According to a Gallup poll taken in 1967, 97% of the people in the United States claimed belief in God. "In God We Trust" is printed on U. S. currency; "One nation under God" is part of the flag salute. Yet millions of us conduct our lives as if there were no God! Why this seeming contradiction? Could it be that to the majority of us, God is not real?
God is not dead," states the bumper sticker, "He just doesn't want to get involved." Another sticker reads, "God is not dead — He's hiding in Argentina." Sick humor? Perhaps. But these thoughts reflect the way many of us feel toward God. The very idea of "God" evokes doubts and questions in millions of peoples' minds. For instance, how does a God fit into this war-torn, overpopulated, disease-ridden modern world? Is there a God that hears the prayers of the faithful? Or has He walked off into the cosmic wastes of the universe to busy Himself with some new project? Why doesn't He involve Himself with the overwhelming problems that beset mankind today? Or is He just some sort of ineffective powerless principle that lives only in our hearts?
How God Reveals Himself
Most people find little difficulty believing in the theoretical existence of God as a philosophical principle. But they have doubts about how much, if any, impact that "Principle" should have on the world or their own personal lives. Back in 1960, Dr. Samuel H. Miller, dean of Harvard's Divinity School, stated: "The modern era [has] abandoned religion as a basis of real life, and put its confidence in science instead, even though the word 'God' is more popularly entrenched in America than ever" (Denver Post, June 4, 1960). That statement is still true today, some sixteen years later. Perhaps this is due to the fact that most people haven't taken time to ponder the fact of God's literal existence. They continue to believe in a vague concept or principle without paying attention to the tremendous evidence around them that an all-powerful Creator actually does exist. God reveals Himself and His nature in a number of different ways, but one of the most obvious is through His physical creation. Nature, apart from man's meddling, is an incredible showplace for divine wisdom and thinking. The interdependency of nature, the instinct of lower life forms such as bees, birds, and even bats is staggering to behold. We a re told in the Bible: "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made" (Rom. 1:20). How anyone can study the natural sciences and conclude that there is no God is beyond reason! As the ancient Psalmist wrote: "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'"! (Ps. 14:1.)
The Lesson of Job
In revealing Himself to the ancient patriarch Job, God again pointed to His material creation. Beginning in Job 38:1 and ending in Job 41:34, God asked Job some 40 embarrassing questions (see box below) about His own creation. (And even though the book of Job is probably the oldest in the Bible, modern man with all his accumulated knowledge can only answer a few of those questions.) This line of interrogation was humbling to Job. Before hearing these questions Job had talked about God, prayed to Him, heard about Him and discussed Him at great length. But the real God was not real to him ! Now Job saw God in a whole new light: "Then Job answered the Lord.... I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.... I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:1-6). Perhaps this is an experience we all need to share! We need to come face to face with God through His material creation and be humbled by His incredible greatness and omniscience!
God in the Image of Man
But even though a person is deeply convinced that a great all-powerful Creator God exists, there is still another hurdle to leap — understanding the true nature of that God! Most of us sense the need for God. Yet we want God's nose kept out of our business. We want God as a protecting genie to be brought forth by a rub on the lamp of bedtime prayer. We like to keep our "God" at a distance as did the Israelites at the foot of Mt. Sinai. We want a controllable God who is made over in our own image. We anthropomorphize our God in order to make Him palatable. We don't want a God who is truly involved in our lives in a very powerful and obvious way! But the all-powerful God who made us will not be kept at arms' length. If you want this God in your life it must be on His terms — not your own! God is not a man (I Sam. 15:29). His thoughts do not coincide with our own (Isa. 55:8). God is GOD! He has all of the cards — we have only the jokers. We must "humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God" (I Pet. 5:6). Those who seek to have God involved in their lives must be prepared to accept God's terms and fulfill His demands. The problem is that some of us do not really want the rule and government of God in a personal way. We have followed the pattern set by the ancient Israelites of Samuel's day. God explained to Samuel after the Israelites demanded a human king in place of God: "They have not rejected you, Samuel. They have rejected me that I should not rule over them" (I Sam. 8:7).
