed that to be the case I could lay down my Bible and never study it again. I could look on all other believers as “the enemy” and all in my church as “the true followers of Christ” and I would never have to wrestle with the difficult questions and the hard and lonely roads to truth again. But I cannot do this. I cannot look on myself or upon others this way. I already know all too well my own ignorance to ever suppose I have all the truth. And God has given me far too much compassion for others for me to look down upon those struggling in their relationship with God because they cannot understand. I am often grieved when I see those asking God for things which I believe He cannot and will not give them, and then wondering why they do not receive them. Or quoting verses which they do not understand and then struggling with explaining why they do not see them acted out in their lives. And I believe that the truth is so easy and so accessible, hidden in one key of understanding which will open the door to so much truth and cause so many problems to disappear. Yet, if I hold out this key, will any listen to me? I doubt it! It is too foreign, too unorthodox. Perhaps simply the dream of an idealist. I’ll admit I’m that. But am I wrong? Indeed, if I were wrong and every sincere student of God’s Word were right, it would give me great reason to rejoice! Yet, if I am wrong, where is the answer? Have I heard anyone speak it?

I suppose after all this not to explain what I’m talking about seems rather anticlimactic, yet I want you to think for a little about what I said. Maybe you have an answer to these questions? Perhaps I have not defined the questions correctly or have not looked at these things realistically? Or perhaps there is no answer! Ah, but I believe there is. And the finding of it would truly be a “pearl of great price.”