In a minister’s recent sermon (outside our hometown), he made a common error that I have heard many Christians make. I thought it important enough to write him. To his credit, he responded favorably. Here is what I wrote:
In today’s sermon, you mentioned the importance of looking back rather than forward. I agree but was concerned about where you described our spiritual anchor should be placed. You instructed us to look back at times “where God was faithful.” In that regard, you mentioned two things: your wife rebounding from a perilous situation, and your friend receiving a favorable answer with unexpected help.
I certainly believe God answers prayer. My journals are full of many examples. I don’t think it wise, however, to tether God’s faithfulness to getting the answers we want. I know you don’t believe this, and you later said bad things happen, and we die, but it was not clear that God is faithful irrespective of whether the circumstances turn out in our favor.
This is why I try to steer clear of using the word “when” with God’s faithfulness other than describing the completed work of Christ. Asking about “when God was faithful” at least raises the question of when He might not have been.
God certainly answers prayer in the ways we desire at times, but what about when He doesn’t? He is still faithful. Thinking about God’s faithfulness with when He answered a prayer in the way we desired results in at least wondering whether God is faithful when the favorable answer never comes. Again, I know you believe God is faithful irrespective of us getting a favorable answer to prayer, but I don’t think it was clear.
I’ve heard many times, as I am sure you have, a fellow Christian describe how God favorably answered their prayer with the commentary “Isn’t God good?!” or simply “God is faithful.” Yes, God is, but not just when He answers one’s prayer favorably.
Yes, we look back, but we look back to the finished work of Christ. That is where our anchor should be placed. Nothing or no one can take that from us no matter how bad things get (Hab. 3:17-19).
Your evident desire to honor God made it easy to send this note, so for that, THANK YOU!
Your Brother in Christ,