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18. When God does nothing!

Thoughts from my journey with JESUS.

Bible reading Psalm 35:1-28, especially verses 17and 22.

Often in my lifetime I have wanted God to do something for me, but He has not obliged. For example, this weekend has seen the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, the uprising of Gay Pride which started after police raided a bar for homosexuals in the Greenwich village area of Manhattan, New York, USA.[1] Now – and in my view, very sadly – the Gay Pride movement has spread to many countries of the world, with an estimated one and a half million people attending just this weekend’s march and celebrations in London. I think to myself, ‘Why doesn’t God do something to stop this movement, which, as we will see, is so clearly against His will for humanity?”

My own belief on the sexuality issue is that our Holy triune Creator God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, made people the way He intended for the continuing reproduction of His human race:

Then God said, “Let Us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them”, Genesis 1:26-27, (italics mine).[2]

Some believers in my country say that one day God will judge the United Kingdom for this evil behaviour. I disagree! I believe God is already judging my country (and others) and that this “wickedness” and “sexual impurity” are signs of His righteous and just judgement already in action:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, …

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another… Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error… Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done … Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”, Romans 1:18-32, selected verses, (italics mine).

God gave them over

Notice three times a terrifying phrase is used in the above verses, “God gave them over”, NIV and NASB. What exactly does this mean? Different English translations interpret the

words the following ways. Each is a commentary on the meaning:

“God gave them up to”, KJV,

“God has given them over to”, GNB,

“God let them go ahead into … God let go of them”, TLB,

So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s

what you get””, MSG,

“God abandoned them”, NLT,

“God lifted off His restraining hand” TPT,

“So God gave them just what their lustful hearts

desired” … “God released them to their own vile

pursuits, and this is what happened: they chose sexual

counterfeits”, VOICE.[3]

In our reading at the start of this chapter, Psalm 35:22, the far from sinless King David speaks to God, expressing what I was (and am?) feeling: “Lord, You have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord”. The whole Psalm is a prayer for justice and truth, God’s rule, everywhere. Of course it is not specifically about homosexuality or the current aggressively rampant LGBTQ community.[4] King David had people contending against him, fighting with him, seeking to kill him, plotting his ruin, trying to catch him in a net or a pit. People slandered him, mocked him, gloated over him and hated him maliciously. David had asked God for help, but it seemed nothing was forthcoming.

How long O Lord?

“How long Lord, will you look on?”, Psalm35:17. This is an anguished cry repeated often by the Psalmists.[5] My own experience in many prayers is that God apparently does nothing when I think He should. Why is this?

Unbelievers may well say, ‘It is because God does not exist’, or that ‘He has other, bigger, much more important things on His mind for the moment’. ‘He loves everyone and doesn’t really mind how we act in life’.

Other people who are Bible loving Christians may correctly say that some sin or sinful attitude in my life stops God answering me. They may quote Psalm 66:18:

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me”, KJV,

“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened”, NIV,

“If my thoughts had been sinful, He would have refused to hear me”, CEV.[6]

Assuming I was examining my heart and life in God’s presence, then confessing and repenting over the sin I found, followed by asking God for His mercy and forgiveness in my Saviour Jesus’ name, then it will not be this that is causing God apparently not to answer my prayers.

Other Christians may also rightly say that may be I am praying for something outside of God’s will, or perhaps a right thing but at the wrong time for God. It is true I must always pray the greatest prayer of faith possible – “please, if it is Your will, Father God …”.[7] Because I am not the omniscient, all-knowing God, I may make mistakes in discerning what God’s will is. Only God knows God fully. Only God knows every detail of His will infallibly.

Remember what Paul wrote about a living sacrifice?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will”, Romans 12:1-2 (italics mine).

My daily sacrificial offering of my life to God will always improve my understanding of things which are, or are not, happening. It will help me be able to see things from God’s point of view and not just drift along with the way everyone else understands.

