The God Who Risks

Last year at State Street we did a series on theodicy called, "[Skubala] Happens." In that series, we discovered that because of conflicting wills in this world (the divine will, your will, my will, the wills of the past, etc.) bad things can just happen. Without reason or explanation, they just do. Not everything happens for a reason, though it is much easier to believe in such a world. The biblical witness doesn't give us much reason as to why bad things happen nor did the Christian community really try to answer 'why' for many years. The hope of the Church has always been that resurrection happens in the midst of the chaos, darkness, and sin of this world. Bad things are a part of this world. Christ has made a way that the bad things of this world do not have the final word. That though we can choose sin, and at times darkness may happen to us (by a biological cancer that we cannot control), our unique Christian hope is for resurrection; in this life or the next. I no more believe that God has given (and by implication caused) me an illness to battle than I do that my mother died when I was young so that I would have a powerful testimony when I became a pastor (as was once suggested to me). What a moral monster God would be if He was sovereignly picking winners and losers in life so that a sermon would preach well on Sunday morning. God has brought redemption and resurrection out of darkness, a business that He works miracles. However, to implicate God of the darkness of this world would be to suggest that He is not who He claims to be as the arbiter of love and life. 

I was re-reading a great book by Dr. John Sanders called the God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence. It has meant a great deal to me over the years. Since I will be in a biopsy and drugged this morning, I'll leave you with some quality reading. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. 

"According to the fellowship model of sovereignty God does not have a blueprint that we are to follow. God has a goal for our lives, but there are numerous open routes to its achievement. This is not to say, however, that God never desires a specific individual to do some particular act. After all, God requested certain people in the Bible to perform specific acts (for example, God asked Gideon to tear down the alter of Baal, Judg 6: 25). Yet for most of us there is no such specific guidance. The will of God for our lives is not a list of activities regarding vocation, marriage and the like. Rather, it is God’s desire that we become a lover of God and others as was exemplified in God’s way in Jesus. “When people talk about God’s leading,” says van de Beek, “it is usually not rooted in the way of Christ, but in a general concept of omnipotence and protection.” The way of Jesus is a way of life not concerned about blueprints but about being the kind of person God desires. God’s major goal is to renew us in the likeness of Jesus (with all the attending individual and social implications). [emphasis added by Nate] In this sense it could be said that God has a specific will for each and every situation: to live as Jesus would. This is not, however, what people usually have in mind when they seek specific divine guidance.

It is God’s desire that we enter into a give-and-take relationship of love, and this is not accomplished by God’s forcing his blueprint on us. Rather, God wants us to go through life together with him, making decisions together. Together we decide the actual course of my life. God’s will for my life does not reside in a list of specific activities but in a personal relationship. As lover and friend, God works with us wherever we go and whatever we do. To a large extent our future is open and we are to determine what it will be in dialogue with God. God does not simply turn us loose to do whatever we please. Rather, we are to seek God’s wisdom for our lives ( Jas 1: 5). For example, there may be a variety of vocations available to me with which God is pleased, not just one that is “best” or “perfect” in comparison to the others. I am free to make my choice in consultation with God and others in whom I detect godly wisdom. In my opinion, God is concerned about which vocation I select but is much more concerned about how I live my life in that vocation. Whatever vocation I choose God wants me to do it Christianly. [emphasis added]

Furthermore, according to the relational model explored in this book there are “chance” happenings and genuine accidents that God did not specifically intend. God has granted humans significant freedom such that we may do things to others that God does not intend us to do. An employer, for instance, may harass and fire Jane without good reason. Jane should not view this circumstance as a “sign” that God’s will for her life has changed. She may, however, be confident that no matter what others do to her God is working in her life to redeem the situation. Since the broad range of circumstances that we experience in life, from being in a train accident to meeting an old friend on the street comer, are brought about by human freedom, we should not typically think of them as divine pointers for guidance. God resourcefully works with us in any and every situation, but God is not causing all our circumstances because this would imply a great deal of manipulation of humans. God has sovereignly chosen not to practice that sort of providence as his normal way of dealing with us. Though God can (even unilaterally) bring certain circumstances about, God normally works with us in whatever circumstances we experience. Hence, according to the risk model of providence Christians should not attempt to read all circumstances as signs of God’s will for their lives. [emphasis added]

King Saul, for example, made this mistake when he had David trapped, exclaiming that “God has given him into my hand” (1 Sam 23: 7). Of course, God had done no such thing. When those who murdered Saul’s son told David that God had avenged David of Saul, David rejected their interpretation of providence and had them killed (2 Sam 4: 8-12). In the risk model it is possible to mistake a divine action and misconstrue guidance."

- John Sanders, from the God Who Risks