United Church of God, ia
Portland Oregon/The Dalles Oregon

Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

The Great Battle for God Part 1

In our confused and chaotic world, one of the great battlefields is whether God is real and if His Word has meaning for us today. Few grasp that the same instruction mankind rejects holds the answers to our problems and to the greatest questions of life.

Our world is going through many unsettling and confusing changes. The Middle East is in crisis with nations at war. Islamic extremists outdo themselves in brutality and threaten to overthrow both Europe and America.

Europe is in crisis. Russia steadily extends its influence and power as it modernizes its military forces. China is likewise expanding its power and pushing its influence and control over regions once protected by the United States.

America is being pushed back in its historic role as a global military, economic and political superpower—while with American culture we see the traditional roles and rules of marriage, family and sexual identity going through radical redefinition.

What does it all mean? Where is God in all this? And what is He doing in today's world?

A time of change and upheaval

You and I can both look around and know something major is happening. Our world has turned a corner and entered a time of change and upheaval. I honestly think we are standing at a moment in history like that of one of God's prophets—Habakkuk, who looked around at his time and his world and wondered as he saw scenes that unnerved him.

He saw wars among the nations and individuals. He saw social inequity and evil on a scale that greatly upset him. Justice for the people had been perverted. Anger and violence were rampant. The world was in turmoil. His nation, Judah, a people who felt they were "one nation under God," was threatened. Everything was changing, and for the worse.

As Habakkuk prayed about what he saw, God answered him by saying, "Look around at the nations, look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn't believe even if someone told you about it" (Habakkuk 1:5, New Living Translation, 2013).

These words from God match up to what we see today. Each day I watch and read the news about events around the world. I read three papers a day on my smartphone and catch news reports from around the world on the Internet. Each night I watch at least one nightly newscast. I'm a news junkie. Like you I see a dangerous world.

And I am troubled. I'm troubled in the sense that I grieve for the people who suffer from injustice, war and random acts of evil. I'm troubled, but I don't despair. I haven't lost hope for mankind and our future.

Let me tell you why.

God's plan and purpose

I know that God has a purpose for human life. All life exists here by the act of a Creator God who designed and planned and then brought it into existence by His divine will.

From one man God created all the nations of the earth. He has set these nations in their places and determined their rise and fall on the world stage. He is guiding history to His planned conclusion. The events of our world today—what we see in our headlines from the Middle East, Asia and Europe—are progressing according to His plan laid down before the foundations of the age.

When I study today's world from the overview laid out in the Bible. I find it amazingly accurate. I take hope in realizing that what's happening was foretold. I know that there is a God who stands watch over the nations of the earth and that His purpose is being brought to pass.

Notice what God tells us about his plan and purpose in Ephesians 1:

"All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes . . .

"God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth . . . and he makes everything work out according to his plan" (verses 3-11, NLT).

What's the purpose?

I read this passage quite often to be reminded that history has a purpose. Yes, even the evil and suffering that people and nations have experienced are for a purpose! I look at the news and see the same pictures you see—thigs that make me sad and angry.

When natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes and famine strike without warning. It's hard to imagine what people must suffer through. Your heart goes out to them, and you know there's little you can do. Through relief efforts we might supply money or goods to help if we're able. At length, nations rebuild, and life goes on.

Then we look at the unimaginable suffering that war and human wrongdoing inflicts on our innocent victims. Nothing pains me more than to see refugees fleeing from armed soldiers storming into a city or country and uprooting whole populations.

By myself, I can't do anything about suffering on that scale. Yet I see it like you do. And frankly, it's enough to make people wonder about this life and whether there is a God who knows and cares about people. Religion tries to provide answers, but sometimes religion itself gets in the way by being a chief cause of strife among people. It's no wonder that through the ages people have given up on religion or God as they see the problems facing people in the world!

But look again in Ephesians 1:4:

"Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes" (NLT).

God's enduring love for mankind has been in place since before the world was created. The reason this planet exists is because God loved mankind and planned a setting where He could create beings in His image. And the reason for this? Because God wants to share His glory with others in a family setting throughout eternity. His means to accomplish this in Jesus Christ. Through His sacrifice and life we can be holy and without fault in God's eyes.

This is God's purpose. It is the single most important piece of information you should know. So why do you not hear this today?

Read Part 2 next week...

- Darris McNeely

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