One of the things I really enjoy doing with the ministry the Lord has blessed me with is answering questions of believers and unbelievers alike. The questions people have never cease to amaze me; most I have never even considered myself.
This QFTBOC (Questions from the Body of Christ) series are articles from these questions I have received and will be in a question and response format.
If you or someone you know has a question pertaining to the Word of God – theology, difficult passages, eschatology, etc. – I would really like to hear from you.
If I end up using your question, and you would like to have your name and/or place of residence listed on the question in the article, please specify with your submitted question; otherwise, if I use your question, it will be listed as “Anonymous.”
Regardless, I will make every attempt to answer every person’s questions in a response to the emails I receive. Depending on volume, it may be a little while until you hear back from me, but my intention is to respond to all inquiries.
I have a question that has been bothering me for quite a few years now. Let me just start off by saying that I am a born-again [Christian].
The question is one pertaining to personal safety. When reading parts of the Bible like Psalm 91, it would seem that God always protects us from harm, yet in life, we see that even true [Christians] get hurt or even murdered etc.
Now, this is the bothersome part. The Word states that if we ask God for something while doubting, we will not receive it. How do we know what God’s will is in this situation? Born-again [Christians] die gruesomely every day, especially here in South Africa. This country is very violent.
How do we ask for God’s protection for ourselves and our families if we don’t know what his will [is] for us, whether He is going to take us home or not? I know of a lot of white farmers and their families that are born-again [Christians] that have been tortured and murdered in the most gruesome of ways.
How do we reconcile this to Psalm 91?
And, how do we ask God to protect us without doubting, against the given backdrop?
Hope this makes sense.
You may use my name in your article.
God bless you, and I truly hope your question and answer project grows.
Alan Scott – [South Africa]
Thank you so much for your question, and an important question it is!
So, the Bible is replete with promises of protection for the believer, and you’re right; oftentimes, this is not the case in this temporal world. The reason for this is because of man’s free will and the fact that we live in a fallen world.
God’s promises are often for protection from the enemy, and that enemy is the enemy of our souls, Satan. Christ has delivered us from Satan, hell, and the lake of fire. In return for our faith in Him and his sacrifice on our behalf, He has given us eternal life and victory in this world and the next.
Another example of this would be healing. We are also promised healing in Scripture, yet so many believers are never healed in this life – although some are. The healing that God often promises in His Word is the healing we will receive when we receive our new, glorified, and everlasting bodies at the rapture/resurrection and when “God shall wipe away all the tears from [our] eyes” (Revelation 7:17 & Revelation 21:4).
As with healing, protection can very well be temporal in some cases, but the ultimate fulfillment of these promises will be accomplished at the rapture/resurrection.
As for Psalm 91 (below and emphasis mine), this is a Messianic psalm and is speaking mainly of Jesus Christ, but there are promises that the believer can claim as well. Let’s take a look at it:
“1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.”
Here’s how we know that Psalm 91 is a Messianic psalm.
Notice that verses 11-12 were used by Satan at Christ’s temptation in Matthew 4:6, although Satan left out “to keep thee in all thy ways.” (Just like Satan to misquote Scripture.)
Verse 13 is Christ destroying the lion, the adder, and the dragon – all symbols of Satan:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). (Emphasis mine)
“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). (Emphasis mine)
“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:9). (Emphasis mine)
Verses 14-16 are the Father talking to the Son, though verse 16 can certainly be applied to the saint as well.
So, this psalm is Messianic in nature and is not meant to be understood as an unconditional promise to the believer, although God does look after his children and cares deeply.
While some aspects of Psalm 91 can be claimed by the believer – especially in light of those living at the rapture of the church – we must recognize that many of these promises won’t be fully realized until we are resurrected and united in our glorious, perfect, and eternal bodies.
Our experience in this life clearly shows us that, while God is our protector, all will die (except for those living at the rapture) and, in some cases, might even have very violent deaths.
Christ is our example in this: Perfect, just, and sinless, He died the most violent of deaths – physically and spiritually – compared to any other human being while in His earthly body. If He wasn’t excluded from this reality of physical death and pain – and again, experience shows us this is true – then, obviously, neither shall most of us.
We need look no further than to our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been hunted down, tortured, and murdered for their faith in our Lord and loyalty to His Word for the last 2,000 years. Even today, God’s people suffer immense persecution and death for the Name of Christ. Jesus Himself proclaimed to His followers:
“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19).
I’ve been amazed at the reports I’ve been hearing from our brothers and sisters in Christ in such places as China, Iran, and other nations that persecute Christians. When asked if the church should be praying for their persecution to come to an end, this is generally their response: “No! Don’t pray for our persecution to come to an end. It’s because of this persecution that many others are coming to the Lord. Please, just pray that we are able to have many doors opened to us to share the gospel of Christ with unbelievers so they may come to the Lord and be saved. This persecution is actually growing the Kingdom of God.”
Wow! What faith! What love! What sacrifice! Now that’s what it means to be conformed to the image of Christ!
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29a).
