Habakkuk 3:17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
For those of you who were in church yesterday, I am revisiting an aside point that I made in the service and that was how good reports and answered prayer do not prove the goodness of God. I say that because if something good happening means God is good then a negative turn of events automatically means he is not.
I talked about this yesterday in the context of telling my congregation that the doctors have confirmed that I have a “biologic recurrence” of prostate cancer. I had a prostatectomy two years ago and thought my decisive action meant I could head off radiation and other therapies that frequently go along with the long term recovery of prostate cancer. However I have gotten a lot of good news recently like, a clean bone scan and a positive prognosis from my oncologist. It’s been a bit of an emotional roller coaster waiting on test results. Of course I’m always praying that every scan comes back clean and every blood test comes back with low numbers.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still believe God heals. I just spent the morning with a man who’s inoperable cancer disappeared two years ago after attending a healing service conducted by a Rwandan Catholic priest. Also you can believe that when my bone scan came back clean the other day, I raised my hands and praised God for answered prayer, but I didn’t say, “my bone scan is clean, God is so good.” My medical diagnosis and prognosis doesn’t define the reality or the nature of God.
I hit the wall faith-wise a dozen years ago over this scourge of cancer after a rash of funerals I conducted for people I had physically held and prayed for; being so sure that God would prove his goodness by giving them a miraculous healing. I went on a brutally honest multi-month journey of decision about whether I believed there was a God and if I did was he the good God that I had always believed he was. My major discovery was that, I didn’t have enough faith to be an atheist. 1) The complexity of creation, 2) the predictability of the Biblical moral code, 3) the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 4) the consistent fulfillment of hundreds of Biblical Prophesies, 5) the inner voice of conscience, 6) the character of the early apostles and Christ followers, 7) the history, resilience and power of the Christian Church and 8) the persistent testimonies of changed lives, just altogether made any other narrative of history or hope of the future seem ridiculous.
While I am still waiting on one test result, it looks like my chances of a full recovery are about 95%, but my prognosis doesn’t make God any more real or any more benevolent than he already is. So what’s my message to you. If you narrowly escape a potentially tragic car accident today or if your biopsy report comes back negative and you conclude that now you know God is good, you are saddling everyone whose automobile gets smashed and whose biopsy comes back positive with the reality that their God isn’t good or worse, non-existent. How about if we just all pray for health and safety, give thanks for health and safety, but tightly embrace his good presence no matter what?
I can’t say it any better than the prophet Habakkuk after verse 17 of his beautiful song where he vows to rejoice when there are “no grapes on the vine,” when, “the olive crops fail,” when, “the fields produce no food,” when, “there’s no sheep in the pen,” and “no cattle in the stall.” He concludes triumphantly in Habakkuk 3:18 & 19, with these words: “The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” Oh yeah the Bible give us a P.S here, “For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.”
So no matter how things turn out today, try to make the majesty and wonder of God the soundtrack for your life. If you can’t do it by yourself then find some friends who will sing about the goodness of God in your presence.