Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions
by Max Lucado
Max on Life God created the universe as a habitation for humans.
Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions
1. I’ve been disappointed so many times by human love, and I think this has given me a faulty view of God’s love. Can you help me understand how his love is different from human love? Human love is convenient. It suits the needs of the person at the time and works into his schedule. God’s love is eternal. You are always on God’s itinerary. Come and go as you wish, but he’s always there. Human love is limited. It can love only as much as it wants to give. God’s love is unlimited. He has ample amounts of love and even uses words like abundant when talking about pouring out his love on people. Human love is emotional. Feelings dominate a human’s love landscape. We feel as though we’re in love, or we don’t feel as though we’re in love. Hormones, sleeplessness, worry, past hurts, Mexican food—all complicate these emotions. God’s love is commitment. While God has feelings for us, his feelings don’t dictate his love. His love is based on a decision to love us. Your actions don’t
increase or decrease his commitment. His love is a deeper and more secure love than the fluctuating Ferris wheel of feeling. Human love is selfish. It must suit our needs and be there for us. To love, we must be loved.
God’s love is unselfish. In fact, if you never love God, he will still love you. Your love has no bearing on the amount of love he lavishes on you. One thing human love has going for it is that you can see it—in the twinkling of your father’s eye, in the smile of a spouse, in the joy in your children’s voices. God’s love is just as real but not as tangible. We will see it, in time and for eternity, as we gaze at the face of God and his Son, Jesus Christ, while we stand in his presence in heaven.
Our goal as Christians should be to express God’s love in our human relationships so people will never make the statement you made. We should all have someone in our lives whom we can look back on and say, “I saw God’s love in that person.”
2. Some days I doubt God. I doubt his goodness, his nearness— and that he even exists. When I doubt him, does he leave me? When I was seven years old, I ran away from home. I’d had enough of my father’s rules and decided I could make it on my own, thank you very much. With my clothes in a paper bag, I stormed out the back gate and marched down the alley. Like the prodigal son, I decided I needed no father. Unlike the prodigal son, I didn’t go far. I got to the end of the alley and remembered I was hungry, so I went back home.
Though the rebellion was brief, it was rebellion nonetheless. Had you stopped me on that prodigal path and asked me who my father was, I just might have said, “I don’t need a father. I’m too big for the rules of my family. It’s just me, myself, and my paper bag.” I don’t remember saying that to anyone, but I remember thinking it. And I also remember rather sheepishly stepping in the back door and taking my seat at the supper table across from the very father I had, only moments before, disowned.
Did Dad know of my insurrection? I suspect he did. Did he know of my denial? Fathers usually do. Was I still his son? Apparently so. (No one else was sitting in my place at the table.) Suppose, after speaking to me, you had gone to my father and asked, “Mr. Lucado, your son says he has no need of a father. Do you still consider him your son?” What do you think my dad would have said? I don’t have to guess at his answer. He called himself my father even when I didn’t call myself his son. His commitment to me was greater than my commitment
to him. So is God’s.
Our God is no fair-weather Father. He’s not into this love-’em-and-leave-’em stuff. I can count on him to be in my corner no matter how I perform. You can too.
3. Who is God? How can I know what he is like? How can I trust that he is powerful enough to take care of me?
Who is God? How much time do you have?
God is unchanging. The weather changes. Fashion changes. Even change changes. God has not changed and cannot and will not ever change. He is always the same—yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Heb. 6:17–18).
God is unparalleled. Nobody comes close to his power, creativity, wisdom, or love. Many arrogantly believe they are close, but all fall short. There is no one like him (Isa. 40:13–14).
God is ungoverned. You and I have policemen, security guards, politicians, and home owners’ association board members telling us what to do. Not God. He holds the position of King of all kings (1 Tim. 6:15–16).
God is unbelievable. Writers (like myself ) try to encapsulate God with a thesaurus of adjectives, but still our fingers freeze up on the keyboard (as mine are now). He’s just so . . . well . . . ( Job 11:7–8).
God is untouched. One wayward sneeze in my direction, and I am contaminated, sick with a cold and out for a week. No one can soil or stain God. No outbreak of sin can contaminate him. God is holy and righteous, no matter how sick the world gets (1 Sam. 2:2).
God is uncaused. God has no “Made in . . .” stickers on his side. No birthday. No childhood. No influences listed on his résumé. Since no one put God in power, no one can take him out (Ps. 90:1–2).
God is unlimited. We are limited by brain capacity, time, relationship overload, responsibilities (one can be at only one baseball practice at a time), and patience. God has no limit to his time, power, knowledge, and love (Ps. 147:4–5).
So can God take care of you?
I’ll let you answer that.
4. I’m beginning to doubt some of the things I’ve always just taken for granted. Like whether there really is a God. How can we know he truly exists? Can I know he’s not just a product
of my imagination?
