Monday, January 16, 2012

Why did God allow Tebow, Bachmann to fail?

It is seemingly a bad year for God and his followers. Outspoken Christian Tim Tebow and his Denver Broncos suffered a blowout loss in the NFL playoffs at the hands of the New England Patriots. Of the three Republican candidates who claim that God told them to run for president, two (Michelle Bachmann and Georgia native Herman Cain) have already withdrawn from the race and the last (Rick Perry) is on the ropes.

Why would God put some of his most high-profile followers in the position to suffer such humiliating defeats? Why would God tell three different candidates to run for office in the same election? Is God hedging his bets?

Questions similar to these are not new. Believers have wrestled with the question of why bad things happen to good people at least since the Old Testament days of Job and probably earlier. Job was tormented by Satan, who that took all his worldly possessions, killed his family, and left Job with painful illnesses.

In response to Job’s questioning, God answers that he is the sovereign ruler of the universe and does not answer to men. Essentially, humans with limited knowledge cannot hope to understand why God chooses to do what he does.

Nevertheless, it is tempting to speculate on the possibilities. One obvious answer is that God may not have instructed the candidates at all. It is possible that one or more may have misinterpreted his message. Atheists would probably default to this argument since they don’t believe that God is real. Therefore, any presumed communication from God must be a misunderstanding in their view.

A second possibility is that God’s goal for his people was not what the rest of us think. It is obvious that God’s priorities are not the same as our own. In some cases, God gives instructions to people that are not meant to succeed by the world’s standards. The Old Testament prophet Hosea is one such case.

Hosea was called by God to preach God’s unending love to the people of ancient Israel. During the time of Hosea’s ministry, the ancient Israelites were rejecting God in favor of Canaanite gods such as Baal. God sent Hosea to tell the people that he still loved them, but that they would be punished if they continued to reject him. In the process of spreading God’s message, Hosea entered into an unhappy marriage in which his wife was unfaithful. Her rejection of Hosea became a metaphor for Israel’s rejection of God. Hosea never had a single convert throughout his ministry, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he was a failure since he fulfilled the role that God had for him.

Maybe Tim Tebow isn’t a failure because he failed to win the Super Bowl. Maybe Tebow is a success because he honors God and sets a good example. Maybe Tebow is a success because he lives the words of the Apostle Paul who said, ”Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). It is much more difficult to be a good loser than a good winner.

Perhaps Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Perry had a purpose for being in the presidential race that did not involve becoming president. Perhaps they added a dimension to the race that would not have existed otherwise. Cain’s 9-9-9 plan changed the debate by introducing the idea of sweeping tax reforms that would change the entire structure of the American tax system. Other candidates responded to his proposal with their own reform ideas. Maybe that’s why he was there.

Perhaps, the failures of Tebow, Bachmann and the others affected something or someone in a way that will not be known for years, if ever. Like the Butterfly Effect, a small and seemingly insignificant event can lead to cataclysmic events in the future. Perhaps, their failures now prepare them, or someone that they touched, for future success.

In Herman Cain’s case, God may have led him to run for president in order to deal with Cain’s secret sins. God does not allow sin to persist in a believer’s life indefinitely. God disciplines his people when do wrong (Revelation 3:19). As Jesus said, “Nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).

One thing that is evident from the failures of Tebow, Bachmann, Cain, and Perry is that belief in God and following God’s commands is not an easy thing. Contrary to charges from atheists that belief in God is intellectually lazy, they illustrated the principle of John 16:33 in which Jesus told his followers, “In this world you will have trouble.” Failure and problems are not a possibility; they are a certainty, even for believers.

The last part of the verse is what makes all the difference. Jesus concluded by saying, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The God who created the universe holds the earth and its occupants in his care and has our best interests at heart (Jeremiah 29:11, John 14:27).


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