Let’s look at some examples of superstition in Christianity. How is it that a person can be superstitious when they no longer believe in hexes, or luck, or rabbits’ feet. Well, let’s look at some examples.
I went to a hospital one day to visit a woman who was quite sick. When I got there, I could see that she was upset and dejected. In talking with her for a while, I learned that she believed that God was punishing her for her past sins. Now, is that reality? Or is that just a superstition? She, more or less, pictured God as a voodoo witch doctor up in heaven, poking pins in a doll that looked like she looked. So, do you see God that way? It’s interesting to consider why things happen to us. And when some people suddenly realize that God is in the picture, He becomes a part of the superstition.
\A man I knew lost his job, and I went to try and encourage him about it, and he told me that he had lost his job, because he had not been praying and studying like he should. Is that reality or is that superstition? He saw daily Bible study and prayer as a talisman, to be worn around his neck every day to ward off curses from God.
Now and then, I get a call left on my voicemail for an anointed cloth or someone wants to be anointed – this is something many ministers do, based on biblical practice – but don’t tell me who’s sick or what they’re sick with. Just send a cloth – that’s all – no discussion, no spiritual condition of faith. It’s kind of like a rabbit’s foot that you rub to make your wish come true – no awareness that the cloth is just a cloth – the important part is praying to God with a minister in faith, asking to be healed – no awareness of Christ and His sacrifice, no expressed awareness of what it cost for us to come to God and request a miracle. Just send a cloth – that’s all. And then there are those who seem to be anointed for every hang nail or over and over again for the same thing, as though God forgot about it the first time. Now, I want you know that I send a cloth, or anoint someone, any time they ask. My job is to take care of them. We don’t all have the same faith or insight. And their job is to think about why God does what He does in their own lives and how He does it.
Questions about life. Am I saying there is no benefit by being blessed by God? No. Am I saying there’s no benefit from prayer and study? No. Am I saying that our suffering is not the result of sins? No. Am I saying that anointing is superstition? Certainly not. What I’m saying is, that life is just not that simple, because God is not simple-minded like we are. He lays down simple rules, but His plan is complex beyond any of us to understand. It’s just not true that, if we pray and study every day, we’ll never lose a job, or, if we eat properly, we’ll never get sick, or, if we pay our tithes faithfully, we will never have financial problems. It’s way more complicated than that.
So, you know, let’s observe this: God’s plan is easy to understand. God’s goal is easy to see. It’s articulated clearly in the Bible. But how God is working out that plan in each of our lives, is an incredibly complex mystery.
Look at this scripture with me in Isaiah 55:8.
Isaiah 55:8 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and neither are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
So how much higher is the heaven where God lives than the earth? Well, believe me, that’s outside the universe. There is no way for us to really understand how God is working things out in our lives. Just when you think you have it figured out, you get thrown a curve ball. So that scripture means exactly what it says. It’s hard to figure out how God works in our lives. It’s often difficult to see why things happen to us and what brought them about is a very complicated issue.
So let’s think about some of the forces that affect us. Perhaps we can make some sense of it all by examining the forces that work in our lives. One of the forces that affects our lives is the spiritual law of God. The main idea there is that, if we obey it, we will be blessed. The law of God is like a lamp that shows us way to avoid trouble and so be blessed.
Look in Deuteronomy 28:15.
Deuteronomy 28:15 – But it shall come to pass that, if you will not hearken to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes, which I command you this day, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your store and cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your land, the increase of your kind and flocks of your sheep. Cursed shall you be when you come in, cursed shall you be when you go out. The LORD shall send up these cursings, vexation and rebuke in all you set yourself to do until you be destroyed and until you perish quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings, whereby you have forsaken Me.
Now, that sounds like God is actually pressing the Smite button on each one of these things, but that’s not true at all. He tells them earlier in the chapter that, if they’ll obey all His rules, they’ll be blessed. So that’s the thing a lot of people don’t think about when they look at this negative part of this chapter. The law shows us how to avoid trouble and all this negative stuff just follows along when we don’t do what we’re told. God tells us to do things because they’re good for us. And so, when we don’t, we fall prey to the natural laws of the universe.
