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Member Mailbag – I recently prayed that God would give us $2,000 for an antique piece of furniture. My son said if we got $500.00, it would be a miracle. When the appraiser came out, he said he would give us exactly $2,000 for the piece. I was shocked. Thank you, Lord! Later, I was telling this story to a nonbelieving friend who said,
Hey Bob, people are starving around the world, why should God help you get $2K?”
I told him it was because I have a close relationship with the Lord and that He does act on behalf of His children. I do pray for others, but now I feel kind of selfish because of what He said. Why did God do this for me, while so much ugly stuff is happening in the world? Thanks for your thoughts!
You may be surprised to know that this issue comes up often. It is the tension that some individuals call the “inequity of God.” Since I know you, I will cut to the chase regarding your primary question, as well as some of your assumptions.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him. – Matthew 7:7-11
It is true that God does answer the prayers of His children. I wholly affirm this, and I am encouraged when I hear stories like yours. With that said, you may want to adjust your wording to your friend.
He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. – Matthew 5:45
God did not necessarily bless you because of your close relationship with Him. He may have, but you want to be careful that you do not reduce God’s blessings to a “relational proximity formula.” I think our old friend Job, and a few other people from the Bible would take issue with that idea.
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. – Job 1:1
The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them. – Job 1:16
God blesses people because He chooses to bless people. It is not about an individual’s ability to merit God’s good favor, but always about His nonmanipulative mercy to undeserving people. By following the logic that is now troubling you, someone could ask, “Why did God regenerate you, while not regenerating someone else?”
That type of question may help you understand your query with more theological precision, especially if you pull your answer through an Ephesians 2:8-9 filter:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The gospel implies that you are not worthy of any blessing (Romans 3:10-12; Isaiah 64:6). You deserve hell, which was supposed to be your final destination, and it would have been if it were not for the intervening grace of God.
Honestly, I do not know why God regenerated you, but not other people. You are no different from them. This unmerited kindness from the Lord should not motivate you to feel guilty, though it should humble you as you ponder His most profound mercy.
It seems there might also be a misunderstanding of the word “good.” According to your premise, it is “good” to receive $2,000, and it is bad not to receive $2,000. Paul’s understanding of “good” encompassed more possibilities than always getting what you asked for the way you asked for it. Paul saw all things–including disappointments–working together for good (Romans 8:28).
Key Idea – The good that God is working in you, whether it feels positive or negative to you, is to make you more like Jesus. If your circumstances are not conforming you to be more like Jesus, you are missing the primary purpose of what God is writing into your life (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
The point of the Bible is to transform people into Christlikeness, not to give individuals seven habits to make them effective or to provide folks their desired best life now. The point of the Bible is not about your personal “success” or happiness as defined by the culture or your heart.
If you gain personal property, acclaim, or significant monetary worth in your life, but do not image God’s Son, you have missed your real purpose in life (Matthew 6:33).
Within your discussion with your friend, there is an unspoken implication that God is unkind, unfair, or not good. God is good regardless of what happens to you. Unfortunately, there is a mainstream worldview that talks only about God’s goodness when there is some material or physical benefit in the balance.
As Job (Job 42:5-6) and Joseph (Genesis 50:20) learned, you can find the good in personal setbacks, sins, failures, illnesses, and disappointments. If you’re not careful, you can unwittingly communicate a skewed view of God by only trumpeting His goodness when things go the way you hoped they would (1 Peter 2:21).
I know you are humbly thanking God for how this situation has turned out on your behalf. I rejoice with you. However, it would be wise to expand your understanding and application of God’s goodness, especially when you do not get what you asked the Lord to provide.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.
In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13
The most significant blessing to ever come my way, apart from salvation, came through the crucible of heart-rending, soul-crushing disappointment. A mature theology of blessings is when you can be grateful for how the Lord is developing you through “all things” that He is writing into your narrative.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong – Job 1:20-22