Thursday, October 17, 2013

Words (Part Two): How We Speak About God Matters

This is kind of a follow up to my last post about why words matter.  And I want to preface this by saying that I'm not judging you in this post.  If you use this phrase, I know what you mean, I know you're well intentioned, but Scripture talks about the power of the tongue and how we should speak truth. I believe that we need to be careful in the way that we talk about God and His work.

Have you heard people use the phrase "God showed up"?  It's one I've been hearing a lot lately. Some of my friends went on a mission trip recently and were telling testimonies of what the Lord did while they were there.  They kept saying that they were in situations where it seemed hopeless, but "God showed up" and met those needs.  I also heard in a different context that "God showed up in our church gathering last night" and it seems like a phrase that's thrown around a lot.  But, it's a lie.  God didn't show up, and He couldn't show up, because that would imply that he left.  When we say "God showed up" it's like he went for a snack break, came back and realized that we were in a pickle and thought, "Oh, I'd better do something about that".  No, Scripture tells us that God is omnipresent (Jeremiah 23:23-24; Psalm 139).  Scripture tells us that God is faithful, that He will never fail us, and that God is sovereign over all (Job 42:2; Psalm 103:19, 115:3; Ecclesiastes 7:13-14; Lamentations 3:37-38).  This leaves no room for the absence of God.  And what do we say if we're overseas, need Bibles and God doesn't provide them?  Does that mean that He is any less faithful or sovereign, or that he wasn't there?  No, it simply means that it was His perfect plan being carried out in His perfect way, even when we don't understand it.  I think the main danger in this comes from not knowing who is hearing you speak about God, and how they will interpret it.  When Marshall (my three year old cousin) and I drive under an underpass he calls it a tunnel.  I know what he means, but if he says he went through a tunnel to a stranger with no background in Marshall translations, they're going to have wrong assumptions about what he is talking about.  When we talk to unbelievers or Christians who don't understand that God is omnipresent, using the phrase "God showed up" makes Him seem small, and somewhat insignificant a majority of the time, and again can cause questions when it seems that He doesn't show up when you need him.

When we say "God showed up" I think that it has more to do with our mindset than God's work.  By using that phrase, we are acknowledging God's faithfulness in a certain situation.  But God is always faithful, even when we don't recognize it.  Sure, there are times when we experience situations that spur us to be in complete awe of God's relentless faithfulness.  But we must not forget that although it doesn't seem as great or as special, that everyday God's perfect faithfulness plays out in our lives.  God showed His faithfulness in providing Bibles for the ladies in Africa and he shows His faithfulness in providing the cereal and milk that I'll eat for breakfast tomorrow.  I'm probably not going to stand up in church Sunday morning and talk about how God provided cereal in the cupboard and milk in the fridge, but that doesn't make Him any less faithful. When my car breaks down and I have to buy a new one, when I labor in prayer about a situation and don't have any clarity, when I've prayed for salvation and that person dies an unbeliever, it's all a part of God's sovereign plan.  He is faithful to use every situation, good or bad, for our good and for His glory.  Even when it doesn't look spectacular, even when it's painful, God is working and He is faithful.  Theology matters and the way we speak about God matters.  Let it be said of us that our speech honors and glorifies our great God, and that it portrays His true character as best we can.

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