So laws function on a cause-and-effect principle. And this cause-and-effect thing God has set up is probably the major factor affecting our lives. Think about that. You know, I notice in my work that, if I give people advice, they rarely follow it. But if I help them come to their own decision about things, based on their own experiences, then things go well. And I’ve noticed with children that mostly what they learn from is their own negative experiences. That learning the hard way is what most of us have to do to learn our lessons in life. There’s a parenting program based on this idea. It’s called Parenting with Love and Logic. The idea is to parent our kids the way God parents us. What a concept! And it’s amazingly successful, too. You let kids learn by experience. The idea is to parent our children from experience.
So this is a very important point. When we grow up, if we don’t make the connection between financial responsibility and irresponsibility, then we won’t understand why, if we don’t pay our bills, we lose our credit rating. Some us think that God smites us with boils if we don’t tithe, but that’s not a logical consequence of not tithing, is it? And God’s consequences are usually pretty logically connected back to what the problem is. To think that God smites us with boils if we don’t tithe, I think, is, for the most part, most of the time, superstitious. The idea of God having a Smite button is superstitious.
To complicate things even more, God once did smite a man with boils. And that was so noteworthy, it’s put in the Bible. His name is Job. But it wasn’t because he wasn’t tithing that he got smitten with boils. Well, why did he, then? That’s complicated. It took forty chapters to explain it. Even after God explains it to us, people are still arguing about what the forty chapters meant. There’s no clear understanding, in the world of Christianity, about what the book of Job actually means. Of course, I think I know what it means. Everybody else has their own idea about it. So, like I said, it’s complicated.
If we break a law of human relations, our human relationships will suffer. If we’re having trouble on the jobs with other people, the area of the law to look at is the part that deals with getting along with other people – things like, to have friends, a man must show himself friendly. Or, Thou shalt not lie, and Thou shalt not steal, and Thou shalt not bear false witness. People don’t like it when we steal their stuff, lie to them and lie about them. If we’re having problems getting along with others, we should look in the part of the law that deals with human relationships and see where we might be falling down on those things.
Often, I’ve noticed that, when we look at God’s law, and we start out looking to find out why we’re not having the kind of relationships we want, we quite often detect the faults in other when it comes to violating the principles of human relationships. I’ve noticed we’re predisposed to that. But, if we’re in jail for stealing, the place to look is in the Eighth Commandment.
You know, when you think about penalties for not praying and not studying, and for being poor, and for having a divorce, there’s no immediate penalties for those things. They usually follow along behind. We might suffer a guilty conscience or, because of that, feel distant from God, or we might lack Bible knowledge – you know, not know what to do. The lack of answered prayers might be because we haven’t been praying, or it could be that we have self-reliance rather than reliance on God. And those things are a little harder to discern.
So, what can we learn from this? One of things that I think I’ve learned from it in my life is, that most of the time, I do it to myself by disobeying the laws of God and reaping the automatic consequences – some of which come immediately and some of which follow along behind. The thing about that is, it’s not superstitious. It’s logical. And many of the consequences that God has built into the universe are logical consequences.
Another aspect that affects our lives is natural law. God created all these laws, too, and they affect us very much. But you know, it’s a natural law that people are not immortal in the flesh. We all run out of time and die in the end. We’re not going to last forever in this flesh. So, if we take care of it, then it naturally stands that we have a better chance of lasting a little bit longer. Genetics is the main thing that determines how old we get to be. But, if our genetic code says that we’re going to last till we’re 90, and we smoke like a train from the time we’re 13 till we’re 80 years old, we might die then, because we have abused the body we have.
