I had a friend who was a ball-boy for the Indiana Pacers in the 1980‘s. A couple of times a year the Boston Celtics would come to town. That meant the legendary Larry Bird (who grew up in Indiana) would come to town. During the pre-game shoot-around my friend would actually rebound for Larry Bird, his childhood idol.
“That’s impressive,” I told him. “What was it like to talk to your idol?” He answered, “Oh I never talked to him! I wanted too but since I had him on such a pedestal I was afraid he wouldn’t live up to my expectations. So I just admired him from a distance while quietly rebounding his shots.”
Many of us face the same dilemma.
Do you ever admire God from a distance because you’re afraid you’ll discover something you won’t like if you dig deeper?
I’ve been reading through Steve Jobs’s biography. Jobs shares his struggle with Christianity. At the age of 13 he saw a Life magazine cover picturing two starving children. The next Sunday he confronted his Lutheran Pastor and asked him, “If I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I do it?” The pastor answered, “Yes, God knows everything.” Jobs then pulled out the Life cover and asked, “Well, does God know about this and what’s going to happen to those children?” Jobs announced he didn’t want to worship such a God.
Dramatic story huh?
It reminds us of the age-old question: If God is sovereign why does he allow evil?
Let me give you the short answer: I don’t know. But if we embrace God and His sovereignty, we have to embrace things we don’t like. Things like evil, pain, and death.
My 10 year-old daughter recently helped me with this.
She’s been bringing home math homework recently. It includes different ways to multiply two digit numbers. Have you ever been exposed to “expanded notations”? I hadn’t!
My first reaction was “What’s wrong with multiplying the ‘right way’ like I learned – multiplying right to left?” My next thought was, “These Californians have messed with math!” Turns out this approach is becoming more common and is intended to help put another tool in the child’s toolbox when doing math.
Often when my daughter works on these math problems I’m lost. I have to double-check her answer on my calculator. She’s often correct but I don’t have a clue how she “arrived” at her answer.
That same principle helps me embrace God’s sovereignty.
It’s true that if God is sovereign he could’ve prevented evil from coming into existence. In His wisdom God allows evil to exist within His creation. That was a tension for Steve Jobs. That continues to be a tension for you and me.
This is when it might be easier to stand quietly on the court and settle for admiring God from a distance.
My limited understanding is an important factor. Just like my daughter’s math, my inability to understand doesn’t alter truth. Whether or not I understand something doesn’t make it more or less true. Likewise, I choose not to determine my view of God based on my ability to comprehend Him.
I love Psalm 145:3 “Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”
David, who experienced God’s sovereignty AND the pain of life (including the death of more than one of his children), struggled with this same tension. Despite the personal pain of David’s life, his lifetime of searching revealed that God is greater than he could ever fathom (or comprehend).
David reminds us that an honest search of God’s greatness results in humble praise!
Larry Bird is probably a good guy but I can’t make the same guarantee about him….or me. 🙂
So even though I’m not great at math, I do know that God is greater than Larry Bird. And I don’t have to be afraid of what I might discover when I get to know him more. He’s even greater than I’ll ever comprehend!
FMI on how Steve Jobs’s personal faith came full circle after being diagnosed with cancer click here.