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Dr. Paul J. Dean Christian Blog and Commentary

Paul Dean

Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.

“I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining, and I believe in love even when I don’t feel it, and I believe in God even when He’s silent.” That line was found scratched on a wall in a cellar in Germany after World War II. You can feel the anguish, but you can also feel the faith; the certainty that God was at work despite the atrocities of Hitler, the Nazis, and man’s inhumanity to man. Sometimes God is silent, for whatever the reason, but that doesn’t mean He’s not at work. It doesn’t mean He’s left you. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t care. I’m reminded of the book of Esther. God is never mentioned in the book, yet it’s all about His work behind the scenes to deliver His people; it’s about the reality that God is at work even when He’s silent. Let’s think a little.

First, God is at work even though His people may be suffering. You may be going through an extremely difficult time right now. No one quite knows the pain you bear, though what you’re facing is common enough (1 Cor. 10:13). You may wonder if God has forgotten you. While it may not feel like it, the truth is He hasn’t. A young Jewish girl named Esther lost her parents when she was very young. She was taken in by her cousin Mordecai and taught the things of God. As a teenager, she was abducted by the Persian King Ahasuerus along with four-hundred other young girls and made a sex slave. She ultimately became Queen, but not of her own will. She was forced to sleep with the King, as all the other girls were, and she was chosen to be Queen because the King liked her the best. Don’t get confused about what happened to her. Her real-life tragedy was no Cinderella story. To make matters worse, not long after she became Queen, as a result of the nefarious influence of a man named Haman, a decree was issued that all the Jews would be put to death. I have no doubt Esther wondered many times whether God had abandoned her. We’re told the Jews were in hopeless anguish and mourning when they heard the evil decree. And yet, God was at work. Despite and even through the wickedness of Ahasuerus, God had made Esther Queen, and she would be an instrument of deliverance for God’s people. Despite and even through your suffering, God is at work. You may not see how, but He is, and you can trust Him.

Second, we live in a culture where our government is increasingly hostile to Christians. We don’t suffer like some believers have in the past or do in other countries, but the writing is on the wall; things are only going to get worse. I’m often asked whether God has abandoned America or His church. Well, God’s blessings have overflowed to America in many ways as He has blessed His church in America. Yet the church often goes through hard times for different reasons. It’s part of His means of making her what she should be. And God has indeed given America over to her sin, but He has not and will never abandon His people: the church. God is at work even though evil men are in power, whether we’re talking about Hitler, King Ahasuerus, or the US government.

Third, God is at work even when all appears to be hopeless. When Haman was about to persuade the King to issue the murderous decree against God’s people, what hope did the Jews have? They were powerless against the King’s army who would carry his decree without mercy. What influence did any of them have on the King? None. But God had a plan. He used the King’s anger to remove Queen Vashti. He used the King’s lust to make Esther Queen. He used Esther to foil the homicidal plot hatched by Haman. And God knows what’s ahead in your life. It may be something you’re powerless to do anything about, and your situation may appear hopeless. But God’s already taken steps to work it for your good (Rom. 8:28). That doesn’t mean we won’t face terrible circumstances. But it does mean that God will use them for our spiritual benefit, every time. “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Ps. 42:11).

Fourth, God is at work even when you are actually in sin. Many of the Jews in Esther’s day were in Babylon when they should have been back in Israel. They had been taken captive because of sin, but God had promised their return. Even Esther and Mordecai had stayed and made many compromises with Babylonian culture. There were many parts of the law they simply didn’t observe. How many times have I made compromises with our culture? How often have I willfully sinned against God? How about you? And yet, just as God’s faithfulness is on display in Esther’s life and in the lives of the Jews in Babylon, His faithfulness is on display in our lives as well. Think about what Paul says to Timothy, “This is a faithful saying, for if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:11-13). Yes, if one proves he doesn’t know Christ, then Christ will deny him – “I never knew you.” But, if we are simply weak, if we have doubts, if we sin against God, the good news is that God remains faithful. That’s who He is, and, He can’t deny those He’s purchased with His own blood. Even when you sin God is at work to help you repent and move forward.

Fifth, God is at work even though He may be keeping silent. Maybe you’re in the dark right now. You search God’s word and find no answers. But don’t give up on Him. Neither Esther nor Mordecai heard from God. The Jews didn’t hear from God. As noted, God is not mentioned anywhere in the book. But He was at work. We see it in Esther’s life. We see it in Mordecai’s life. And you will see it in your life. See His faithfulness as He draws you close to Himself in and through your trials. God doesn’t promise us health and wealth. But He does promise healing for our souls and riches in Christ. Remember, your faith in Christ is more precious than gold (1 Pet. 1:7), the testing of your faith produces endurance (Jas. 1:3), and “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Do you believe in the sun even when it’s not shining? Then believe in God even when He’s silent.