Now, assuming I am asking God something, from a clean life, with a renewed Christian mind, and something in line with God’s will, why is God still silent? Why is God inactive?

We must learn to think Christianly, to think differently

“The spiritually minded person does not differ from the materially minded person chiefly in thinking about different things, but in thinking about the same things differently. It is

possible to think materially about God, and spiritually about food”.[8] We must learn how to think Christianly about ‘God’s visible inaction’.

I do not know what you are asking God to do at this time. I’m certain it will be different from one reader to another. Perhaps you have been waiting a long time for a loving life’s partner? May be you feel desperate to get back to your homeland from the refugee or displaced camp you have lived in several years? I’m sure many will be praying for a secure, lasting and just peace in Sudan or South Sudan? It could be you are praying for the removal of a corrupt official who poisons everything he or she is involved in? Possibly like me you have been struggling with serious illnesses and facing bodily pain every day? Or any of these items may touch you through someone close to you if not you yourself?

Whatever situation you are in you will do well to let Scripture be your guide and employ the Holy Spirit as your Counsellor or Advocate. The Lord Jesus said He would be Someone similar to Himself, as if Jesus was still present with each disciple. Read our Lord’s words to His first close disciples:

“If you love Me, keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you”. John 14:15-17, (italics mine).

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”, John 14:25-27, (italics mine).

Learning to listen to and then be led by God through His Holy Spirit and His word is a sign of growing Christian maturity.

Silence can be helpful for listening

My wife Brenda suffers from loss of hearing. She wears one hearing aid in each ear. Part of her difficulty is picking out what she wants to listen to from all the other noises around and about. This is noticeable in and after meeting as church. She can often hear the sermon quite well, but trying to converse with a friend when the service is finished, and everyone else is chattering to their friends at the same time in the same place, makes discerning one conversation distinctly hard. Silence certainly can help hearing. May this apply to those times God seems not to hear our prayers?

I do not mean that God needs hearing aids! But I do mean that we can make better use of the silence coming from God by:

1. Examining our hearts and outward lives for hidden sins

2. Looking critically at the motives behind our prayers

3. Considering why God is withholding His answer at this time

4. Imagining alternatives we could be praying for, on the same issue

5. Praying in a different way, along a different line

6. Learning what it means to ‘wait on God’.

Point six is interesting because we live in an age when everything is expected to happen as quickly as possible. I know that farmers have to wait a few months from planting to harvesting, or wait patiently for their animals to develop and go to market, but I think it is generally true that ‘instant’ is a characteristic of being alive today. For us ‘waiting’ may be seen as the opposite of ‘instantly’.

There are several meanings of ‘wait’ in English. Here are four:

  • When you wait for something or someone, you spend some time doing very little, because you cannot act until that thing happens or that person arrives.

  • A wait is a period of time in which you do very little, before something happens or before you can do something”. So when we are waiting on God we may have to stop for a while, until God moves. Stopping takes time, but time not wasted but keenly anticipating what is going to happen.

  • “If something is waiting for you, it is ready for you to use, to have, or to do”. Could it be that God is ready and waiting for us, but first we need to get His perspective, or a more pure Christian motive in ourselves, or even to change our prayers by bringing them into line with His will?

  • “If you say that something can wait, you mean that it is not important or urgent and so you will deal with it or do it later?”

I wonder if God feels that we often put Him to one side? When we should be learning from His silence are we too busy following other things in life? Sometimes we are so busy

having to do activities we just ‘don’t have time’ to be a real person waiting quietly in the Divine presence. [9]

In the Bible perhaps the best example of ‘wait’ in our context is when Paul describes the early Christians in Thessalonica as prepared: ‘to wait for the Son of the Living God (Jesus) from heaven’, (my paraphrase), see 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10. The new believers knew what they wanted to happen. They also clearly believed it would happen. They simply did not know when! Now they have long since died and we are still waiting for our Saviour’s triumphant return!

