Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

What causes us to seek God?

Roland Clarke

Rarely do we seek God when life is pain-free. As the psalmist said, “It was good for me to suffer, so that I might learn your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71, NET) The fact is, we often need to experience God's tough love before he gets our attention. The prophet Hosea described how God disciplined the rebellious Israelites so when “trouble comes, they will earnestly search for me.” (Hosea 5:15; Psalm 78:34-35) Hosea urged his people: “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us ... Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” (Hosea 6:1-3, bold font added)

Likewise the prophet Isaiah said, “In the night I search for you; in the morning I earnestly seek you. For only when you come to judge the earth will people learn what is right. Your kindness to the wicked does not make them do good. Although others do right, the wicked keep doing wrong and take no notice of the Lord’s majesty. O Lord, they pay no attention to your upraised fist. … Lord, in distress we searched for you. We prayed beneath the burden of your discipline.” (Isaiah 26:9-11,16)

A few chapters later Isaiah foretells how God will judge his enemies, making them “eat their own flesh; they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine. Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer.” (Isaiah 49:25-26)

We also see how pain prompts seeking for God in Psalm 83 where the psalmist prays against God's enemies. He asks the Lord to “pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your hurricane! Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O Lord. Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:15-18, ESV, bold added)

If you read Psalm 83 carefully you will notice that most of the nations, as listed, correspond with modern day Islamic nations in the Middle East. Recently, many Muslims have become disillusioned at seeing the deepening sectarian conflict. Not only so, the bloodbath fuelled by feuding factions is causing many Muslims to raise serious questions and seek the face of Allah. (Surah 6:52; 92:19-21)

The Bible says God oversees world events so that people will seek him, “From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26-28, HCSB)

What does it mean; “God has determined their appointed times and the boundaries”? Is the Lord surprised by the recent political turbulence, violence and overturned regimes in the Middle East? Is he surprised by the humanitarian disaster resulting from unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers flooding into Europe? Certainly not! He foresaw this scenario and is using it to work out his purposes. As the prophet Daniel testified, “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings.” (Daniel 2:20-21; 4:17) May I encourage you to read the article, God our Savior, Redeemer which explores this in more detail.

If you have questions or comments please feel free to email me here.

All Bible quotations are from the New Living Translation unless otherwise indicated.

Appendix: How to season one's conversation with salt (Colossians 4:4-6)

Recently I had an interesting conversation with a teller named Annie who rang up my purchase at a grocery store. I asked, "Do you follow any of the headline news stories?”

She replied, “Yes, some of the time. Why? Is there something new you think I should know?”

“Not exactly,” I said, “I've been thinking the refugee crisis in Europe is quite overwhelming, do you agree?”

She agreed so I asked her, “Would you like to see a short article that takes a different, yet hopeful, perspective?”

She gladly accepted my offer of the above article, What causes us to seek God? I pray she wants to know more and will read the full discussion in the article, God our Savior, Redeemer.

This crisis which has dominated the news headlines seems like it is becoming a global issue. As such, it concerns Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In fact, I've had some interesting discussions with Muslims, not unlike the above conversation with Annie. It hasn't been difficult to spark the curiosity of Muslim friends. Furthermore, I've seen several become more interested by telling them I came across a remarkable prophecy that seems to describe what is happening in the Middle East. This usually helps move the conversation in a positive, yet thought provoking direction. Then I explain briefly how Isaiah 49:24-26 correlates with the refugee crisis. My prayer is that many, including Muslims, will want to read the full discussion in God our Savior and Redeemer which is available online.

If you think about this humanitarian disaster I am confident you will realize this crisis involves asylum seekers. It seems appropriate, therefore, to conclude that, indeed, God is using these painful events to prod people to seek him.