Practical Christian Theology
God meets us where we are—in the human condition.
“For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14 NKJV).
“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Your faithfulness”
(Lamentations 3:22, 23).
Not too long ago I heard: “God does not respond to your need, He responds to your faith” (John Hagee). As if God were an impersonal vending machine and above the coin slot: Faith Only. As if He had no feeling. “Gotta say the magic word …” Something about the statement and the attitude didn’t ring true.
Tell me: If your Mama, or your Daddy, knew you were hurting, would she, or he, need to be asked before they’d be right there to help? They can see your need written all over your face. You don’t have to say a word. And love like you’ve never felt, except maybe for your own children, moves them with an innermost yearning. They are literally moved with compassion, and they won’t let anything stand between them and meeting your need in any way they can. Are they better parents than God? Are they?
God responds to needy and hurting people even when they are faithless—or too dumb to know what faith is. Ask one who has lived on the streets, slept in charity wards, languished in prison, or even abused substances, and he will tell you how, in a dark moment, a ministering angel, Providence, came and showed compassion.
God does not need to hear an audible cry or prayer to stay abreast of what is happening. Because “the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). He knows.
When Hagar fled from Sarah, the Angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness. “What will you do? Where will you go?” He asked. “Return to your mistress and submit yourself under her hand” (Genesis 16:8-12). Hagar had not been seeking a personal encounter with Heaven, but she had one “because the Lord heard her affliction.” Not her prayer, not her faith, but her need. He “heard” her affliction. Just as God “heard” the blood of Abel crying from the ground (Genesis 4:10), so He “hears” the heartcry of the afflicted.
“The cry of the poor comes to Him, and He hears the cry of the afflicted” (Job 34:28). “The cries of them who have been defrauded are entered into the ears of the Lord” (James 5:4). “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, says the Lord. I will set him in safety from him that puffs at him” (Psalm 12:5).
The Psalmist recalled that Israel “flattered God with their mouth, they lied to Him with their tongue, for their heart was not right with Him, neither were they steadfast in the Covenant. But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not. Yea, many a time He turned away His anger and did not stir up all His wrath, for He remembered that they were but flesh” (Psalm 78:36-39).
“You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15; cf 111:4; 112:4; 145:8).
God explains Himself in Isaiah 55; Exodus 33; 34. Self-portrait. God tells us who He is. He is (1) compassionate (pity, sympathy), (2) gracious (warm demeanor), (3) slow to anger (doesn’t fly off the handle), (4) abounding in love (covenant, faithful), and (5) forgiving (but does not leave the wicked unpunished).
“In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them. In His love and in His pity He redeemed them, and He bore them, and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:7-9).
The Woman at the Well was an unbeliever, who was not seeking God, yet God was seeking her. Jesus said, “I must needs go through Samaria” (John 4:4). Jesus responded to the woman’s need before she knew she had a need.
“When He saw the multitudes, Jesus was moved with compassion for them, because they fainted, and were scattered as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, He was trying to escape to a private place when He “saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:13, 14). When Jesus moved on to a secluded spot, and it was getting late, the disciples suggested He dismiss the multitude so the people could go their way and buy themselves something to eat. Jesus was more hospitable. “They need not depart. Give them something to eat here” (14:16). And He broke five loaves and two fish, looked up to heaven, and blessed the elements; and the disciples distributed them to five thousand men, plus women and children (14:21). “And they did all eat, and were filled, and they took up twelve basketsful of leftovers” (14:20).
On the heels of the healing of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus told His disciples, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with Me now three days, and have nothing to eat. I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way” (Matthew 15:32). Jesus blessed and the disciples distributed seven loaves of bread and a few fish to four thousand men, plus women and children (15:38). “And they did all eat, and were filled, and they took up seven basketsful of leftovers” (15:37).
“It is written in the law of Moses, You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the corn. Does God take care for oxen?” (1 Corinthians 9:9). Yes—and sheep, goats, mules, donkeys, cows, and horses, even you and me. “The fowls of the air sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they? … Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin, yet not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these. If God clothes the grass of the field, shall He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith” (Matthew 6:26-30).
The Good Samaritan “had compassion on” the man who fell among thieves when the man was perhaps unconscious and unable to ask for help (Luke 10:30-36). The Samaritan dressed the man’s wounds, put him on his own beast, took care of him, carried him to an inn, and paid for his keep. Nothing of faith mentioned in the story—only of compassion. If Jesus told the lawyer, “Go, and do likewise” (10:37), do you suppose God Himself would be any less compassionate?
“The poor will never cease out of the land,” He tells us, “therefore, open your hand wide to your brother, to the poor, and to the needy” (Deuteronomy 15:11). “God will administer justice in behalf of the poor, He will save the needy, He will break in pieces the oppressor” (Psalm 72:4). “He will deliver the needy, the poor, and him who has no helper … He will spare the poor and the needy” (72:12, 13).
Therefore, “defend the poor and the fatherless,” He tells us, “do justice to the afflicted and needy” (82:3). “Pure religion … is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27). “Whoever has this world’s goods and sees someone in need, and shuts up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:17).
If God expects such love and compassion from us, do you suppose He expects less from Himself?
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press,
And the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?
O yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long night dreary,
I know the Savior cares. ~Frank E Graeff (1901)
“Cast all your care on Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Copyright © 2014 Alexandra Lee