Today at work, I walked up on a couple of my co-workers having an intense conversation. As I approached, one of them turned to me and asked
Does God protect the holy man?
Well, of course, the short answer to that is no. God allowed his own son to die, and you just don't get any holier than that.
My friend replied that God allowed that to happen to benefit mankind. I had to agree with him. God didn't protect his own son, because his death served a higher purpose, that being our redemption. Sometimes, God doesn't protect us, so that our suffering can serve a higher purpose, and we may never know what that purpose is. We just have to trust in God's plan.
My friend said, "But isn't there some verse in the Bible about God protecting his people?" I couldn't think of one right at the time, but after I got home, I decided to try to find a verse like he was talking about.
After tearing up my house looking for my trusty concordance (yes I really do have my own concordance; it was a Christmas gift from a suitor trying to score points, and it almost worked), and finding it on the end table by my couch-- right where I'd left it, funny that-- I opened my Bible app on my iPhone and did a little searching. I'm not sure which verse he was thinking of, but I did find John 17: 15, which says
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.
And another in 2 Thessalonians 3:3
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one
I think the most relevant one, at least in my mind is John 10:29
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.
What these verses mean is that we have eternal protection in our salvation. What they do not mean is that we will never face troubles in this life. See, a lot of people have this false idea that if they get saved, if they trust Jesus, if they become a Christian, nothing bad will ever happen to them. Their lives will be all hunky dory peachy keen, they'll have plenty of money, and will sail smoothly through life until they die peacefully in their sleep at age 101.
This couldn't be further from the truth.
Jesus even said it in the Sermon On The Mount: Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Matthew 5; 11)
Not if people persecute you. When people persecute you.
He said it even more plainly in Luke 21: 12
But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you.
This certainly doesn't imply a life of ease and comfort. When you look at history, and even at our present times, you will see that God offers no such promise.
Think about it...
Ten of the 12 original disciples were executed (Judas having hanged himself, and John being exiled to the aisle of Patmos so he could write the book of Revelation).
Stephen was stoned to death. Paul was executed and --as I pointed out to my friend -- there was a reason the early Christians had church services in the graveyard. They were regularly rounded up and fed to the lions, or used as bait in bloodsports in the great arenas. One of the emperors ( I don't remember which one-- I'm thinking maybe Nero or Claudius) used to hang Christians on poles, douse them in oil, and set them on fire to make streetlights for Rome.
Out of people, people!
There were times when the roads outside of Rome were lined with hundreds of crucified Christians for miles upon miles. For hundreds of years, people were tortured and executed for the crime of being a Christian. Doesn't sound like God was protecting them, does it?
Oh, but that was a long time ago, you say. That couldn't happen today, you say. You might want to think again on that one. According to The Hoover Institution,
Few people realize that we are today living through the largest persecution of Christians in history, worse even than the famous attacks under ancient Roman emperors like Diocletian and Nero. Estimates of the numbers of Christians under assault range from 100-200 million. According to one estimate, a Christian is martyred every five minutes.
Every five minutes.
A Christian dies every five minutes. The numbers are simply staggering. All over the world, Indonesia, The Sudan, Egypt and elsewhere -- every day I read a new report of Christians under attack. Christians murdered just for being Christians.
Christian persecution is at an all time high these days, even here in America. What? You're crazy. We aren't being persecuted for our religion here!
Think about it. We can't pray at school any more -- at least 49 states can't. We can't say Merry Christmas any more. Atheists are suing to have every last hint of God removed from our public lives (while at the same time screeching about us shoving our religion down their throats). They're even trying to get our national motto off of our money, and the phrase Under God removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. Not sure why, because they don't allow us to say the pledge any more anyway.
Chaplains in the military can't express their Christian faith. People are being fined for holding Bible studies in their homes. Christian groups and clubs are being banned from colleges and high schools, even though they are totally voluntary and no one is being forced to join. Voluntary prayer walks are banned from all public properties.
Oh, but we're not being murdered for being Christians in America. Really? Just this year, two men were murdered in New Jersey for the simple reason that they were Christians. In Dearborn, Michigan, Christians gathering to pray were stoned by local Muslims, while local police stood by watching and doing nothing, because they said that no laws were being broken.
But these are kind of extreme examples, aren't they? Doesn't God protect ordinary people?
I have a couple of friends, one of the Godliest couples I know. The husband is suffering from a horrible debilitating illness. It has robbed him of his most of his sight, and his ability to walk. Soon, it will take his life. The wife owns her own business, and works herself to exhaustion providing for them, and taking care of him-- often to the neglect of her own health. As if that isn't enough, last week, their house got struck by lightening.
Another very Godly man I knew, died of cancer at age 33, leaving behind a wife and three small children.
And still another friend of mine died earlier this month of cancer. She was my age.
I could go on and on listing examples of bad things happening to good people that I know.
These are common, ordinary people, yet God didn't protect them. Or did he?
Look back up at that third verse I quoted above....
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. John 10:29
God never promised we wouldn't have troubles in this world. He never promised that bad things would never happen, that we would never get sick, or die, or get robbed, or murdered, or raped, or have our houses burn down, or whatever.
What he did promise is that if we put our faith in him, he would be there with us through everything. Everything. That he would never fail or forsake us.
And that when the end comes, he would take us home.
No one, nothing, can change that.
So, the long answer to my friend's question is ultimately yes. God does protect his children-- maybe not in the way my friend intended, but he does protect us, often in ways we can't even imagine.
On Christ the solid rock I stand...that's all the protection I need.