Love expressed with patience – both ways

The essence of Christianity is to love the Lord our God with every ounce or gram of our being and to love our neighbour similarly.

Defining agape love Paul lists its characteristics.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres”,

1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Notice that the first and the last qualities of Christian love are both types of patience. Makrothymia patient, is made up of two Greek words meaning ‘to put anger far away’. Hypomone, perseveres, is also a compilation of two words, and describes a person who ‘is willing to “remain under” great stress or suffering’.[10]

God shows His love for us by putting up with our slowness to learn His ways and our impatience wanting our own answers quickly to our petitioning of Him.

We must demonstrate our true love for our loving Heavenly Father by “patiently” “persevering” when all seems silent from His end. It is another opportunity to surrender in trust to God and say to Him, “I know you, and I know you know best, always. Have Your way in everything, because You are Lord of everything”.

The sin of rainbow pride

I am still waiting for answers to my prayer regarding the Gay Pride movement, mentioned at the start of this chapter. It is ironic to me that the movement uses all the colours of the rainbow to promote itself. Of course the original rainbow was given by God as a covenant sign, immediately after He had judged the whole world with a devastating flood, because of His troubled heart over the continual bias towards evil of human beings, Genesis 6:5-7 and 9:12-17. I also find it ironic the LGBTQ people involved today use the word ‘pride’ in their adopted title. I remember that according to the Bible it was ‘pride’ which caused Satan’s downfall and later caused many people to rebel against God’s authority over their lives.

God’s speaks to Satan, who He created and anointed to be a guardian cherub, and He says: “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour. So I threw you to the earth and made a spectacle of you before kings”, Ezekiel 28:17-18.

Speaking to His own chosen, but disobedient, people God warned them: “If after all this you will not listen to Me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit”, Leviticus 26:18-20.

Challenging Sennacherib the king of Assyria, God’s prophet Isaiah says: “Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against Whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel!”, 2 Kings 19:22.

When our Lord Jesus’ disciples were accused of defilement by not ceremonially washing their hands, in His reply He taught us all to be very careful over the right things:

“What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person”, Mark 7:21-23.

Arrogance is just another English word for pride. ‘Pride’ is used in this text by some Bible translations including the ESV, GNB, NASB, NRSV and TMB, but the NIV chooses to use ‘arrogance’. Arrogance is defined as the quality or state of being arrogant; with overbearing pride or self-importance. Someone who is arrogant behaves in a proud, unpleasant way towards other people because they believe that they are more important than others. [11]

God promises judgement as well as salvation

When anyone becomes sinfully proud of themselves, their achievements and they exalt their status compared to others, they are setting themselves up while God wants us to humble ourselves down. As the abbreviated phrase from Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before a fall”.

At the same time God is not doing nothing about the anti-Christian discipleship homosexual movement. He has given them over to their sin and is exercising His judgement upon them. When I can see what is happening in this way, from God’s perspective, I am able to start answering the questions around God’s ‘apparent’ inaction.

Please understand me carefully here. None of this means gay people are beyond God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. God loves all so-called gay people as He loves us, and all sinners. Their way for salvation is like ours. There is only one way:

  • Respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and recognise individual sinfulness

  • Repent over your sinful nature and specific sins

  • Receive by faith the blood-cleansing of the Lord Jesus Christ

  • Resolve to follow Jesus as Lord through all of life, however hard it may be, whatever the price to be paid

  • Receive the Holy Spirit Who will help you to think issues through and choose to live Christianly.

At the 1998 Lambeth conference of the worldwide Anglican church human sexuality was discussed. A report was written from which I quote:

“Human sexuality is the gift of a loving God. It is to be honoured and cherished by all people. As a means for the expression of the deepest human love and intimacy, sexuality has great power.

