Our Resistance and God’s Persistence
January 4, 2024 Blogs by: Tim Jennings, M.D.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV84).

The Bible tells the story of God’s loving pursuit of sinful, frail, fearful, and resistant human beings—His active engagement in the process of reaching fallen people and bringing us back into trusting friendship with Him.

As soon as Adam sinned, he ran and hid, but God sought him out, gently calling to him and reassuring him that He was not Adam’s enemy, that God was not against him. In fact, God promised that He would send the Messiah to save Adam, Eve, and every other human who would trust Him (Genesis 3:15).

In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells the story of a shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to go after the one that is lost, and then he joyfully carries it back on his shoulders.

This is the story of the Bible—God pursuing fallen, broken, wounded, and lost humans and joyfully leading us back to Him, health, and eternal life.

But sadly, this story is often not presented in the clearest light. Sometimes, well-meaning people present God in a way that suggests He is angry, wrathful, or needs something done to Him to get Him to forgive us.

For instance, I remember being taught as a child that if I went into a movie theater, my guardian angel would stay outside—while God’s recording angel, who I was told documented all my sins, would follow me inside. While I understand today that this was taught to me by well-meaning people who were trying to protect me from choosing activities they believed would be harmful to me, the picture of God they presented not only increased my distrust and fear of God, but it is also factually wrong and contradicts the Bible!

The story told in the book of Esther is historical evidence that God does not abandon people who have not followed His directions yet find themselves in trouble and turn to Him.

The Message of Esther

At the time of the events recorded in Esther, where had God called the Jewish people to be? They were to be in Palestine rebuilding the temple. Where were Esther and Mordecai? In Persia. This means that, according to the evidence we have, Esther and Mordecai were not where God had called them to be. And further, they ended up in trouble—yet God did not abandon them even though they weren’t where they were supposed to be!

But does the fact that God didn’t abandon them mean their choice was equally good to what God had instructed? Or, by refusing to go where God instructed, did they suffer hardship they would almost certainly have avoided had they obeyed God’s directions?

If they had been in Jerusalem, Mordecai would not have been in the situation in which he refused to bow to Haman. Without that perceived slight, Haman may not have had his attention drawn to the Jews and may not have plotted to kill them. Had they returned to Jerusalem, Esther would not have become queen and wouldn’t have had to risk her life going into the king.

So, one reality is that the very problems, trials, and tribulations we see recorded in Esther are the result of their choice not to listen to God and go where He wanted them to be. Had they done so, they very well may have avoided those problems.

But we also learn that despite their choice not to go, God did not abandon them; instead, He worked through them to protect the line for the Messiah, which Satan was actively seeking to destroy.

Further, this story, recorded and kept by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, reveals a thematic and recurring process that we see in the lives of every person who seeks to follow God. The Lord gives us various insights, truths, directions, and callings, and we are then left free to follow them or not. If we choose not to listen right away, we experience struggles, problems, conflicts, and trials from which God was trying to protect us. When we find ourselves in such straits and call out to God, as Esther did, God intervenes to heal and save—always for our eternal salvation, yes, and sometimes for our temporal salvation.

Consider these examples:

  • When Jacob deceived his father, he went against God’s calling to live an honest and righteous life—and that act resulted in his many trials. But God did not abandon him. When Jacob turned to God, God was there to help him every time and, ultimately, transform him, giving him the new name Israel. Had Jacob not deceived his father, God would have given Jacob the blessing in His way and Jacob would have avoided many trials.
  • Jonah was called by God to go to Nineveh but ran, and he experienced trials and tribulations he would not otherwise have experienced. Yet when he did experience those trials, he called out to God and was delivered. Had he followed God’s direction from the start, he would have avoided the storm and the fish.
  • Samson didn’t listen to God’s instructions and suffered painful results, but when he finally repented and turned back to God, the Lord poured out His Spirit upon him and saved him eternally—even though Samson was allowed to die at that time. Had Samson stayed faithful, he would have avoided such suffering. Samson ended up where God did not want him to be, but God did not abandon him; instead, God waited for Samson to open his heart for God to heal and deliver him.
  • David didn’t listen to what he knew was right regarding his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, and he suffered consequences. But when he turned back to God in repentance, he experienced a new heart and right spirit. He was saved eternally, but he still had family and political problems as a result of his actions. David ended up in a situation in which God did not want him to experience, but God did not abandon him; rather, God sent a message to lead David to repentance.

Do you see this process happening again and again throughout history—and in your own life?

Such stories are given to us to reveal reality, how we thrive when we trust and follow God and choose His methods, principles, design laws, and instructions. But we cause ourselves injury, hardship, burdens, and trials when we do things our own way—yet God does not abandon us. He keeps watch over us, letting us experience what we have chosen, patiently waiting for us to learn from reality and call out to Him—and then He rushes to our rescue to save, deliver, and heal us.

As I have reflected on my life, I have learned that despite my resistance, God’s persistence has never let me go—and had I not been so resistant to His leading, I would have avoided many problems, hurts, and difficulties. My goal as we start this New Year is to listen to God’s voice and follow wherever He is leading, for He has proven to me that He is love, He is trustworthy, and He always has a better plan for me than I could devise for myself.

I invite you to reflect on all the evidence God has given of His trustworthiness and start this New Year with the choice to follow all His instructions for your life.

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Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and an international speaker. He served as president of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations and is president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.