Again, the primary aspect of these promises we find in Scripture is our ultimate victory over death and the grave through Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross as He willingly paid for our sins. His resurrection is the proof of His promises to us for ultimate protection from the enemy of our souls, restoration, healing, and eternal life.
God’s Invisible Hand of Protection
For me, personally, I have had three near-death experiences. Not to mention all of the “either-or” situations (either death/or life), all of which, obviously, have ended up “or life” for me so far. These are only the things I’m aware of.
As Christians, we should be thinking about what the Lord has done for us – those things we are aware of – in regard to the Lord’s protection in our lives. The Christian would be well-served to think on these truths often; I’m certain we all have our stories.
I am thoroughly convinced that the invisible hand of God has protected each and every believer countless times throughout each of our short lives on earth.
Ever been delayed in traffic, detoured, or had a postponed flight? How about a canceled doctor’s appointment or relatives not being able to make a scheduled visit? What could the Lord have been protecting you or your loved ones from in these types of situations?
Or, consider the possibility of someone who has evil intentions with their sights set on you or a loved one, who all of a sudden may have been divinely sidetracked in order for them not to have carried out their diabolic plans. What about angelic end-around interference or lifesaving measures on behalf of the believer in Christ? How many countless times must this have happened in the lives of God’s people with us totally unaware that such intervention had even occurred!
Even when times are bad, I’m sure that, all the while, He keeps us in His loving arms of protection without us ever knowing He is there and realizing what He is doing and accomplishing through all of our heartaches, trials, and tribulations.
I think we’d all be awestruck by what God has done for each and every one of us when it comes to His invisible hand of protection over our earthly existence.
I have a feeling we’ll get the privilege of finding out how many times He has been there for us when we never perceived or had any notion He was personally and lovingly guiding His sovereign hand of protection in each of our lives.
Knowing God’s Will
As far as knowing God’s will, we can know His will from His Word. His will is that all be saved (2 Peter 3:9). This is God’s one and only concern when it comes to mankind and should be our desire as well.
Therefore, if our heart is for the lost and we continually pray for them to be saved, make ourselves available to them with answers to their questions, and reach out to all of the unsaved with the gospel of Jesus Christ, then we are absolutely in God’s will.
And, yes, we are to have faith and not waver (James 1:6). This is how we show our trust in the One who is trustworthy.
As far as other prayers we may have, if we know God’s Word and Who He is and allow God’s Holy Spirit to direct our lives, then we can be assured that we will never ask anything of Him that isn’t in accord with His will. Selfishness has no place in the believer’s requests and petitions to God. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ask for favor, good health, and opened and closed doors in our life, as well as protection for our families – that’s not selfishness, that’s love – and God understands and values these prayers and petitions as well. So, these too are in the will of God when asked in love and sincerity and devoid of selfish intentions.
God will be taking everyone home to be with Him – whether through death or the rapture – but only those who have put their faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. There should be no doubt for the true believer concerning his or her salvation. 1 John is the book to read when it comes to one knowing they are saved. It’s an amazing epistle!
God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will
It all comes down to God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. They are two sides of the same coin. God works His sovereignty through man’s free will. In fact, God worked out His sovereignty before He ever created, knowing everything – choices, actions, thoughts, etc. – about everyone He would ever create!
But this, of course, takes into account man’s free will in a fallen state within a fallen world. Horrible things happen to all of humanity, believers and unbelievers alike.
We should always remember:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
We know we will have trials and tribulations – Jesus promised that we would (John 16:33). But we can be assured that when Satan and man are throwing their best at us, God will use what they intend for evil for His good.
An excellent example of this is Joseph, who is one of the clearest types and pictures of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. His story is found in Genesis 37, and 39 through the end of Genesis.
Notice what Joseph said to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, as his brothers were fearful that he would kill them for their sin against him once their father had died:
“And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” – (Genesis 50:20). (Emphasis mine)
I have a family member whose Christ-loving cousin was brutally murdered by her estranged husband, and I can assure you that God used that evil for His good purpose. I’m confident that at least one person came to Christ because of this horrible event and that many others who knew Christ drew closer to Him.
When I die – if the Lord doesn’t rapture me – I am confidently convinced that at least one person will give their life to Christ. This is how the Lord works: He takes what Satan and man intend for evil (or just the consequences of this fallen world) and makes it something that is ultimately used for our good and His glory.
Even our deaths – pre-known and planned by God – will be a glory to Him. I say “planned” in the sense that God allows certain events. He most certainly doesn’t plan evil, but He uses the evil choices of others to bring about His ultimate plans of restoration to the believer, even if their death is violent and brutal.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).
Again, we aren’t promised temporal protection in this fallen world at all times. But we are promised eternal life with our Savior who saved us. And we can be assured that even our deaths will be used to glorify the Savior. And, honestly, would we want it any other way?
Thank you so much for the question and your best wishes for me, Alan, and may the Lord richly bless you and yours in South Africa. I pray this has helped you and all of those who will have read this article.
May the Lord be glorified in everyone and in every situation as we witness to a lost and dying world for Christ and his glorious gospel!
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!