Is God Impotent?

Is God Impotent?

house Annie Hutchison Oct 11, 2023

The other day I heard a story on the radio about a football player sharing his faith with a bunch of reporters. He was talking about how his 4-year-old daughter beat cancer, but was then suffering severe seizures that were life-threatening as they caused brain swelling. As he prayed fervently for her healing, God answered his prayer and restored his daughter to perfect health. In light of this incredible miracle, his faith was bolstered. His immediate message to the reporters after sharing this story of miraculous healing was that if you’re going through something difficult, pray to God, and God will hear you and answer your prayers .

If I were listening to this as an unbeliever, I would pray for the things in my life that I wanted answered (money, health, prosperity, possessions, etc.) and if God didn’t come through in the miraculous way I wanted, I would walk away and never come back.

In fact, when I was a teacher, I remember mentoring a troubled young man and trying to help him pass all of his classes so he could move forward with his life and graduate. I remember telling him one day when he confessed that he was doing some illicit drugs that he needed Jesus. That drugs would never heal the ache in his heart like Jesus could.

His response was “Oh I tried that whole Jesus thing. He didn’t work for me.”

This student had heard the miracle stories, had prayed for God to fix his messed up homelife, and when things didn’t change, he believed that he had “tried the whole Jesus thing.”

Ray Comfort explains this type of evangelism with a parachute metaphor that I just love. If we try to tell someone to follow Jesus because he will fix all their problems and make their life better, eventually when they experience trials and tribulations, those people will feel that either we lied to them or that God just doesn’t love them enough or isn’t real, and they are left worse than before. If however, we tell them that they need Jesus because he loves them and wants to save their souls from eternal hell, that they can even begin to experience the comfort of the Holy Spirit here and now, then they will endure the trials because they know that this momentary affliction is light in comparison to eternal hell.

I commend the football player for having the courage to speak about his faith in a good God. I just wish so desperately that he had preached the whole story. Sometimes prayers are only fulfilled on the other side of eternity, and sometimes, God knowing more than we do chooses to answer our prayers with “No.”

God is omnipotent. He knows far more than we do and more than that, he is righteous, just, and eternal. When he answers prayers and gives us our miracles, it’s always amazing and fills us with hope and faith, but in Hebrews 11:1 It says “Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we do not see.” I believe what this really means is that our Christian faith should be placed in an eternal God who has promised us perfection in heaven, not in the blessings we demand.

Take Abraham for example. He never got to see God’s promise fulfilled while he was living. God’s promise was eternal and it was lengthy. It was not something Abraham experience fully in his lifetime on earth and yet Abraham still believed: that’s the power of what we have when we believe in an eternal God, whose promises can be fulfilled on this side of eternity, or on the other side of eternity. When we proclaim a message where God answers prayers only on this side of eternity the way we want, we preach an impotent God who is only capable of a small amount of goodness.

If God is only worthy to be followed, and only worthy to be prayed to because he answers our prayers, the way we want or when we want, then why do the martyrs worship him? Why does the persecuted church fervently worship him? What is it about the persecuted church that draws them to a God, who allows them to suffer greatly? Our answer seems to lie in who God is and the eternity of his character and promises. His promises don’t cease to be true when we suffer. In fact, his promises are something we should hold on to closer when we suffer because his character doesn’t change when we suffer. God doesn’t stop being good, because my life is marked by disappointment, despair, or suffering. Likewise his desire to give us peace, to have life in abundance, to have good is constantly happening -even when we do not deem our current circumstances as good gifts from a loving Father.

When I look through scripture and the evidence all around me, I see clearly that disappointment and suffering bring me to my knees in earnest prayer and redirect my life to his kingdom. I am reminded that God was bigger than the blessing box I put him in and I am invited to discover more of his character in this season of suffering I find myself in.

I am invited into the mysteries that Paul was invited into, that Jesus demonstrated. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

Walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, the great Comforter who breathes truth and strength into your aching heart. This is the secret of the persecuted church, of the martyr: they walk in deep intimacy with their Father who is able to fulfill his promises perfectly.