“If a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it, did it make a sound?”

Laugh about this if you’d like, but the philosophical question about whether a falling tree in a forest always makes noise continues to make the rounds. It’s addressed in Wikipedia, is the subject of u-tubes, blogs, articles, books, and even arguments.

As intelligent beings, we often ask “Why?” and wonder “If”. And when it comes to faith in God, it’s easy to manufacture “If” tests about Him when we see or experience things that are unjust, painful, and/or evil.

If only God would …”

“I could trust God If …”

If God is truly loving, why …”

The “If” tests we sometimes wrestle with about God can define or derail our faith in God. When we fail to see Him working in ways we think He should, we may wonder whether He is, indeed, who He states He is in the Bible. Unfortunately, this pretty much puts us in the camp of:

“Well, didn’t hear that tree fall in the forest…”

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Even if you’ve loved Jesus and believed the Bible to be true for a long time, it likely hasn’t insulated you from occasionally experiencing significant pain in your life.  When pain or disappointment hits us, it’s easy to permit “If” tests about God to drive our faith. And every time we let “if” tests do the driving, however briefly, it will undoubtedly result in a spiritual or emotional wreck of some kind.

If you’re operating on “If” tests when it comes to God’s attributes, you aren’t alone and we at at Encouragement That Lasts fully understand. But we’re beyond thrilled to help you get “If” tests about God out of the driver’s seat of your faith! Instead, consider these encouraging truths:

God loves us, even when we struggle with questions of Him that aren’t fair:

Lamentations 3:22–23: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning…”

Psalm 136:2 : “Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.”

Romans 5:6-8: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God doesn’t want us to hang onto our unfair questions regarding His character, and neither should we:

Psalm 145:19: “He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them.”

Psalm 147:11: “The Lord delights in those who fear Him; who put their hope in His unfailing love.”

John 7:38:  “Whoever believes in me [Jesus], as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

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Our culture, by and large, appears to have confusion about the fear of the Lord. We can be afraid of snakes, for example, and be happy if we never see another. But this is not the kind of fear we should have of God. Our fear of Him should spring out of a deep reverence and recognition that we have absolutely no hope of standing guiltless before Him, apart from our relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:6). The believer in Christ can—and should—possess an inward, deep-seated joy from being in relationship with God (rivers of living water flowing within), even as he or she possesses a fearful awe of His power and holiness (Psalm 33:8).

Having a healthy fear of God leaves no room for “if” tests about His character.

Unfortunately, in addition to our own penchant for creating “if” tests about God, we have an enemy of the soul (I Peter 5:8) who delights in any doubts, fear-based questions, or frustrations we may harbor towards God when we don’t understand why He simply doesn’t keep bad things from happening.

Satan is real and the father of all lies (John 8:44). He doesn’t deny that God speaks through His Word; he simply chooses to twist itoften through straight up or camouflaged “If” tests:

Genesis 3:1b: “…And he [Satan] said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?’” Here Satan implied Eve should question God’s love. It’s as though he were saying, “Seriously? If God really loved you, He wouldn’t keep anything from you, would He?”

Luke 4:3 [Satan speaking to Jesus in the wilderness]: If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

Luke 4:9b [Again, Satan speaking to Jesus]: “If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You’…”

The encouraging truth is that we do not have to let tainted “If” tests drive our thought life (Philippians 2:5; Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8). They don’t have to drive our faith (John 7:38; Matthew 17:20; 2 Corinthians 5:7). And—I’m so glad—they don’t have to drive our actions (Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 1:7). We have the ability to be free from the damage of them, and Jesus shows us how.

Just look at the beautiful way in which Jesus met the “If” tests Satan put before Him. Without fail, He overrode each one with truths from the living, powerful Word of God:

Luke 4:4: “And Jesus answered him, It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’’”

Luke 4:12: “And Jesus answered and said to him, It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Whenever any “if” test about God’s goodness, trustworthiness, love, justice, etc. comes to mind, we should pray and ask God to remind us of what the Bible says of Him. This means, of course, we need to develop a pattern of reading His Word. It means we may need to write down certain Bible verses about Him and stick them on our bathroom mirrors. Whatever the method, we should store up an arsenal of Biblical truths in our minds to have at the ready… before an “if” test begins to formulate.

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Have you noticed, conversely, how God lays out for us important, life-giving “If” tests and statements in His Word? They’re all over the place! And they have the power to challenge, strengthen, and purify our faith (2 Timothy 3:16).

I love that!

God’s Word tells us:

I John 1:6-10: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”

John 14:15, Jesus’ words: If you love me, keep my commandments.”

Matthew 7:11, Jesus’ words: If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

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The “If” tests we want to have defining our faith are those from the Word of God. It’s good for us to struggle with self-assessment questions such as: “Jesus stated in John 14:15 that if I love Him, I’ll keep His commandments. Is that really my heart’s desire? Am I known for being a lover of His Word and His ways?”

Any time we’re feeling discouraged because we think something along the lines of, “What if God won’t forgive me for this?” we need to have our faith rest on His Word that “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

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Now is a good time for all of us to read the Bible with fresh eyes. Let’s look for those “If” statements from the God who loves us and allow them to challenge our thinking and strengthen our faith.

Oh, and how do we know God loves us?

Because a certain tree did fall in the forest, and those there and in the heavenly realm heard it.

It fell to the bite of an axe. It was hauled out of the woods and fashioned into an instrument of Roman torture over 2,000 years ago.

We call that tree “The Old Rugged Cross”.

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“And He Himself [Jesus] bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (I Peter 2:24)

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Thank you for joining us today and—yes!—you are loved.

June

June

People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

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