When wickedness is rampant, we wonder why God doesn't stop it. We look around at our world today and wonder, "Why would God allow those terrorists to do what they did?" or "Why would God allow that injustice?" or "Why does God permit these things to happen?"
God is fully aware of what is happening. First he reveals his grace before he brings his judgment. The Old Testament book of Genesis begins with the story of the Garden of Eden, where everything was perfect. Adam and Eve lived in a beautiful garden with the incredible things God had made. Best of all, the Lord himself would show up as the sun was setting, and Adam would take a walk with God every day.
You probably know the story. The serpent entered the scene and deceived Eve. Adam disobeyed. Thus, sin entered the world. Then things went downhill rapidly. By the time we get to Genesis 6, God is saying that he's sorry he made man (see verse 6). God was grieved in his heart. If someone dies whom you love deeply, you grieve deeply. God was grieving over Adam and Eve's sin. He took no pleasure in it.
Then why does God send judgment? Because God is just. Abraham rightly said, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25 NKJV). If people can flagrantly and continually break the laws of God and pervert everything God has made, everything that is right and good, then is it appropriate for the Lord to turn a blind eye? If God is just, then isn't it appropriate for him to take action?
Some might say that is not very loving. But let's just say you had a sweet little toddler who was playing in your backyard, and you saw a wolf suddenly jump the fence and move rapidly toward your child. What are you going to do?
Are you going to talk with the wolf? Are you going to try and hug the wolf? Those things won't work. You probably would shoot him or hit him with something. Why? Because you love your child.
God loves His creation. God loves mankind. And the Bible says that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (see Ezekiel 33:11). But God also said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever" (Genesis 6:3 NKJV).
I wonder if the Lord has reached that point right now. He knows about every act of wickedness and perversion. He knows things that you and I don't even know. In this day of instant information and social media, we practically see and hear everything in real time. I think that is one of the reasons we're so stressed out. We don't wait until tomorrow to pick up the morning newspaper; we get the news on our Twitter feed. That is the world we're living in today.
In the days of Noah, God said, in effect, "That's it! I'm going to bring judgment." But against this very dark spiritual background lived a man who walked with God. Noah was that man. Sometimes when jewelers want to display a beautiful piece of jewelry, they will place it on a dark background. In the same way, sometimes we can better appreciate someone who lives a pure life when they are put against the backdrop of a very impure world.
Noah, a rare jewel indeed, shined against the very dark spiritual backdrop of his day. The Bible tells us that "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8 NKJV). Did God have grace on Noah because he lived a righteous life? No. It is actually the opposite. The word grace means "God's unmerited favor." God extended grace toward Noah, and Noah responded to that grace.
That is how we all come to know God. You see, justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. And grace is getting what we don't deserve. Don't ever say to God, "I want justice in my life." You don't want justice; you want mercy and grace.
God extended grace toward Noah. "For by grace you have been saved through faith," Ephesians says, "and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (2:8–9 NIV).
God did not love Noah because he lived a godly life. Noah lived a godly life because he understood how much God loved him. There is a difference. The Bible says, "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19 NKJV).
God loves you. Just embrace that and be thankful for it – even when times are hard. The apostle Paul said, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV).
In the book of Daniel we find a story about a law being passed that prohibited prayer. Can you imagine such a law today? What would you do? We know what Daniel did. We're told in Daniel 6, "But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God" (verse 10 NLT).
If the Bible said, "He opened his windows and prayed, 'God why did you let this happen?'" I would have understood that. But Daniel gave thanks to God because he was in the habit of doing so. That is a good habit to be in.
We cannot only give thanks when things seem to be good. We must give thanks because the Lord is good and because he is working all things together for good.
We've heard the expression, "It's all good." And in a broad sense, it actually is. I don't mean that every little thing that is happens is good, because bad things happen. Inexplicable things happen. Hardships and tragedies happen. I am not saying those are good things. But I am saying that it's all good in the sense that God is good. And God ultimately will work things together for his good and for his glory – and for our good as well.
Originally posted Nov. 18 at Greg's Blog.
Greg Laurie is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, with campuses in Riverside and Irvine, California.