There's an old illustration story that carefully delineates the difference in relying upon God to perform a miracle and intervene in our lives and learning how to accept God's presence in the world and to use what He has already given us to achieve the same thing. It's been awhile, so forgive me if I don't get it exactly right.
It seems that one day the heavens opened up with so much rain that the flood was extensive. The water covered people's homes and threatened to drown a lot of people who had no place to escape. One Christian though was not worried. He knew that God would save him, because he had asked him to and he believed in answered prayer. Well, as the water started to rise, rescue workers came by to take him to safety; but he declined telling them to go help someone else since God would take care of him. As the water became deeper and deeper, he finally climbed upon the roof of his house and waited for God to intervene. Two men came by in a boat and offered to take him to safety, but he refused, saying, "It's okay, God will take care of me; go ahead and save some of the other folks." Shortly afterward, a helicopter swooped down and offered to lift him to safety, but he refused saying the same thing.
Yep, the conclusion to the story came when the flood waters washed him off the roof and he drowned. Since he was a Christian, he immediately went to heaven, and he confronted God severely. "God," he demanded, "you said you would always watch over me and never forsake me, but during my greatest need, You didn't listen to my prayers." Puzzled, God responded, "My dear child, I did hear your prayers, and I sent you help from the rescue squad, a motorboat, and even a helicopter; but you refused My help."
With this story in the back of my mind, I have to confess that I loved the illustration in the August 25th edition of the Vista Weekly Newspaper. It showed someone who had succumbed to covid-19 lying on a gurney covered by a sheet with the doctor saying, "He said his faith would protect him." On the other side of the gurney, God is standing there sadly looking down at the victim, and saying, "I sent him masks, doctors and vaccinations. What more was he looking for?
Ouch! I wonder how many Christians today have been relying upon their faith to save them from this deadly virus. I wonder how many church pastors have assured their members that God always watches over His people and would never allow them to die from Covid-19. And I wonder how many Christians (and perhaps adherents of other religions) have declared to the rest of the world that they did not have to worry because their faith in God was so strong. I'm sorry, but that's not the way God works.
Look at this way. If anyone could harness the power of God through faith, prayer, or any other means, he or she would immediately become the greatest power on earth. Those people would be sought after by everyone, and it would only be too soon before that power went to their heads and they began to believe that they were gods. No one may manipulate God through any means.
Yes, I do believe in the power of prayer and I strongly support people of faith, but I also know that God alone has the power to interact with His creation. I have seen answered prayer firsthand, and I have witnessed miracles that denied human understanding; but I have never been able to understand them. I always felt that was because God's ways and thoughts are so superior to mine, and I humbly and gratefully accepted them.
If I break an arm or leg, I go to a doctor; if I need to mow my yard and am not up to the task, I hire someone to do it; if I get a headache, I take some over-the-counter medicine; if I have a problem with someone, I go and talk with him or her. God expects us to use what we have available for healing and direction. We need to look around and see what God has given us to live well with safety. When we do, we will defeat our enemies, make friends with our neighbors, and overcome the perils of Covid-19.
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Robert Box has been a law enforcement chaplain for 27 years. He is a master-level chaplain with the International Conference of Police Chaplains and is an endorsed chaplain with the American Baptist Churches USA. He also currently serves as a deputy sheriff chaplain for the Benton County Sheriff's Office. Opinions expressed in the article are the opinions of the author and not the agencies he serves.