Reaching Out to God
But even if a person is ready and willing to submit to His Creator, how does one go about it? How does one get in touch with that God? How does one enter into a personal relationship with the Creator of the whole vast universe? The book of Isaiah gives us a clue. In pre-captivity Israel, true religion had fallen on hard times. A spirit of lethargy pervaded the nation as far as God was concerned. A few people listlessly and half-heartedly went through the motions of religious form and ceremony, but there was no personal drive to seek God. At that time the prophet Isaiah wrote: "There is no one that calls upon thy name, that bestirs himself to take hold of thee..." (Isa. 64:7). Here it shows us that to find God, one must stir himself up to seek God. God is there — but He must be sought! God is not aloof and unavailable to His human creation. He is not "too busy" to hear the prayers of the faithful. He is omnipresent and very real. But we must put forth a concerted effort to seek Him in a personal way. Paul told the Areopagites of the first century A.D.: "And he [God] made from one [Adam] every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth... that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us..." (Acts 17:26-27). But man does not naturally seek his Maker. The average mind is at odds with God. Paul said: "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot" (Rom. 8:7). Elihu, one of Job's friends and possibly a servant of God, said: "But none says, 'Where is God my Maker...'" (Job 35:10). Paul wrote: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God" (Rom. 3:10-11). But God promises to bless those who truly seek Him wholeheartedly: "Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart" (Ps. 119:2). Those who seek God earnestly — with zeal and persistence — will be rewarded. God will not turn a deaf ear to His children when they seek His direct, personal involvement in their lives.
How To Seek God
God is as near as the next fervent, sincere prayer. We can seek His response on a personal level through earnest, believing communication with our Maker. But we must be specific and personal in talking to God. He is not interested in the vain, repetitious rote prayers of organized religion, or the canned. sonorous, artificial mouthings of ecclesiastical sycophants. He wants to hear from His children in their own words (Matt. 6:7). He desires the spontaneous expression of a sincere seeker. It takes faith to pray to God this way: "And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near' to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Heb. 11:6-7). But where does faith come from? Romans 10:17 reads: "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." God reveals Himself through the pages of the Bible, the Word of God. It is a record of His dealings with man up until the first century A.D. By scouring the pages of this Book, we can come to see the mind of God and understand His attitudes and thoughts. Therefore, constant, diligent, searching Bible study is a must in seeking the true God.
God Is Real!
Make no mistake — God is there! He is real and He is omnipresent through His Spirit. His angels move throughout the universe, bringing Him constant reports of happenings here and there (Job 1:6; 2:1-2). He is aware of every hair on the head of every human being (Matt. 10:29-30). He registers the death of every tiny sparrow that flies in His air. This great God rewards those who are willing to stir themselves up to seek Him out and involve Him in their lives — people who are willing to develop a personal relationship with their Creator. If you are convinced of God's existence, why not take up the challenge and involve Him in your life personally? If you do decide to seek Him • with all your heart, though, prepare yourself to be shocked, thrilled and challenged by the dramatic response of your loving Creator — because He is real!
God's Challenge to Job
The patriarch Job knew of God's omnipotent greatness. He realized that "Even if God chose to argue, [I] could not answer one of his thousand questions. He is so wise: so mighty..." (Job 9:3). But Job did not grasp the full impact of his statement until God put him to an actual test. Chapters 38 and 39 of the book of Job record how God challenged Job to answer over forty questions. Even with today's greatly increased scientific knowledge, mankind remains unable to control or even comprehend many of the powerful natural forces God spoke of in this ancient interrogation. Below are the questions God posed (quoted from the Moffatt translation unless otherwise noted). • When I founded the earth, where were you then? • Who measured out the earth? — do you know that? Who stretched the builder's line? • What were its pedestals placed on? Who laid the corner-stone? • Who helped to shut in the sea, when it burst from the womb of chaos... when I fixed its boundaries... saying, "Thus far and no further'" • Have you ever roused the morning, given directions to the dawn? • Have you found out the fountains of the sea? Have you set foot upon the depths of ocean? • Have the gates of Death been ever shown to you? • Have you grasped earth in all its breadth? How large is it? • What path leads to the home of Light? • And where does Darkness dwell? • Have you ever entered the stores of the snow? • Have you seen' the arsenals of hail? • How are the mists marshalled, that scatter fresh water on earth? • Have the showers a human sire? • Who was the father of the dew? • From whose womb came the ice? • Who gave birth to the hoarfrost? • Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children? (RSV) • Can you control the skies? • Can you prescribe their sway over the earth? • Can you send orders to the clouds, for water in abundance to be yours? • Can you send out the lightning on its mission? • Who taught the feathery clouds, or trained the meteors? • Who has the skill to mass the clouds, or tilt the pitchers of the sky? • Can you hunt for the lioness, and feed her hungry cubs? • Who provides for the raven its prey? (RSV) • Do you know how wild goats breed, upon the hills? • Can you control the calving of the hinds? • Do you fix their appointed time? Do you know when they are to bear? • Who gave the wild ass his freedom? • Will the wild ox be content to slave for you? • Will he stay in your stable? • Can you rope him to your plough? • Will he harrow the furrows for you? Will you trust to his tremendous strength, and let him do your fieldwork? • Will you rely on him to come and carry corn home to your threshing-floor? • Gavest thou the goodly wings to the peacocks? (KJV) • Or wings and feathers to the ostrich? (KJV) • Do you supply the war-horse with his strength? • Does your wit send the hawk to soar? • Does your word make the eagle mount to nest aloft among the hills?