Here’s a word about words. Words have meaning, though they have no meaning apart from God. They can’t. Apart from God there is no standard. It’s a worldview issue, and when that worldview is rejected, the results are destructive, not only at an individual level, but at a cultural level as well. That’s why the meaning of words shouldn’t be blurred or hijacked.

I was enjoying ESPN radio in the car. The subject was a new football league, and the comment was, “We got a lot of hate yesterday concerning the names of some of the teams.” The fact is that some folks didn’t like some of the names. That’s not hate; that’s preference. But in our culture, we use the word hate loosely. “Why you wanna hate on me, dog?” Or, “You think same-sex sex is wrong? You, hater!” It doesn’t matter that a person can love someone despite thinking their lifestyle is wrong. The word is sometimes slang; the speaker is sometimes lazy; the term is sometimes used as a political baseball bat. So, people who express different preferences from you are haters. People who take verbal jabs at their friends are haters. People who love are haters. People on the opposite side of an issue are haters. Everyone’s a hater. That’s the first problem.

The second problem is that those who are called haters, but who aren’t really, are now labeled. They’re demonized. When you’re labeled or demonized, it follows you. You’re now viewed as a hater, or a rapist. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl get drunk and have consensual sex. Girl wakes up and regrets her decision. She says, “Boy raped me.” He’s now a rapist. But he’s not really. But he is because our mixed-up culture says he is. Because words are being emptied of their meaning. It’s a raping of the English language. Boy’s life is ruined, and culture as a whole is ruined. Words have meaning and those new meanings translate into ideas: cultural ideas. Wars are fought, governments are raised or toppled, and cultures are created or destroyed by ideas. If you’re a white male, you’re a racist, not because you hate or oppress members of another race, but simply because you’re white. And by the way, because you’re white and because you’re a racist, you’re also a hater.

The third problem is that words like hate, rape, and racism are words that truly describe horrific things. But those words are robbed or their meaning and power when they’re used casually or politically rather than accurately. We fail to the see the actual horror of hate, rape, or racism. Beyond that, those who’ve truly experienced the evils of hate, rape, or racism are diminished. The one who’s team name is mocked and the one who’s beaten for being gay have experienced the same thing. Girl who seduced Boy into consensual sex and decides afterward she’s made a mistake and the girl violently attacked in an ally, forced to have sex, and left for dead, have both experienced the same thing. The black guy who didn’t get special treatment from a white guy and the guy who couldn't get hired by the good ole boy town network because he’s black have experienced the same thing. In such a context, rationality is gone with the wind.

Of course, rationality requires a standard, as do all things like communication, law, ethics, morality, societal cohesion, etc.  When a culture casts off God, it casts off the standard. That is to say it casts off the true standard in exchange for arbitrary standards, which are nothing more than opinions that change with the prevailing winds and whims of selfish and inconsistent people. Only the biblical worldview makes sense of our world and provides a basis for truth, morality, and ethical standards. On that worldview, hate, rape, and racism have real meaning. On any other worldview, they have no meaning and culture devolves into chaos. There is no standard. Everything becomes a matter of opinion, and the goal becomes gathering enough people to your opinion to exert power over those who don’t share your opinion, in other words, oppression. Such a dynamic, oddly enough, is rooted in hate. Of course, those engaged in it have no idea because they destroyed the meaning of hate a long time ago.

Doug Wilson got it right when he said President Trump is an ungodly man through whom God is giving us some good things – lest anyone should boast. Sometimes God uses a rival kingdom (to His) to bless His people. When Israel was rebuilding the temple, God used the pagan King Darius to protect them from their enemies (Ezra 6). And you have to give the Lord credit for His sense of humor – He even taxed those enemies to provide funds for Israel’s building project. Such is the kind of thing God does from time to time. His protection and provision come from an unlikely source; often times that source is an earthy government.

When God does what He does in that way, He’s showing us His sovereign rule over all things. He’s the One who raises up nations and then like chaff, blows them away (Isa. 40:24). We Christians sometimes forget these things, and this problem is especially acute for American Christians. Because the bulk of our existence has been a biblically and historically anomalous one in terms of relative individual liberty, we tend to see the state as good in essence and favorable toward us. We tend to believe that we can partner with and use government for God’s cause, and that we’re on the same team in so doing. As a result, in many ways, we tend to see the government as our savior rather than God, though we would never admit to such a thing, even to ourselves. But how often do we look for government-solutions rather than God-solutions? How often are we surprised at the new and scandalous things our government is doing or affirming?

When Captain Renault was shocked to find that gambling was going at Rick’s in Casablanca, he wasn’t. He knew very well what Rick’s was all about, was happy to pocket his winnings, but was also happy to shut the place down when it was in his best interest. He kept Rick’s at arms-length. His allegiance, at that moment, lay somewhere else. We mustn’t be shocked at what the American state is all about and what our government does these days. And, while we may gladly take our winnings when God gives them through the state, let us never forget the source of those winnings, and let us keep the state at arm’s length. Our allegiance lies somewhere else.

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