"Why doesn't God do something?"
A 53-year-old mother of two adult children asked this question. Both of her children were living non-Christian lifestyles. Her son casually used drugs and, although he said he was not addicted, drug usage had destroyed his marriage. Her daughter had lived with several men, some whom she had not married.
This mother wanted God to bring them back to their senses. She said she was willing for God to do anything … take away their health or have them experience financial disaster … do anything to bring them back.
Instead, both of her children were prospering and were more successful than she was. They were disgustingly healthy.
"If God would only do something to prove Himself!"
These words were spoken by a high school senior who was struggling with faith. He had been reared in a solid, fundamentalist Christian home and now he was questioning his faith.
Was God really the Creator? Was Jesus just the Savior or only a man with good intentions who miscalculated His opposition? Was the Holy Spirit a comforter or was this only a name for self-encouragement.
The issue he wanted to know was whether the Christian faith was real or was it only a way for uneducated people to explain complicated living. Did people just need a myth to live by?
This young man prayed God would do something: something unusual, so miraculous that God would convince him of the reality of the Christian faith.
These two who asked, "Why doesn't God do something," were not people who had foxhole-religion or who needed rescuing. They were people who wanted God to prove their faith.
Whether we will admit it or not, most of us have much in common with those people. Non-believers often want God to prove Himself. If God would just do something miraculous so that there would be no doubt, they would make a commitment to the Lord.
Many Christians will not make a total commitment — or will make only a shallow commitment — until God does something miraculous. As a result they often run from church to church, from worship style to worship style, waiting for the miraculous to happen so that they will know that God is real and that He can be trusted with their lives. These folks say to God, "Why don't you do something … do something real big?"
Is there a word from the Lord for people who have questions like this? There is. It is found in the Gospel according to Mark.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each tell us of the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Although they are describing the same event, these Gospel accounts are not identical but neither are they contradictory.
They are different because they are written for different purposes. Mark is writing to Christians living in Rome. The Emperor Nero is persecuting these Christians; he believes that if he applies enough pressure this little cultic band of Christians will dry up and blow away like a dandelion in late June.
With this in mind, Mark is writing to provide hope. The Christians in Rome, no doubt, are asking why God doesn't do something to prove to them and to the Roman world the Christian faith is real. It is within this context that Mark writes the story of the crucifixion. Let's examine the truths.
First, we discover that God does not have to work to prove Himself.
Pilate could not decide what to do with Jesus. This is uncharacteristic of Pilate, who was described by Agrippa the First as inflexible, relentless, vindictive. He was not indecisive. He was even known to have executed people prior to their trials when he was personally convicted of their guilt. Now he could not decide what to do with Jesus.
Originally the Jewish religious leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy. This was a religious charge over which Pilate had no jurisdiction, but the Jewish leaders expanded the charge to include inciting rebellion. Pilate did have an obligation to make judgment on this issue. If Jesus was guilty of inciting rebellion, the only viable response from Pilate was to declare Jesus guilty and order an execution.
But the evidence presented against Jesus was lacking. There was no smoking gun, there was no irrefutable proof, so he asked Jesus — point blank he asked Him — are you King of the Jews? He was saying, "Prove to me who you are."
Jesus responds with a penetrating answer when He says, "It is as you say."
Jesus could have said, "King of the Jews … if you are speaking spiritually, I accept that title. But if you are speaking of the political implication, then I am not King of the Jews." Jesus could have answered the question, but the real question was: are you, Pilate, going to really believe in Jesus?
God is not in the habit of proving Himself. He is not on trial. The Old Testament never gives a defense or proof for God. Why? To prove God is to remove faith. To make God prove Himself is to make us the object of faith and Jesus the subordinate in faith.
Second, when you and I require God to prove Himself we are placing ourselves in a superior position. It is faith which causes us to worship God. We are called on to prove our faith; God need not prove who He is.
When I was in seminary I was pastor of a small rural church on Saturdays and Sundays. The small church was paying us all they could and, as we were finishing seminary, it was evident that they could not pay us enough to serve full-time. We also found out we were expecting our first child and this increased our needs. We began to pray that God would provide a church for us following graduation which could meet our financial needs.
One Sunday evening a pulpit committee from another church came and observed me. I knew why they were there. They were thinking about calling me as pastor. I found out that they were really a big church; why, on some Sundays they had seventy in Sunday School and I heard that they paid as much as $80 a week for a good preacher!
These four men stood out like an Amway salesman at your family reunion. This committee sat on the second row. Three sang. One man did not sing and as I was about ready to preach he folded his arms. He looked at me and I knew what he was thinking. He was thinking, "Son, do your thing and let's see how good you are."
I was on and I did my thing. I preached loud, said everything twice, and yelled in all the right spots.
Afterwards the four people met with me. The one who sat with folded arms now asked me a series of questions such as: what would you do if, and what do you believe? It was obvious that the man who had folded his arms was in charge. I told him everything I thought he wanted to hear.
When he left I realized that the whole evening I had been working for him — the one man — because he was saying, "prove yourself."
We often do that with God. "God, do us a miracle and we will believe. Perform for us, God, and we will have faith." That means we seek to become God and make Him the servant — the ultimate sin.
Third, God does not prove Himself because it often is the process of asking questions that develops real faith.
We may accept Jesus Christ in a moment, but faithful living does not develop instantaneously. It is through the process of examining, through the process of questioning, that we often come to our authentic faith.
The story of the lady that I described at the beginning of the sermon has a happy ending, but not the way you would think. The last week that I was her pastor she came to me and said God had never answered her prayer of doing something for them — meaning her children — but that the whole process had caused something to happen to her. She had grown in faith as never before. If God had answered her prayer and proved Himself in the way she asked, her faith would have been weak because it would have depended upon a crutch. She could now believe with or without a miracle. That is authentic faith.
Faith is built upon the miracle of the cross and the resurrection event. God can perform no greater miracle than redemption. To base our faith on anything less than the death and resurrection is accepting a lower form of faith.
Why doesn't God do something? He already did. Let's celebrate it by believing.
"Why doesn't God do something?"