“He who created us without our help, will not save us without our consent.”
We certainly did not ask to be born, but God knew when we would be born and what we would be like before our parents ever met. In speaking to Jeremiah, God told him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
As with Jeremiah, when God created us, he knew our character beforehand, and He made us without our knowledge or assistance. This fact does not guarantee that He will save us. God may not even hear us when we ask Him for help if we have not made the right choice to serve Him. The Psalmist tells us, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” But he continues, “The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” If we choose not to acknowledge God or obey His com- mandments, then we put ourselves in the class of those who do evil, and we cannot expect God to protect us. We want to be able to say, as David did, “As for me, I shall call upon God, and the Lord will save me.”
The choice is ours. God does the calling, but we must do the responding. Christ tells us, “For many are called, but few are chosen,” and the reason is that — tragi- cally — many who are called do not respond to that call.
God gives us free will. He wants to save us. The prophet Ezekiel tells us, “ ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die?’ ” The time of judgment is fast approaching, these are the last days of a degenerate world, and we long for the fulfillment of the promises when the earth will be renewed — and the peace and contentment of the kingdom age will begin. But God is merciful, and He is providing a time of opportunity, a last chance for men to repent before the return of Christ. Peter said, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuf- fering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Even though the Lord is not willing that any should perish, the sad fact is that most will perish. The reason is not because God has not given men the opportunity to be saved, but because most choose to ‘do their own thing’ rather than obey His commandments.
Moses challenged the chosen people of his day to make the right choice. He said, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse — the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse
if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you.” History attests to the fact that most did turn away and perish.
Joshua said to the people of Israel just before he died, “If it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
The people gave a good answer but later turned away from their good intentions. We read, “And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua.” But, unfortunately, soon afterwards every man was doing whatever was right in his own eyes, which turned out to be a bad decision because they chose not to be faithful to their God.
Elijah threw down a challenge to the Jews of his day: “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, ‘How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.’ And the people answered him not a word.” The people would not acknowledge God until after fire came down from heaven and burned up the offering on the altar of God; then they chanted, “The Lord, He is God, the Lord, He is God.” Nevertheless, soon after, Jezebel was out to kill Elijah — causing him to flee for his life.
God gives us tests to see if we will follow Him or not. He tested Adam and Eve in the garden and they failed; there was only one thing they were told not to do, and they did it. He tested King Hezekiah: “But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask Hezekiah about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.” Sadly, he failed this test in showing off all his wealth, and then learned that every item he had proudly displayed would be carried off to Babylon.
God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, and he passed the test; God mercifully provided a ram once Abraham demonstrated his intention to obey exactly what God required.
We will be tested. Hebrews tells us, “For the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.” God promises us these challenges for a good reason. We need to learn: to learn obedience, to learn to trust God, and to understand how much we need forgiveness and the salvation God offers. Even the Lord Jesus needed testing, as we can see from when he was tempted in the wilderness — as well as the comment in Hebrews, “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”
God knows us and what we need, and every trial He sends us is for our good. Paul tells us, “No [trial] has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be [tried] beyond your strength, but with the [trial] will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” God tests us because He loves us and wants to improve our character and prepare us for future glory. It is comforting to know that God will not send us a trial we cannot handle,
and that God helps us to endure the trials He sends if only we will trust in Him. Jesus tells us to cheer up when we are being tested. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
We too can overcome, and there is a special blessing upon those who do. “He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.”
God created us and He wants us in His kingdom, but it must be our decision to say along with Joshua of old, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” If we do, we can join David in saying, “As for me, I shall call upon God, and the Lord will save me.”
Robert J. Lloyd