You are not alone.
A lot of intelligent and thoughtful people struggle with questions about how a God who is all good, all-powerful, and all knowing fails to meet our expectations or do the things we want.
In a recent sermon series, the teaching team at Crossroads Church addressed 5 of the top reasons we hear from people about why they struggle to put their faith in God.
#1 Why does God allow suffering?
A lot of people wonder: If God is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving, why do bad things happen to people? If God is all-powerful, and yet allows suffering, does that mean he doesn’t love us or doesn’t care?
Or maybe: If God is all-knowing, and actually cares about what’s going on, He can’t possibly be all-powerful or He would DO something about it!
When Jesus’ friend Lazarus was dying in John 11, we see him enter into and feel the pain we all experience in this life. We can learn a lot from this story, but maybe the most important lesson is that God is not emotionally tone-deaf. When Mary pours out her heart to Jesus, he just breaks down in tears and we see the true heart of God… but then why does he allow the suffering in the first place?
Watch the message: I can’t believe in a God who allows suffering
#2 Why doesn't God answer my prayers?
Perhaps you’ve heard the old cliché, Prayer changes things. But what about the times when it just doesn’t? You ask for something from God, something good, and nothing happens—it’s like he wasn’t even listening.
When Jesus said in Matthew 7, “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Does he actually mean that everything we ask for, we get? The obvious answer is no. And Jesus follows this up with, “… how much more will your Father give good things to those who ask him?”
Those are important words, God gives good things. Only good things. He doesn’t give serpents to children. “Ask and you will receive” doesn’t mean ask and you will receive the very thing you ask for when you ask for it in the way you ask for it. Jesus didn’t say that, and He didn’t mean that. Pastor Matt Manning helps us understand God’s answer to our prayers even when it feels like he isn’t listening or just doesn’t care.
If we take the teaching as a whole, it says that when we ask, seek, and knock — when we pray as children reaching up to our heavenly Father, he will hear us and he will give us GOOD things in response to those prayers.
Sometimes that means he will give us just what we asked, in the way we asked for it, when we asked it - just the way we desired. And other times he gives us something better, or brings it in his own way or timing with the greater goal of our spiritual growth in mind. And other times, like a wise dad he says “no.” While that sounds a lot like silence to us, and can even seem heartless, knowing his heart towards you is full of love, kindness, and compassion can help build your trust and faith that He’s ultimately giving us only what is truly good for us.
Watch now: I can’t believe in a God who doesn’t answer my prayers.
#3 Why do I need God?
Why believe in something, or someone, for which you have no (perceived) need? It’s a good question that a lot of people ask.
The word need holds many different meanings. To say, “I need my coffee in the morning, or I won’t be able to function” is a popular thing to say, but not really true. To say, “I need oxygen to breathe, or my heart will stop beating” is a factually true statement. What do we mean when we say, “I don’t need God?”
The story of the conversation between Jesus and the rich young ruler in Luke 18 illustrates two situations in life that can impact our perception of need: an abundance of wealth and our own goodness. It’s what we cover in sermon 3 of our series.
Watch Now: I can’t believe in a God who I don’t need.
From this story, we learn a few really important lessons about what we actually need, and why God is essential to each of our lives.
Some people (not all) who have an abundance of wealth get to the point where they don’t really feel like they need anyone—especially God. Their perceived need for others becomes numb—even though it still exists. Others strive to live “good” lives, helping others and generally being decent people. They try to not hurt others, and minimize the damage that they cause.
The truth is, we all need some things (including God) that we just can’t see because they’re in our blind spot. When things happen that are outside of our control, or when we reach a point where we realize we’re not powerful enough to change our own negative behaviors, we suddenly become more aware of our need for God. We also become more keenly aware of our need for God when inevitably face our own death - something each of us will have to do someday.
Watch the full sermon to hear our Care Pastor, Chris Amdahl shed light on our actual need for God and the common ways we can blind ourselves to that reality.
#4 Why are Christians hypocrites?
There’s rarely a day passes when someone posts the question “Why are Christians such hypocrites?” This is a legitimate objection because the evidence is overwhelming—and sometimes very public.
All human organizations have members who do not consistently hold up the guidelines and values of the group, and the church is no exception. Some people in the churches are notorious for saying one thing and doing another. Many times when they’re called out on this, even their leaders, they pull what feels like a “grace card” and say something like, “God will forgive me—that’s his job.” It’s fair for people outside the church to point out the hypocrisy, especially in light of the high standards that Christ sets for his followers.
There’s a common misconception that once a person commits to following Christ, all of the old problems and their ways of living that hurt others just disappear. The thought is that now he or she can live in an ideal way where they treat others exactly the way they want to be treated and never let anyone down.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In Sermon 4 of our series, we dive deeper into the problem of hypocrisy in Christianity and talk about the ways God calls us to live with a balance of grace and striving to live up to all he’s called us to be.
Watch now: I can’t believe in a God whose followers are hypocrites.
In Luke 18, we’re given a glimpse into life in the times of Jesus where he addresses the problem of hypocrisy among the religious elite of his day. Jesus teaches us that the ultimate posture of every Christian should be one of humility and a constant review of ourselves against the standard set for us by the One who lived life perfectly and ultimately redeemed our failures.
#5 How can there be only one way to heaven?
During the final Passover of Jesus’ earthly life, he said something unambiguous to one of his disciples:
Jesus said to [Thomas], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:5-6)
Jesus prefaced this bold claim by reassuring his disciples that was returning to his father’s “house” where he’d be preparing rooms for them. It’s the topic of the final sermon in this series.
Watch now: I can’t believe in a God who says there’s only one way to heaven.
You can’t legitimately enter into someone’s home without an invitation. To do so would be breaking and entering. No non-owner of the home can legitimately offer an invitation to enter into that home—even though they may claim the right to do so.
For this reason and many more, Christians believe that Jesus is the only one who can legitimately offer an invitation into his Father’s house (heaven).
Watch the full sermon to learn more from Pastor Jared Haley.