Bad News and a Great Good God

By Tom Gilson Published on February 17, 2024

Our goal here at the The Stream is to give you a realistic picture of the world, with a realistic perspective. For some organizations that would mean “all the news in all its raw ugliness.” Here it means recognizing the world we see around us is only a small part of reality. As bad as it the news may be — and it can be very bad — God is still King, and He still knows what He’s doing. We won’t see that overtly in every article, but we intend it to pervade our body of work.

Don’t think that’s any easier for us than it is for you. It might be harder. Like the prophets of old, part of our job is seeing, revealing, and exposing sin and error that seeks to destroy our land and our loved ones.

We’re not confused over authority here. The prophets could say straight up, “Thus says the Lord, and this is what’s going to happen.” For us it’s considerably less than that: “Thus says God in His word, and if He remains consistent this is what we can expect to happen.” Or, “History — or even common sense — teaches us lessons we dare not lose sight of.”

The prophets never lost hope in God’s deliverance, even as some of them delivered warnings that would put an “R” rating on a film of their message, or worse. We intend to maintain that same hope. Yes, that’s a faith challenge sometimes. The other day, though, I realized how very common that challenge is.

My Life as a Problem Person

I was at church, at the end of the service, when communion was being served. The pastor had led us through prayers of confession and assurances of forgiveness. It as a somber moment. I always have a hard time taking the bread, or what some denominations call the Host.

There is no smoothness there: It’s unleavened, so there is crunch in the texture. You don’t take and swallow it without breaking it between your teeth. I can’t do it without wincing at the thought that I am replaying in very real terms the breaking of Christ’s body on the cross for my sin and deliverance.

I’ve been following Christ 49 years. If any younger Christian thinks there’s a phase of “getting over your sin,” I’m here to say that’s not so. I won’t say whether I’ve grown better or worse on the outside, but on the inside I keep growing in awareness of how far short I fall. Partly it’s from knowing God better, seeing His greatness ever more clearly. His righteousness and love and glory grow higher and higher in my sight.

So there’s a sense where, by comparison, I’m getting worse all the time. Maybe I’m better from an earthly perspective, but taking the bread of Communion keeps getting more painful, as I am more and more aware of my sin that put Christ on that cross. I am a problem person, in God’s eyes. A very serious problem.

Our Good News God

So let’s cut to the point: Bad news in the world? I’m a bad news person myself! And God is a good news God. The word “gospel” means good news. The story of the cross starts with Christ being broken for us, but it’s a story for us, and it ends with His conquering death and delivering us from sin. That is no small thing, not for me, not for you, not for anybody.

If God through His gospel can turn my dark story into good news, He can do the same with the ugly stories of the news around us. He is the same God, working in the same power through the same gospel.

For the short term, His work is also just as invisible to our human eyes. We see it by faith, knowing His character and His promises as He revealed it in Scripture.

You Think Our News is Bad?

Think of Moses, standing by the Red Sea, with an army of Egyptians pressing down on him and his followers, all of them shouting how he’d brought them there for certain slaughter, and no earthly idea how they’d make it out of there alive. You want bad news? That’s impossibly bad news!

So, what did he say? “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” (Exodus 14:12)

When did he say it? He spoke it before God told Him the plan. Before the Red Sea opened before them. While the news was still looking as bad as it could be.

Why did he say it? What did he see that gave him that extra confidence? I owe this insight to a former boss, who pointed out Moses had one thing and one thing only going for him: He knew God’s character. God had promised, He had power to fulfill His promises, and that was enough for Moses.

God’s Character is Greater!

He did that for them; for us, He saved us from sin and death, which was a much bigger deal for God than moving some water out of the way for the Israelites. He is still the same God, with the same character, doing works of power to make good news out of bad.

Bad news is still bad. Some of it is very bad. There are still passages in the prophets bad enough to make you lose your lunch. They reported it because the people needed to hear the warnings, and they needed to hear the truth.

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We report because America needs to hear the warnings, and to hear the truth. But we are committed — you could pray for us in this — we are committed to telling the whole truth, the full story of the full reality we live in.

Bad news is bad, but God’s greatness is greater, and we, too, choose to stand firm, and see the deliverance the Lord will most assuredly bring. If He can save us from our sinful lives, He can take care of the rest, too.

That’s our message. There’s bad news in it, and we won’t flinch from telling it when it needs telling. The good news isn’t as visible, but it’s more real, and it’s way better yet.

 

Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.

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