Dealing With Pain

Chapter 5

Loving God for
Who He Is

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
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God wants us to love him for who he is, and not just for what he does for us. This is the issue in the Book of Job.

Job was a wealthy man, with a large family; “the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). Satan said to God, “Does Job fear God for nothing?… Stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face” (Job 1:9,11). But Job remained faithful to God.

Then satan said, “Stretch out Your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face” (Job 2:5). But no matter what happened to him, “Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)

Job’s wife told him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). But Job replied,

“You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10)

Job complained to God, he demanded explanations, he showed anger at God, but he never turned away from God. At the end, when God gave him no explanations, he was content with the fact that “now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5).

He remained faithful to God for who God was, even though God had allowed satan to take away his family and wealth, and to inflict on him a painful disease. He served God for who he was and not for what he had bestowed on Job.

David wrote,

“Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:4-5)

Often, before God is ready to give us the desires of our heart, he may test us to see whether we have truly committed our ways to him and are willing to trust him. It is when things are going “badly” that we have to trust in God because we have nowhere else to turn. Just as he did with Job, God may test us with troubles so that he, and we, can know whether we are really committed to him and trust in him.

When the three young Hebrews refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, he threatened to throw them into a very hot furnace. They replied,

 “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)

They believed that God would save them from suffering. But even if he did not, they would serve him. Their serving God did not depend on what he did or did not do for them, but on who he is.

If God always blessed us with good things, and rescued us from suffering, then we would be tempted to love and serve him just for what he does for us. Our faith in him would be based on greed and self-advantage.

God does not want that kind of faith. He wants us to believe in him, and to love and serve him, for who he is, and not just for what he does for us.

There are many reasons for loving God for who he is. These include his character and his greatness.

God’s Character

The important thing to remember about God’s character is that it has many aspects.

God is loving, compassionate, merciful, forgiving, and kind. He is amazingly patient with us. He also disciplines those he loves. He is holy, righteous, and just. He cannot tolerate evil. He is a God of judgment.

God has all wisdom and all knowledge. He is faithful; he keeps his promises. He reaches out to us and desires our companionship. He wants us to know him personally. But he is also a great and powerful God. He is awesome in the original and true meaning of that word.

I could go on and list many more aspects of God’s character. It would take a whole book to begin to deal with them adequately. But the point I want to emphasize is that we need to deal with every aspect of God’s character.

One of the great sources of error in our thinking about God is that we sometimes put so much emphasis on certain aspects of his character that we neglect the others and arrive at a distorted picture. We need to know and follow the whole teaching of Scripture about God, and not just parts of it. Let me illustrate this by just one example.

Paul wrote, “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22). (The NIV says “…kindness and sternness…”)

God is a loving God. “God is love” (1 John 4:16). “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

God is merciful and patient with us. “The LORD longs to be gracious to you…” (Isaiah 30:18 NIV). He lavishes his grace—his unmerited favor—on those who love him.

But he is also a just God and a holy God. He will not forever tolerate evil and sin. He is a God of judgment. “…we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (Romans 14:10 NIV). (Also see John 5:28-29.)

Scripture tells us to love God, and also to fear God.  How can we do both? How can we both love God and fear him? A simple example may help. A young child loves his daddy. But he also fears him, especially when his daddy finds it necessary to discipline him physically.

We need always to be aware of these two aspects of God.

In the past, there have been those who put such emphasis on God’s severity that we tended to lose sight of his love and mercy. Today there are some who put such emphasis on God’s love and mercy that we tend to lose sight of his wrath and judgment. Either view is incomplete. Either view, without the other, is a distortion of God’s character.

 The Greatness of God

God has all wisdom and all knowledge. He is faithful; he keeps his promises. He reaches out to us and desires our companionship. He wants us to know him personally. But he is also a great and powerful God. He is awesome in the original and true meaning of that word.

God is “the great God, mighty and awesome” (Deuteronomy 10:17). (Also see Deuteronomy 7:21; 2 Samuel 7:22; Nehemiah 1:5, 9:32; Daniel 9:4; Titus 2:13.)

“O LORD my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty” (Psalm 104:1)

“For the LORD is the great God, And the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.” (Psalm 95:3-7)

“Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom” (Psalm 145:3 NIV)

To get some sense of God’s greatness, I suggest reading Isaiah, chapter 40, and Revelation, chapters 4 and 5. Even they do not give the whole picture.

God created the earth, the sun, the moon, our solar system, and millions upon millions of stars, most of which are larger than our sun. He created a physical universe that extends, so our scientists tell us, for a huge number of light years—distances that most of us cannot begin to grasp. And he is greater than his creation!

We cannot begin to conceive the full measure of God’s greatness, his splendor, his majesty, his power. He has given us, in his Scriptures, some remarkable visions of him; but they are incomplete and partial. God lives “in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16).

Part of God’s greatness is that he is all-powerful. God is the Almighty. That is his nature. That is what it is to be God. God’s power is incomparably great (Ephesians 1:19). He can do all things.

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)

“Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:14)

“I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” (Job 42:2)

“But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Matthew 19:26)

God’s purpose and plans will prevail. Nothing can thwart or defeat them.

“The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.” (Psalm 33:11)

“The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, ‘Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand’” (Isaiah 14:24)

“I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” (Job 42:2)

The Fear of the Lord

Because God is so great, we should fear him.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wis-dom” (Psalm 111:10)

“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9)

“Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.” (Psalm 34:9 NIV)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7)

What does it mean, to fear God? I think it means that we recognize God’s tremendous power, and his potential for wrath against things that are ungodly. God is not mocked. We need constantly to keep watch over how we live.

It means that we do not presume on God. “Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins… and I shall be innocent of great transgressions” (Psalm 19:13).

What are presumptuous sins? We presume on God when we take him for granted, or seek to manipulate him. We presume on God when we put him to the test. (See Matthew 4:7.) Jesus would have presumed on God if he had thrown himself from the Temple when God did not tell him to do so. (See Matthew 4:6-7.)

We presume on God whenever we think we can obligate him to give us something or to do something on our behalf. God does not owe anything to anybody. He is not obligated to anybody. (See Romans 11:35.)

God is not a heavenly vending machine in which you put in a prayer and get whatever you have asked for. God is sovereign. And note that the Psalmist refers to presumptuous sins as “great transgression.”

It means that we recognize that we cannot hide anything from God. God knows us completely (Psalm 139:1-6). He knows our every thought and action. And we cannot escape from him (Psalm 139:7-12). Even those who deny the existence of God will ultimately have to deal with him.

It means that we are serious about our faith. God wants a total commitment of our lives to him.

It means that we take his Scriptures seriously. We don’t just ignore them, or give them lip service, or construe them in a way that waters down their clear meaning. It means that we act on them and live by them.

Some do not like to consider God’s greatness because it makes them feel small. That is where God wants us. Scripture tells us to humble ourselves before God (1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10). This is part of the fear of God, that we recognize how much greater he is than we are.

Confidence in God

God’s greatness also means that, by his incomparably great power working within us, we can conquer whatever problems and difficulties we may have to face. God is bigger. He is bigger than anything we have to deal with.

Nothing is impossible for him. In him we can overcome trials and difficulties. It is wonderful to be able to trust in such a great God.

Freedom From Fear

To put it another way, if we fear God, we do not need to fear anything else. If we do not fear God, then we will fear everything else.

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Copyright 2010 by James L. Morrisson