Belief in God is not blind faith. Belief means having a firm conviction (“I believe this to be true”), not hoping it’s true (“I believe the Cubs will win the World Series”). It’s the kind of assurance you get standing on a huge rock. So how can people get to that place in their belief in God?
Space: Look to the skies. Two hundred billion stars just in the Milky Way galaxy. Billions of galaxies and expanding. Where does it end? How did it all begin? Earth: Look to creation. So many varieties. So much beauty. A circle of life. How did it all come to be? Why does it work in perfect synchronicity?
Ethics: Look to our morals. A common sense of right and wrong shared by people in different countries and different times in history. Murder is always bad. Courage is always good. Who programmed us?
Bible: Look to God’s Word. Examine the wisdom. Experience the stories. Trace its preservation throughout time. How did it remain so well intact despite wars and opposition?
Empty tomb: Look to the resurrection. So many of those who claimed to have seen the risen Lord died with that testimony on their lips. Would they die for a lie? Or did they believe they, too, would rise?
Jesus: Look to him. No other man in history has caused so many questions, stirred so many hearts, given so many answers. Could he be who he said he was? God is not a product of your imagination. He’s far more than any of us could imagine, and he is truth.
5.My fiancée and I stayed up late last night discussing the meaning of sin and the need for salvation. We really have two different viewpoints. Isn’t sin a violation of the conscience? Actually, it is much more. One of the clearest verses on this question is Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Note the phrase fall short of. All of us know what it means to have a shortfall. Sometimes we think of a shortfall in athletic terms. The pole-vaulter doesn’t have the strength to jump over the bar, so he falls short. We also think of a shortfall in financial terms. When we have month left at the end of our money rather than money at the end of our month, we suffer a shortfall. According to the Bible, there is another type of shortfall. We don’t just fall short athletically or financially but, much more important, spiritually. The Bible says we suffer a spiritual shortfall. We fall short of the high standard. We have inadequate goodness in our morality account. Heaven is a holy place, and “those who are not holy will not see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14 nlt).
Simply put, we are not good enough to go to heaven.
So what can we do? Well, we can start doing good deeds. Perhaps if we do enough good deeds, they will offset our bad deeds. The question then surfaces, how many good deeds do we need to do? If I lose my temper in traffic, can I make up for it by waving at the next four cars? If I spend one year being greedy, how many years should I be generous? If I miss church one Sunday, how many services do I have to attend to break even?
No one knows the answer to those questions. No one knows how many good deeds it takes to offset the bad. A price list doesn’t exist. A rule sheet can’t be found. A code has not been discovered. It has not been discovered simply because it doesn’t exist. God doesn’t operate this way.
Is God nothing more than a heavenly deal broker who sells packages of grace? Does he spend his time on the phone with sinners, saying, “All right, I’ll forgive your selfishness if you’ll put two dollars in the plate and have your mother-in-law over for dinner”? Is that the kind of God we have? It’s certainly not the kind of God we read about in the Bible. God has been so kind to us. We have no way of balancing the scales. All we can do is ask for mercy. And God, because of his kindness, gives it. God turned over our sins to his Son. His Son, Jesus Christ, died for our sins. He did what we could not do so that we might become what we dare not dream: citizens of heaven.
6.Why talk to God about my troubles? He can’t understand.
According to the Bible he can: “For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned” (Heb. 4:15 phillips).
The writer of Hebrews is adamant almost to the point of redundancy. It’s as if he anticipates our objections. It’s as if he knows that we will say, “God, it’s easy for you up there. You don’t know how hard it is from down here.” So he boldly proclaims Jesus’ ability to understand. Look at the wording again. He himself. Not an angel. Not an ambassador. Not an emissary. But Jesus himself. Shared fully. Not partially. Not nearly. Not to a large degree. Entirely! Jesus shared fully.
In all our experience. Every hurt. Each ache. All the stresses and all the strains. No exceptions. No substitutes. Why? So he could sympathize with our weaknesses. Every page of the Gospels hammers home this crucial principle: God knows how you feel. From the funeral to the factory to the frustration of a demanding schedule. Jesus understands. When you tell God that you’ve reached your limit, he knows what you mean. When you shake your head at impossible deadlines, he shakes his too. When your plans are interrupted by people who have other plans, he nods in empathy. He has been there. He knows how you feel.
7. My question’s pretty basic. What are we doing here? I mean, is God up to something? If so, what? Is he taking us somewhere? If so, where?
You are right. A more basic question doesn’t exist. One word works well as an answer: kingdom. God is creating a kingdom. He is collecting for himself an eternal populace that will reign with him in the new heaven and the new earth.
Old Testament prophets envisioned a time when God would affirm and establish his rule in a new way: “He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth . . . All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him” (Ps. 72:8, 11).
They promised the earthly arrival of an anointed King, a Messiah, one uniquely related to God to serve as the instrument of his rule. “Your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9 nkjv).
