A few years ago, USA Today published an article about how people view or see God. The article, entitled “View of God Can Predict Values, Politics,” was based on a survey conducted by Baylor University that identified four viewpoints of God, or as the researchers put it, “Four Gods.” Respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the 10 descriptions of their personal understanding of what God is like. The researches then identified what they thought represented the four views of God.
First was the Authoritarian God, described as being angry at humanity’s sin and engaged in our lives and world affairs.
Next there was the Benevolent God. Those who saw God in this way believed in a primarily forgiving God who would want us to care for the sick and needy and so forth.
Then there was the Critical God, whom respondents viewed as having a judgmental eye on the world, but would not intervene either to punish or to comfort.
Lastly, there was the Distant God. People who held this view simply believe there was a cosmic force that launched the world and left it spinning on its own.
As I read through the descriptions of these “Four Gods,” I was trying to figure out which one I believed in. The problem was that none of them worked for me. There were certain aspects in the different descriptions of God I agreed with, but none totally summed up where I stood. So I came up with a fifth category of my own: the Biblical God.
The Biblical God is angry at the sin of humanity, like the Baylor researchers’ “Authoritarian God,” but he is kind and full of mercy, as those who believe in the so-called “Benevolent God” would say. And he does care about the sick and the needy. But the Biblical God certainly would not be described as a Critical God or a Distant God.
It is very important that we understand who God really is and what he is really like, because the way we see God will influence how we look at life. Our view of God will determine the choices we make and the big decisions in life, such as whom to marry and what career path to follow. It will even affect the way we vote.
How we see God also will affect the way we look at problems and crises. If you have a big God, you have small problems. But if you have a small God, you have big problems. That is not to say that some problems are not big. But it is to say that if you have a biblical understanding of God, then your God is bigger than any problem you ever will face. It is all in how you look at things.
God gave this blessing to Moses for the priests of Israel to pronounce over the people: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Number 6:24–26 NKJV). This gives us a biblical picture of who God is. He loves to bless us, keep us, smile on us, listen to us, protect us and give us peace.
Sometimes we get very frustrated with God because he doesn’t give us what we want. We pray for something. We tell God that he needs to do this, and if he really loved us, he would give us this. And then God says no. We get mad at God and feel as though he has somehow shortchanged us. We think that he didn’t answer our prayers when, in reality, he did. We just didn’t like the answer. We often interpret “no” as no answer at all, but it is in fact an answer. God loves us so much that he does not give us what we want because it might destroy us or because we are not ready for it or it isn’t his plan for us.
I have been a pastor for a long time now, and I have seen and heard a lot. I have seen so many situations in which people got what they wanted and didn’t like it once they got it. There are people who determined to follow a certain course even after I warned them not to. Then they got everything they wanted and were so miserable. The Bible, speaking of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, says, “Their desires ran wild, testing God’s patience in that dry wasteland. So he gave them what they asked for, but he sent a plague along with it” (Psalm 106:15 NLT). So be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.
God loves us and will put obstacles in our path when we are headed in the wrong direction. But there will come a point at which God will not force his will on us. Ultimately, if we are so insistent on following a certain path or making a certain decision, he will allow us to do so, even if it is the wrong one.
If you feel like you are simply going around in circles in life or are not growing spiritually, maybe it is how you are looking at things. Maybe you are not seeing God for who he really is. And that makes all the difference.