This past weekend, as I was driving to Grand Rapids for a family event, I heard an interview on the radio that gave me pause. The program during which the interview took place was the Voice of the Martyrs, and the interviewee was a pastor who had been ministering to the persecuted church in various parts of the world. During the interview, the question was asked, “how do you pray for persecuted Christians?” The pastor replied, “I used to have great pity on those who were suffering for Christ’s sake. But, over the years, I have seen God take terrible circumstances and suffering, and redeem them into something miraculous that was not possible without the suffering. I have learned in these situations to ask God to redeem the circumstances. Truly, all things do indeed work together for the good of those who are in Christ Jesus and called according to His purposes.” This statement poignantly illustrated to me the question asked of us this past Sunday by Pastor Rich; “What is your expectation of God”?

There have been in recent years, a good number of public figures who, after professing to be Christians have left the faith, amid fanfare. Their deconstruction stories have sold many books, been the subject of TED talks and podcasts, and gained them even more notoriety. The most common reason they state for leaving Christianity is the problem of evil. They ask, “If God is good, how can He allow such terrible evil in the world?” Jesus described this very thing in his answer to His disciples’ questions about the end of the age in  Matt 24:4-13. It reads:

“And Jesus answered them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Christ”, and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines  and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.’”

(Emphasis added is mine.)

God sometimes uses evil to accomplish His plans and there are many examples of this in scripture. If Romans 8:28 asserts that ALL things work together for the good of those who are in Christ Jesus, then it includes evil. If He could not control evil, then He would not be God. God’s greatest desire is for His church to be sanctified into the likeness of Jesus, so she is purified and ready to live with Him for eternity, and God sometimes uses evil to accomplish this.

I must confess, that it is necessary for me throughout the day to renew my mind with scripture and ask the Holy Spirit for eyes to see the way He is seeing the events in our world. In my humanness I’m easily distracted and dismayed by what I think I see and quickly develop an expectation of God that doesn’t fit His character and plan. But with spiritual sight given to us by the Holy Spirit, as I meditate on His word, I am encouraged and overwhelmed with God’s majesty, sovereignty, wisdom and mercy. I am learning to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Prov. 3:5-8.

Christ formed in us, our Hope of Glory comes not by what we see and think, but through the obedient walk of faith taught in scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Let’s encourage one another to have an expectation of God that is founded in truth.