QUESTIONS OF FAITH SUMMER 2016
Over the 6 weeks we considered a few difficult questions of faith which I have summarized to give a flavour of our discussions. I have also included (anonymously) some of the answers that members of the group gave in Italics
Question 1. Why doesn’t God answer prayer?
God does answer prayer but requires us to listen and be guided by His Word
He does! But not in the way we expect but always with our best interests at heart. He sees the whole picture.
God does answer our prayer but not always how we expect it. We must trust Him.
He does but not in the way we expect. When he appears not to, we stop praying. We don’t need or shouldn’t have all we want as God knows the larger picture.
He is waiting for us to do something
None of us were perturbed that God appears to answers our prayers in ways we can’t immediately see. Sometimes we can only see God’s hand in our lives a long time after, when we have perhaps even forgotten what it was we were desperately praying for!
We discussed being part of the process of prayer. If we area to be an instrument or a channel of God’s love and peace then surely we are meant to work in partnership with Him. I guess most of pray for peace in the world and that has to start with us.
If we harbour any bitterness or anger towards anyone or anything we can’t be peace bringers to others or implore God to bring peace to the world. So let us attend the areas of our life where we need to be at peace, maybe the healing of broken or rocky relationships, the saying sorry or forgiving the wrongs that we hold onto and then peace will begin to flow in a ripple effect from us as we become a channel for God’s peace and love. There should be an intimate connection between us and God, we being a cog in the wheel of God’s Kingdom. Prayer should be a shared responsibility. When we learn to see life through the Creator’s eyes we can pray ‘God be in my head and in my understanding’.
We all agreed that when we pray, we pray to a higher power and that mysteriously (none of us could really articulate this) when we channel our deepest desires into this Holy or Divine Power positive things happen. We wondered if it is because we have been changed by the power of prayer but all agreed that our lives should be underpinned by prayer if we want the hand of God to guide us.
Question 2. Isn’t the Bible full of Contradictions?
Life is full of contradictions and the large number of authors in the bible reflect life as well as the range of our responses to God. The Bible helps us to understand many viewpoints.
Yes it is but they are valuable contradictions and after all several people penned the Holy Book with their own interpretations
The Bible is the inspired word of God received by many people.
We discussed that the Bible covers over 4000 years of human history and shows us mans’ struggle with God and God’s struggle with man. The characters and concepts occur in the sweeping narrative of Divine activity. We agreed that the Bible is God’s word inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. That God chose a wandering nomadic people to reveal himself to at a time when people relied on an oral tradition meant that the events that were described were open to interpretation and memory. I think we all felt that the fact that there are contradictions in the bible proves it is authentic and reflects as clearly today as it did when it was written the nature of humankind and the nature of God…and that nothing has really changed!
Question 3. How do I get to Heaven?
By living a Christian life to the full. The laws are clearly written down for our usage.
By faith in God. We already have new life with Christ. Heaven is all around us
Believe in Jesus Christ, believe that he is God, and follow his example
Lead a simple life, be a good neighbour. Heaven is all around us.
We shared many biblical examples of the nature of and references to Heaven and discussed heaven on earth and how we are called to be bearers of God’s Kingdom here on earth
My personal belief (which we discussed) is that it is our Soul that goes to heaven and during our earthly life we should learn how to strengthen our soul for eternal life. Our soul needs to be strong. The psalmists and hymn writers regularly urge us to feed our souls, restore our souls and rest our souls. How do we do that? By coming into the presence of God, by being Christ-like (in learning how to live sacrificially), through prayer and stillness and the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit.
Question 4. How can I believe in God when there is so much suffering?
God is known to those who suffer.
God’s heart must break when he sees the situations that man creates for himself and others. He has given us free will and we often make bad choices, then blame God for the suffering in the world,
Most of the suffering is as a result of man’s inhumanity to humankind.
We are blessed so much by having life in the first place. The most suffering in the world, although of course not entirely, is caused by humans
God has the power and is ‘all seeing’. He knows his world, his people but his plan is beyond our understanding and is meant to challenge our faith in the Almighty
For this session we turned the questions round to ask ourselves what do we do about suffering. What makes us angry and upset, what concerns each of us and what do we do and what can we do about it?
I suggested that compassion asks us to go to where it hurts, to enter the places of pain, to share the brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish….to be fully immersed in the condition of being human and if we can’t do that we shouldn’t blame God for allowing suffering. After all God entered into the pain of our earthly life as Jesus. He knows about human suffering .
Question 5. Don’t all religions lead to God?
There are many religions that do not believe in Our God, our heavenly Father but in Idol worship etc
Yes but that is no reason for me not to worship Christ or be a Christian
God is within us all now and always, is already present in every person’s life.
We looked at all the major world faiths and came to the conclusion that they are manifestly different in their conception of God, humanity, salvation and the life to come. All the religions had rules and commandments but only Jesus gave us a summary of the law and a new commandment which is not only to love God and our neighbour as yourself but also ‘to love one another as I have loved you’. We agreed that only in Christianity do we see a God who stepped into humanity to embrace us.
Question 6. Am I free to choose my future?
Man is free to choose if he is free to choose
Although we have been given free will, once we have a personal relationship with God, we willingly surrender our will to His and by the power of the Spirit we can do His work here on earth.
We’re in God’s hands each and every day. Whether we sleep or carry out our daily round, we can shape it to some extent but not be surprised if the outcome bears little resemblance to our expectations. It is a matter of faith and trust. We are all special in His eyes. The power is His.
For our final question we discussed God’s plan and purpose for our lives, the gifts and talents we are given to be that unique cog in the wheel of God’s Kingdom.
The bible tells us that Jesus came to give us life in all its abundance, but never at the expense of another. When we live in relationship with the Living God we learn to be more Christ-like, see the world through the creator’s eyes and respond with Christ-like love and compassion to those around us.
For Christians real freedom is found in our relationship with God, knowing that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may have this new relationship with God
Jesus left his disciples to carry on his ministry and his mission on earth, and empowered them with His Holy Spirit. I have learned to recognise when something is ‘from God’ as I am energised by this same Holy Spirit. When it’s not God’s will or in God’s plan I am not energised…so that means God is guiding my future.
Thanks be to God
Revd Alison Wallbank