You know that woman I talked about, that was sick in the hospital, was she there because God had not forgiven her? Did He feel she needed punishment? Or was she there because she had an improper diet, or poor genetics, or because she lived near a chemical dump site, or maybe because her grandmother did? I mean, they now know that some of the chemicals that we’ve created actually corrupt our genetic structure. Well, it is more likely that she was physically ill from a physical cause.
Did you know that some years ago, genetic scientists isolated a portion of a human chromosome, which when corrupted, causes a specific vessel in the brain to blow out like a tiny balloon – to have a stroke? How that corruption enters into a person’s genome is a question, but most likely, it’s because, somewhere, people violated various laws of nature – either in the family or at the chemical factory that Grandma Myrtle lived near.
Matthew 5:45 – …that you may be the children of your Father, which is in heaven, for He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
So God created natural law and, if it’s not raining, it’s not raining for everybody – both the good and the bad. And, if the sun is shining, it’s shining on the evil and on the good. So, that’s, sometimes, how it works.
Now God created natural law. The results of it are His will, though I doubt that He orchestrates the results for each person most of the time. Perhaps at a few critical times – such as the storm that drove the Spanish Armada to destruction on the rocks of the British beaches. We have a few examples of that in history…I mean, if you look back on it, the chances of that happening were practically nil, and yet, it did happen. And the results changed the world. You know, the devil gets a great deal of credit for all the evil in the world, but I want you to notice Isaiah 45:7. God said:
Isaiah 45:7 – I form light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I, the LORD, do all these things.
But I thought God wasn’t supposed to be evil. So, who’s responsible – well, God or the devil? Which one? God allowed the devil into the Garden of Eden, and allowed the devil to influence Adam and Eve, and He allowed him to instill his own nature in man, but God didn’t do those things. He just allowed it. Why did He? You know, to build character, there has to be tension. So there is tension between good and evil in each of us and tension in the world between good and evil. It would be biblically accurate to say that God, while He is not evil, has allowed the devil, who is evil, to instill evil in us. And the reason He did that, it seems clear, is so that we may struggle against it in our lives and in others. See, so there’s nothing at all superstitious about this. It’s all a part of his plan. Sometimes, the devil influences us indirectly through society, and sometimes, he does it directly through personal or demonic intervention, and sometimes, he stirs up our carnal nature to do evil, and sometimes, God allows him to afflict people personally. By the way, one of the forces that afflicts us is the devil, but I’m not going to talk much about that today. We’ve covered that previously and I’ll probably give you a link to that later on – do it on the Website.
So, does this mean that every time a person gets a boil, it’s from the devil directly? No. Sometimes boils come from lack of cleanliness, sometimes poor diet, sometimes from other physical sources.
There’s a scene in the movie, Field of Dreams, where the rookie is up at bat, and the pitcher brushes him back hard twice in a row. And the rookie’s insensed. And so Shoeless Joe calls the rookie back to the backstop to settle him down, and he says, “Okay, he’s thrown two in a row right in your ear. So, where do you think he’s going to throw the next one?” And he said, “Low and away.” And he said, “Right. So, look for low and away. But watch out for ‘in your ear.’”
So, while we cause ourselves most of our own problems by not following God’s laws, if it isn’t that, then there’s also the natural laws of God to consider that just operate on their own, and we are subject to them always. There’s always the devil to think about, too, but not to be superstitious about it. I doubt that God will not take it well if, at the judgment, we tell Him, “The devil made me do it.”
So, moving to the third influence, time and chance. In Ecclesiastes 9:11, it says:
Ecclesiastes 9:11 – I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill. But time and chance happen to them all. That’s another thing that we are subject to in our lives – time and chance.
Here are two examples Jesus gives us of this. In Luke 13:1, it says:
Luke 13:1 – There were present at that season some that told Him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices – certainly a grizzly and disgusting event. And Jesus answered and said to them – I think He suspected that they were self-righteous – “Suppose you that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things?”
