Has God Finally Met His Match?

By Jennifer Hartline Published on April 13, 2017

Who is your God? And how big is He?

I had the opportunity to go and hear a prominent Catholic speaker giving an evening retreat, and this man made an audacious statement that became like a thorn in my heart.

He said it seemed to him that most Christians no longer believe the Gospel can change the world. That the whole world has become too corrupt, too violent, too rotten to the core, and perhaps on a subconscious level, we think evil has become more powerful than God. We are demoralized, discouraged, defeated.

I had to chew on that bitter thought and admit there was truth to it. The whole world is on fire, and it can seem we’re armed with half empty squirt guns. This is not a time in history when Christianity is making great strides in the world. Quite the contrary! The headlines are horrifying. Faith and freedom are under full assault. The battle intensifies every day. Victories are rare right now. Martyrs are not.

What should be the response of people who genuinely believe the power of the Gospel can change the world? Is my response that of a person who knows, down in her bones, that even the greatest evil is no match for my God?

Is my instinct to implore the Holy Spirit to change hearts, to reach even the most hardened sinner? Or has ISIS become bigger than Jesus?

Is my God still sovereign over all things? Or has He finally met His match in the year 2017?

The Most Important Question in Human History

I’m reminded that things really crystallize around one simple question. Yet though it is simple, it is the most consequential question in history, for all eternity.

It’s not merely the single most important question in human history. It’s the only question. Everything — and I mean everything — that matters hinges on how we answer this question. This is the life or death question.

But today, most people dismiss the question with a harrumph or an eye-roll. Many will smugly laugh. Some will respond with anger or violence. Very few will give the question any serious contemplation.

But it demands thoughtfulness and intention. It requires a commitment. The one asking the question compels a definitive answer.

It’s simply this: “Who do you say that I am?”

How Does the Answer Affect Our Lives?

Jesus asked the disciples what other people had to say about Him. Who did folks think He really was? They told Jesus some say He is Elijah or one of the prophets; some say He is John the Baptist back from the dead. Now it is their turn to give Him an answer.

“Who do you say that I am?”

There are many wrong answers. He is not a prophet. He’s not a nice guy. Not simply a teacher among many. Not a wise man among scores of other wise men. No, those answers will not suffice.

He is not a figure in history. He is history itself. He is all of time, for all eternity. He is the Son of God as He claims, or else He is a lunatic or a liar. A very bad man, indeed!

As a Catholic, I know the right answer. You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Yet how does that answer really affect my life and my behavior these days? I have encountered the Christ. I have tasted the Bread of Life. I have touched the Messiah. He is the Son of the Living God, the Maker of all things. He is the King of the Universe.

So why am I disheartened? Why am I discouraged? What creature could possibly deprive Him of His kingship?

The Victory Has Already Been Won

The world is exploding with violence. Life outside my door seems threatening and scary. Many days I’d like to hide my children somewhere til they’re 30. My spirit too easily shrinks in fear and dread. The terror looms so large! I forget that Jesus is greater.

You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

He has already won, yet right now we are losing so much. Evil ravages like a mutant virus on steroids, growing stronger and more resistant to our expired, impotent medicines.

We’re losing because we have surrendered to appeasement and indifference, rather than stand in allegiance to our King. We have painted over the images of Jesus’ broken, bleeding body, crucified because of our sins, with a lovely watercolor meadow where He joins in all our games. If we preach at all, we preach a pleasant fellow, supportive and agreeable in every way. We rarely preach Christ and Him crucified.

Who do you say that I am?

We need to answer the question anew. And then act accordingly.

“I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33 RSV

This week I will try to stay beside Him on the way to Calvary, and witness His suffering and death. His question echoes in the air around me. It is only by grace that I will be able to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

And when I answer, I pray the words will pound in my chest like the drums of battle, rousing me to courage. There is no one mightier than my God. No wickedness on earth is stronger than Christ. The Gospel is still Good News. It is still the power of God for salvation for all who hear and believe.

His signature is an empty tomb. No one but the Son of the Living God has conquered death. If we’re going to celebrate on Easter, it must be that.

Yes, the threats in the world are still real. The horror is still there. We should not make light of it, or pretend all hell isn’t breaking loose. I still fight the urge to bolt the doors and hide away. But there are only two choices: faith, or something else. Faith or doubt. Or denial. Or apathy.

Faith or fear.

Who do you say that I am?

You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

Holy Week at The Stream

For Palm Sunday: Deacon Keith Fournier’s Holy Week: Now It Begins, Now It All Begins
For Holy Week: Jennifer Hartline’s Has God Finally Met His Match?
For Holy Week: David Limbaugh’s Good News and the Gospels
For Maundy Thursday: David Mills’sWhy Jesus Washed the Apostles’ Feet, and Why We Do It Too
For Good Friday: John Zmirak’s Have a Bleak and Blessed Good Friday
For Easter day: Esther O’Reilly’s Not Without Witness: An Easter Reflection
For Easter day: David Mills’s Did Jesus Rise? The Extreme Apostle Says Yes, the More Extreme Atheist Says No

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