What is God like? Does he treat believers better?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

Question: Does God really exist? If so, does he give extra attention to people who pray and worship — and punish those who don’t? Also, does God have any weaknesses?

Answer: God certainly does exist — but not merely exist. He exists with infinite goodness, infinite knowledge and infinite power. That is to say that he exists perfectly, and in a way that we mortals can never fully understand. As such, God can have no weaknesses, this by definition, and since all of God’s attributes can be only good in nature and infinite in scope, whatever deeds he performs are right (righteous), this also by definition.

But how can you know that God exists? The fact that you’ve asked this question is proof enough. God’s spiritual nature permeates every cubic centimeter of the universe, so such questions as yours must arise, and their ubiquitousness speaks loudly that God exists. However, this characteristic, his omnipresence, sometimes affects people the opposite way. You see, God is like the air in that it touches us continually, yet only rarely do we rarely stop to think about it. Additionally, the unseen air sustains us, and whether or not you subscribe to the idea of air, try going without it for a few minutes.

Since God reveals himself plainly in nature, in spiritual realms unseen, and especially in Scripture, a professing atheist must work very hard to sustain his worldview. In fact, maintaining an atheistic philosophy requires more faith than does belief in God. The following passage reveals the mechanics of foolish thinking, but it also challenges us concerning the empirical. Just look around.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18–21, ESV)

The passage above shows the mechanics of dealing wrongly with God’s general revelation, but the passage below tells us why people choose poorly.

"This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19, ESV)

God exists. And he exists as light, giving every person the opportunity to see him. But note the word rather in John 3:19. There is a choice. People either choose to see him or they choose to ignore him. But no matter how long they ignore him, or how energetically they argue for his non-existence, he, the Self-Existent-One, exists.

Concerning God’s attention to his people, Scripture describes our relationship to him as that of sheep to a shepherd (Psalm 23). In a flock, all the sheep enjoy the administrations of the shepherd, but only those who work their way to his side receive special blessings directly from his hand. In like manner, all children of God (those who have been born-again by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior) benefit from his protection, but those who draw closer to him in earnest prayer grow in intimacy with God the Father, and only they shall receive the blessings which God has set aside for those who draw close to him.

We must be careful when talking about punishment, however, because there are two categories of people (the saved and the unsaved) and two categories of punishment (corrective and condemning). Let us start with the unsaved. Those who have never come to Jesus for salvation do not need to be punished since they have come into the world already condemned. It would be redundant to punish a condemned man.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18, ESV)

Please note that for those of us who are already God’s children, such condemnation can never apply.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, ESV)

That being said, believers may still choose to distance themselves from God’s fellowship, but not from his salvation. In this, they may punish themselves by refusing intimacy with God, but this is a self-inflicted and not a God-inflicted punishment.

Even though God’s children are safe from the punishment which would condemn them, they are not immune to the punishments which would correct them. As may any conscientious earthly father, so will God correct his children. And although the process is often painful, it is only temporary, and it is bounded by love.

“…My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:5–6, ESV)

As you can see by this brief discussion, it is reasonable to believe that God exists — but it is important to know that he exists as described in the Scripture. God wants to establish a vibrant relationship with every person on the earth, so if you pray and ask him to reveal himself to you, he certainly will.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV)

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)