You know, sometimes, in our world, when somebody’s kid gets sick, people tell the parents it’s because of their sins, or some ridiculous thing like that. There’s a movie that has a lot of that in it. It’s called Miracles from Heaven – really interesting story there. And He said, “I tell you, ‘No.’ But except you repent, you shall all likewise perish. Or, those eighteen, on whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them, do you think they were sinners above all the men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, ‘No.’ But except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.”
Sometimes, stuff just happens – wrong place, wrong time. Then again, on the other side of that, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then. So it isn’t always bad stuff. Sometimes miracles happen or time and chance goes in our favor.
You know, in 1980, the nation had settled into a recession. I believe that was triggered by the Carter administration’s pressure on the Fed to raise interest rates. This recession was called by the media geniuses, The Reagan Recession. But I was around then, and I remember we were already in the recession before Reagan took office. So that was a transparently disingenuous act by the left. Several church members in my congregation, at that time, were out of work then. Was that because they were sinners above others? No. It was because they were living in the USA, which was in a downturn, and they just happened to be employed by the auto industry – one of the most seriously affected by interest rate increases. While some of our members in the auto industry were out of work, there were some who were child molesters and adulterers, and they never missed a paycheck. Go figure. Time and chance. We say, “Well, that just isn’t fair. God’s not fair.” The comforting and terrifying thing about all of this is, that nobody gets away with anything in God’s plan. Everything is going to be squared up before it’s all said and done. So, if you’re upset with a lot of people, you’ll probably be glad that nobody is going to get away with anything, and all the people who are upset with you will be happy, too.
What’s next? Well, the fourth thing that affects us all eventually is God’s mercy and love. The universe is set up to run along the lines of the law. And part of the law says that, if we break it, we must die. And since Jesus Christ – out of the great love of the Father and out of His own great love – die in our place, God can – if we have repented – remove the death penalty from us – and other physical penalties as well. And that’s called grace.
I heard of a man once, who slept around a lot before he got married. And logically, and the way things go – because of logic in God’s plan – contracted an incurable STD. After that, he repented, he was forgiven, the death penalty was lifted, but he still had the incurable STD. He still lived in a human body and violated the health principle, as well as a spiritual law. And he asked God to heal him of that disease, and He did! An incurable disease was healed. Now, He doesn’t do that for everybody that’s been in that instance. I’ve talked to some of those, too. But look at what it says in Romans 9:15, before you say, “That’s not fair.”
Romans 9:15 – For He said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”
So why is God like this? Is He just random, or not dependable, or inconsistent? Why does He do that? Why does He shield some and let others suffer. Well, the point we ought to learn from all of this is, that there are too many variables – too many forces and possibilities – to always be sure what’s happening. I mean, who can figure time and chance? Or, who understands why God does what He does? Look at this scripture in Jeremiah 29:11:
Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
So none of us knows how it’s going to be in the future, do we? Except for one thing. We know God says that He has our back, and that we are all His children, and that He loves all of us. He gives us all what we need to be born into His spirit Kingdom now. And He’s doing this for everybody all at once. Now that’s complicated, because we all interact with each other, and we do bad things to each other, or good things to each other, and He has to factor all of that in and make it all work out for everybody. We can’t do that. We’re not smart enough. We don’t even know why other people do what they do. But God knows why all of us do everything we do. He knows all of our motivations. He knows all our secrets. We’re like an open book to Him. He gives all of us every day exactly what we need to be born into His spirit Kingdom in the future.
The plan is not for the present. It’s to give us a future and a hope. Everything that happens in our lives, He promises – if we’ll just trust Him – that it will work out for the best in the future. And sometimes, that’s going to feel really good and sometimes it’s going to feel really bad. But He says that it’s always in our best interest in the long haul. We have such a hard time believing that, because we don’t know anybody else that that’s trustworthy or that powerful. But He’s not like anybody we know.
It’s a very complex issue and what it really boils down to is faith. There are some things we can do however to judge more accurately what’s happening to us and why. And we will address those in the follow-up, called How Christian Life Works.