God’s Nature

Our discussion of how God is involved in our personal lives and in our natural world brings us to a core question:  What is the nature of God or what kind of person is God?  How does his nature impact the way he operates in our world and how he relates to us?  The Bible teaches that God uses love and fear to reach us.  The fear God uses is fear of what he will do to us after this life is over.  “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).  God also is using love.  John Sanders states that God’s love is radical and he uses the parable of the prodigal son as an example.  The father in this parable is mistreated by both his sons (one squanders his inheritance and the other criticizes his father for preparing a feast for the prodigal son) and yet he still loves them and wants them to be his sons. [1]  The father might be seen as weak by some in loving his sons even when they mistreated him.  These people evidently believe that the father should have used his power to crush his sons.  It does not take great wisdom to do that; it is just the raw exercise of power.  In order to accomplish one’s goals while at the same time giving freedom to individuals such as the prodigal son, it takes a loving, wise, patient, and very powerful person.

God wants us to become like him.  If God does everything for us, will we ever learn to do things on our own?  Why do we think that God would want us to be totally dependent upon him for our entire earthly existence?  Do earthly parents want their children to be dependent upon them forever?  The purpose of parenting is to train and educate children so they grow up to be independent and productive citizens.  J. Oswald Sanders quotes D. E. Hoste and Hudson Taylor as saying as they went further along in their walk with God, they found that God did not give them as much assistance in determining God’s will.  God treats mature Christians as mature adults and leaves more and more to their own judgment. [2]  If God is interested in developing us as persons, he would need to let us make decisions on our own.  How else can we mature?  The idea that God always directly intervenes in all aspects of our lives would be true if God was interested in leaving us as children, but that is not the God we read about in the Bible.  Charles R. Swindoll observes:

. . .I am convinced that some Christians would be terrified if they were completely on their own.  Because they have been told what to do so many years, freedom is frightening.  There are people who want to be told what to do and when. . .how to believe and why.  And the result is tragic—perpetual adolescence.  Without being trusted, without being freed, maturity never happens.  You never learn to think on your own. [3]

The idea that God is guiding us in all things and that God controls our lives is comforting but God wants us to be like him and that means learning to make decisions on our own.

To believe in a God who controls all aspects of our lives would be to believe in a God who lies to us when he tells us in the Bible we have free will (we are responsible for our actions), who cares not what we want, and who manipulates us for his purposes.  To believe in a God who controls all aspects of our lives would be to believe in a God who creates evil for his purposes.  Does this sound like the God described to us in the Bible?

A God so powerful who could take whatever chance, people, and Satan do and still make all things work together for good (Romans 8:28) would be indistinguishable from a God who controls everything.  The only way we can truly know God’s nature is through revelation (the Bible) and then by checking our interpretation of the Bible through our experiences.  The Bible and our experiences teach us we have free will, God intervenes very little in our world except to persuade us to adopt his values, and God is so powerful he can accomplish his purposes regardless of what we do.


[1]   John Sanders, ed., What About Those Who Have Never Heard? (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1995), pp. 28-29.

[2]   J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago:  Moody Press, 1967), pp. 112-113.

[3]   Charles R. Swindoll, The Grace Awakening (Dallas:  Word Publishing, 1996), pp. 51-52.

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