The Holy Scriptures and Christian tradition teach that human sexuality is intended by God to find its rightful and full expression between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage, established by God in creation, and affirmed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Holy Matrimony is, by intention and divine purpose, to be a life-long, monogamous and unconditional commitment between a woman and a man. The Lambeth Conference 1978 and 1998 both affirmed 'marriage to be sacred, instituted by God and blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ'”.[12]

Nearly two years later I was at all Saints Cathedral, Khartoum, when several bishops reported their own actions. I think after a sub-committee discussion of some sort, these brave men stood to oppose proposed steps to move away from the Church’s traditional understanding and application of Bible teaching on Christian marriage and sexuality. I was very pleased to shake their hands and affirm them in the position they had taken, along with other African bishops, against the more liberal Western world churches. I pray their godly lead may long continue.

Whatever you are waiting on God for at this moment, and however long you have been waiting, may I encourage you with these words, the first and last verses of Psalm 27?

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold on my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Verse 1.

“Wait for the Lord; Be strong and take heart

And wait for the Lord”, verse 14.

Fix every bit of your attention firmly on your Holy Lord God.

Discussion guide:

There are two subjects in the chapter – homosexuality, and unanswered prayer. Our guide will cover both in turn.


1. What does creation teach us about God’s plan and purpose for male and female, humans and animals? Consider carefully all these Bible passages: Genesis 1:26-28, 31; Genesis 2:20b-25; Genesis 4:1-2; Genesis 6:18-20.

2. How do we know our Lord Jesus took this as authoritative for life? What were the circumstances when Jesus answered with these words? “‘Haven’t you read,’ Jesus replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’” Matthew 19:4-6.

3. In Romans 1:18-32 in what ways (with what words) are divergent sexual practices described? List them. I found at least a dozen. Since this is God’s word speaking, how ought we to view these practices?

4. Explain your understanding of the phrase, “Therefore God gave them over” in Romans 1:24, 26, 28. Provide supporting reasons.[13]

5. Do you think God’s warnings, like Leviticus 26:18-20, apply still today? Why? Why not? Share Scripture where you are able.

Unanswered prayer

1. What is the best way to learn how to think Christianly about my phrase in this chapter, ‘God’s visible inaction’?

2. How does the Holy Spirit help? John 14:15-17 and 25-27. Share personal examples. Suggest ways to people who may be struggling with this issue.

3. Discuss my six ways to ‘use the silence coming from God’. Which do you find the most difficult? Why?

4. What do you understand by ‘waiting on God’? Do you find it easy or difficult? Is there anything that would make it better?

5. Since Paul puts ‘patience’ first on his list of the characteristics of ‘Christian love’ agape, see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, may we infer that by not answering our prayer immediately or in the way we wanted, God, out of His love (agape) for us, has another purpose in His mind?

  • What?

  • Could He be testing and refining our love for Him?

  • How?

[1] 28th June 1968. [2] See also Genesis 5:1-2; Psalm 100:3; our Lord Jesus’ comments in Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; and Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:7-12. See Psalm 96:13for the Creator’s judgement. [3] New American Standard Bible, King James Version, Good News Bible, The Living Bible, The Message, New Living Testament, The Passion Translation, The Voice. [4] LGBTQ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning, terms promoted to describe a person's deviant sexual orientation or gender identity. [5] For example – Psalm 6:3, 13:1-2, 35:17, 74:9-10, 82:2, 89:46, 90:13-14, 94:3, 119:84. [6] Contemporary English Version. [7] Our Lord Jesus exercised this faith in Gethsemane, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done”, Luke 22:42. [8] Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple Nature, Man and God (Macmillan: London) 1953, p.468. [9] All four definitions from . [10] Kenneth E. Bailey Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (S.P.C.K.: London) 2008, pages 389-390. [11] . [12] conference/1998/section-i-called-to-full-humanity/section-i10-human-sexuality.aspx [13] I have not tried to give a full Bible explanation of human sexuality here. The reader is directed to John Stott Issues Facing Christians Today (Marshalls: Basingstoke) 1984, part IV especially pages 301-316 for a good starting point. There are updated editions.


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