A crisis of conscience - that’s one of the huge dilemmas which many Christians may face at some time in their spiritual journeys, even if it is just the simple prayer - why is this happening to me, God?
There has been much talk in the media about the impact of so-called Fake News. Taken in a Christian context, we can be so grateful to God when things are going well in our lives, but when trouble comes, quite often rather than turning to God in prayer, we seek to blame God Himself for our troubles and challenges.
But Scripturally, does God really seek to bring harm into our lives? If we believe in God, we must also believe in Satan. People may blame God for their troubles, but are those troubles really caused by the devil who will do anything evil to prevent us from enjoying an abundant Christian life.
Put bluntly, how do we as Christians cope when we are praying for a total recovery for a loved one who is suffering from a serious illness and instead of healing, that loved one dies?
This is a very tough debate for Christians to have with themselves. Or put equally bluntly, what happens to our faith when God says No?
Perhaps as a starting point, we could use St John’s Gospel Chapter 10, verse 10 from the New Testament.
Quoting from the King James Version, this verse states the words of Jesus Himself:
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
The early part of this verse should serve as a warning about the agenda of Satan. The latter part makes it crystal clear what God wants for our lives, and this abundant life was accomplished by Jesus’ death at Calvary.
I recently heard the dreadful story of an evangelical clergyman who had faithfully preached the Gospel for 40 years, but has now given up his faith because he believes he has not seen any evidence of miracles during his ministry.
Christians - and indeed the entire community - must be aware that Satan will use Fake News to propagate his lies. Naturally, we want our loved ones to be with us on earth for as long as possible. Is this a selfish approach as a Christian?
When they die and pass into eternity, do we blame God for taking them? But if heaven is such a wonderful place, why would anyone want to come back and live on earth with a recurrence of all the pain and suffering they had endured?
Could one of the interpretations of this specific verse be that God still wants the best for us in this life, even if bad things happen to us? Again bluntly, does it take more faith to believe in the concept of atheism than in Biblical Christianity?
The specific challenge to us as Christians is what do we seek in life in terms of ‘more abundantly’? Is it a spiritual revival across Ireland, what is best for us, seeing all our family members ‘saved’, or a closer relationship with God?
Some definitions of ‘abundance’ in relation to the spiritual sense could be: plenty, richness, a lot of, pressed down, running over, shaken together, a whole lot of. How does obedience to God fit in with this concept? It seems at this point in the column, I am posing more questions than I am seeking to provide answers and solutions!
Biblically, what do we mean by this ‘abundant life’? Does it mean abundance in our spiritual condition, in our relationships with others, in our finances, in our health, our faith, our hope, and in so many aspects of our spiritual and physical existence?
Again, focusing on the opening section of John 10:10, we must recognise, especially as Christians, that we have a very nasty and powerful adversary, or opponent, in Satan.
His ultimate desire has always been to keep folk from receiving what it is that God has for people’s lives. Is this the reason that, theologically, many people - even Christians - can blame God whenever bad things happen?
One of the most challenging things to do in bad times for Christians to do is simply pray. Many of us, as Christians, tend to yell at God to get His act together and sort out our problems ASAP!
Perhaps many of us Christians need to remember the old spiritual maxim - ‘The saint on his knees means the devil flees!’ John 10:10 makes it very clear that Satan will use the tactics of stealing, killing and destroying to bring tests of faith into our lives.
How often - myself included - have we Christians asked questions, such as - why does God allow natural disasters to happen? Why does God allow disease, hunger and thirst to pollute lands? Clearly, Satan wants us to believe his lies, and die without Christ in our hearts.
How many Christians have been sucked in by so-called Fake News? How many Christians have been questioning the validity of their faith because they have been reading or listening or watching Fake News?
Perhaps for me to suggest Fake News comes from Satan makes me sound like a raving fundamentalist who should set up my own Irish branch of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church in the United States!
But in reality, we Christians need to be fully aware of the impact of Fake News on our spiritual lives. And if we become sucked in by such Fake News, how many people are we putting off getting involved with the Christian faith because we are repeating such Fake News? That should be food for thought for us Christians!
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
Listen to religious commentator Dr John Coulter’s slot, Call Coulter, every Saturday morning around 9.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM, as part of the ‘At The Table’ show.