The Battle With God (Intro)

This week my new book The Battle With God is out (available at Amazon.com in kindle ebook and paperback). So, this week I want to post excerpts from the book. This post is from the beginning of the book:

Pastor Bill Hybels once said, “I suspect that the God I know is the God you’re looking for.”

I’m not so sure.

I’m not so sure because I know too many people who reject the God of the Bible. And, even once people accept God, many struggle to make sense of Him. In fact, the more we get to know God, the more difficult it is to understand Him. Once we peel back the trivial, generic picture of God, we have questions that trouble us. As a result, many are not looking for the God of the Bible. They don’t like what they know, or they like their own idea of God better, so they abandon the revealed God. They settle for an idea of God that may or may not be the real thing. As J.I. Packer said, “Men say they believe in God, but have no idea who it is that they believe in, or what difference believing in Him may make.”
When I say the God of the Bible may not be the God people are looking for, I am not talking about an atheist here and there. I am not talking about an occasional Christian coming to see me because they are uncertain about some aspect of God. Real strugglers seem to be all around me. Bob, my childhood friend, is an admitted atheist. We were raised in the same church, but he abandoned the faith a long time ago. He thinks God as creator is absurd. He says science has, or will, explain away what was once attributed to God. The God he is looking for is one of science, fact, and observation.
My Christian friend Mark struggles with aspects of God’s character. Recently, we discussed God’s Old Testament judgment on other nations. He asked, “Why kill infants and children? I can understand retaliation for those who are guilty, but I don’t understand the slaughter of innocents and children.” This is not someone who is antagonistic to the faith; this is someone who believes. He is not trying to stir up trouble; he just wants to understand. But he is struggling because the God he is looking for is more merciful.
Chelsea struggles with the sovereignty and glory of God. Her heart desires glory, fame, and control for herself. She is struggling with God because she wants a God who will serve her by granting her success and fame. When I tell her that this is not how He works, she understands. Still, she asks, “Why can’t I get what I want?” The God she is looking for is more interested in her happiness.
Elisa came out of a religious background that denied the Trinity and now struggles to make sense of God in light of what the Bible says. She still sees God as a glorified human being, a kind of Greek god who reigns up in the clouds. Though she is growing in understanding, the Trinitarian picture of God is still not clear. She wants a God that is easier to comprehend.

The Bible is full of people who encountered God, yet struggled with Him. In Genesis, they did not want to obey Him. In Exodus, they wanted a God that emphasized the characteristics of a cow. In Leviticus, they wanted a God who provided better things during their desert wandering. In I Samuel, they did not want God as their king. And in the gospels, they ultimately screamed, “Crucify Him.”
Scripture, and my own experience, tell me that while most people are looking for something greater than themselves, they struggle with the God of the Bible. They struggle with a God whose primary purpose is to bring Himself glory. They struggle with a God who insists on His way as the only way. They struggle with a God who commands, demands, and reprimands.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying God’s characteristics are not appealing, because they are. A God willing to sacrifice Himself is a compelling God. A God willing to extend grace to those who do not deserve it is an engaging God. People are looking for love, grace, truth, meaning, forgiveness, and direction. God provides all of these things.
Yet, even the most attractive characteristics of God are often misunderstood. When people say they want a God who is loving, they don’t necessarily mean the kind of love found in the Bible. When people say they want a God who is just, they don’t necessarily mean God’s justice.
Once we peel back the generic god and understand the Biblical God, we struggle with what we come to know. We struggle because some aspects of God are not what we expect. After all, there are some terrifying characteristics to God – just ask Job. There are some troubling characteristics – just ask Jonah. There are some puzzling characteristics – just ask Peter. There are some stern characteristics – just ask Adam and Eve. There are all kinds of aspects to God’s character that are difficult to understand and even more difficult to submit to.

The point I intend to make is simple: We live with the tension between our understanding of who God should be and what He should do, and the reality of who He really is and what He is really doing.

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