It’s all about the King and his kingdom. “And this is [God’s] plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth” (Eph. 1:10 nlt).
It seems to stack up like this:
Humans exist to become a citizenry for Jesus, the King.
Jesus, the King, came to the earth to purchase (pay for the sins of) his people and invite them to heaven.
Those who accept his gift are placed in his family and empowered by his Spirit.
He is coming back to reclaim us and his creation and to reign over it forever. The King and his kingdom. That’s why we are here. That’s where we are headed. That will be some coronation day, don’t you think?
8. What is the purpose of confession? Doesn’t God already know what I’ve done? Why does he need me to tell him?
The Greek word for confession is the compound term homologeo, homo meaning “the same” and logeo meaning “to speak.” To confess is to speak the same, to agree with. In this case,to agree with God.
This definition not only tells us what confession is; it tells us what confession is not. Confession is not complaining. If I merely recite my problems and tell you how tough my life is, I’m not confessing. Confession is not blaming. Pointing fingers at others without pointing any at myself may feel good for a while, but it does nothing to remove the conflict within me.
Confession is coming clean with God.
David did. As if the affair with Bathsheba wasn’t enough. As if the murder of her husband wasn’t enough. Somehow David danced around the truth. He denied his wrongdoing for at least nine months until the child was born. It took a prophet to bring the truth to the surface, but when he did, David didn’t like what he saw (2 Samuel 11:1–12:13). He waved the white flag. No more combat with God. No more arguing with heaven. He confessed. He came clean with God. What was the result of such honesty?
I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. (Ps. 32:5 nlt) Want to get rid of your guilt? Come clean with God.
9. When my husband and I became the parents of a baby girl, we started to attend church. The pastor and others here talk about being saved, but we really don’t understand what
that means. Can you help us? The best answer to your question is found in the Bible’s best-known scripture: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ( John 3:16)
Why does God want to save us? “God so loved . . .” What parents can stand idly by while their child suffers in agony? Who would watch loved ones step toward a perilous pit and not stop them before they plunged into darkness? God loves us so much he wants to save us . . . from the world, from Satan, from ourselves. The motivation that drives all his actions is love . . . love . . . love . . . love. And his love is directed at you.
How does God save us? “He gave his one and only Son . . .” A payment satisfies a debt. A gift appeases anger. A sacrifice dies in place of the guilty party. God saves us by offering his own sacrifice—his own Son—to pay for our massive debt of sin, to satisfy his immense anger toward our rebellion, and to relieve the burden of our guilt. Only one sacrifice was worthy enough to die for all the sins of all the people of all time. Jesus. He died as a sinless and perfect sacrifice on the cross.
What do we need to do to be saved? “Whoever believes in him . . .” The debt is too big to pay. Working ourselves to death wouldn’t be enough. So Jesus, out of love, did all the work for us two thousand years ago on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem. What must we do? Believe. Believe that Jesus died for you and me. Know that God is satisfied and our sin bill has been paid in full. What will happen as a result of salvation? “Have eternal life.” Jesus’ death on the cross paid for our sins. Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb promises our eternal life. We are no longer stuck on death row. We will be set free to enjoy life eternal with our Savior himself.
God saves us because he loves us.
God saves us through Jesus Christ.
God saves us when we believe.
God saves us from death.
The only question John 3:16 does not answer is, what about you? Have you
10.Every Easter our family has the same argument: did Jesus come back from the dead? My dad calls the resurrection a fable. I disagree. How can we know? No one questions the existence of Jesus. Historically, he lived; he preached; he stirred a following and then was killed. No one questions these facts. And no one questions the existence of a resurrection story. They may not buy it, but they don’t question it exists. Skeptics may chalk it up as a legend or hoax, but everyone believes that the early followers proclaimed that Jesus was raised from the dead.
So the remaining question is this one: “Is the tomb empty?”
There are those who say he never died. Instead, they say a soldier mistakenly lowered his body from the cross, and those who loved him mistakenly put him in the tomb. Honestly. After a whipping that could have killed him, after six hours on the cross, after a spear in his side, could this frail and beaten Jesus spend two nights in a tomb and, on the third day, shove back the rock, overpower the soldiers, and encounter the disciples with such vigor that they believed he was raised from the dead? I don’t think so.
Some teach that Jesus’ body was stolen by his enemies, the religious leaders of Jerusalem. If so, why didn’t they produce it? They could have killed Christianity in its cradle! But they didn’t. There are those who say the disciples took the body. Maybe the followers of Jesus staged the resurrection. There is only one problem: the disciples spent the rest of their lives proclaiming the resurrection. Some died for their belief. One might die for a truth, but one will never die for a lie. What is left? The empty tomb is left.
You don’t have to toss common sense out the door to embrace the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, it’s just as challenging, or more so, to disprove the resurrection as to prove it.