Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is God’s Attributes: Rest for Life’s Struggles by Brad Hambrick.
Theology … we tend to think it’s for pastors and teachers or, maybe, students in seminary or Bible college, but not for moms and dads, office workers, storekeepers, and others of us who work in stores and offices and homes every day.
But as you’ll learn from Brad Hambrick’s book, we all have a theology, including our ideas about God’s attributes. How does our understanding of God’s character affect how we view the events of our lives, especially the hard ones and how do we arrive at our view of God, sometimes, without even realizing it?
One portrayal of how we do theology is provided by breathing: inhale, process, and exhale. We inhale information, experiences, relationships, hopes, dreams, opportunities, tragedies, successes, failures, and an incredible number of mundane moments. These pieces are then processed by personal evaluations as good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant, painful, pleasurable, significant, noticed, or unnoticed. Finally, we exhale beliefs, correlations of cause and effect, life principles, optimistic or pessimistic expectations, and ideas about God (i.e., whoever or whatever we believe to be “in charge” of it all).
Think about some of the formative events of your life, the good and the bad. These major memories have the greatest impact on our core beliefs, our theology.
As you reflect on these formative life events, the hard or negative ones will fit into one of two categories: sin or suffering. Sin encompasses those actions, beliefs, and emotions that are contrary to God’s Word or character. Suffering includes the tragic and deteriorative effects of living in a fallen world, as well as the consequences of other’s sin against you.
The guiding principle of this entire study is simply: Our battle from and against sin and suffering is first and foremost a battle toward and for God.
With this said, our concept of God, resulting from the theological breathing discussed above, greatly influences how we read the Bible. If we believe that God is a cosmic cop, we read the Bible fearfully wanting to know the things for which God will “pull us over” and for which he will “let us go”—the equivalent of the “how far over the speed limit can you drive and get away with it” debate. If we believe that God is a heavenly grandfather, then we read the Bible to find out what good ideas he has and how to stay on his good side to get the extra treats of his approval.
This devotional study can help us identify the connections between our sins and struggles and our understanding of God. It can help us identify those attributes we need to understand better. Doing so will help us trust, enjoy and emulate Him more and better. When we have a wrong view of God, Brad says:
We may become rule-following, comfort-seeking Pharisees. We may become fearful children of an abusive, all-powerful parent. We may become haphazard pleasure seekers looking for good ideas in a random universe. We need to be continually alert to these questions: Who is God? What is God like? How is God relevant and active in this moment? When we are alert to them, we can, by God’s grace and self-revelation, become heart-focused, God-treasuring disciples of Christ.
The study is designed to last four weeks. During the first four days of the week you look at one attribute a day, beginning with a brief definition, followed by Scripture references and two sets of self-evaluation questions:
1. How well do I rest in this attribute of God? Do I take the appropriate degree of comfort and joy in this aspect of God’s character?
2. How well do I emulate this attribute of God? As an image-bearer and ambassador of Christ, do I represent this attribute of God accurately to the world around me?
On days five and six you reflect on how your views about God affect your current struggles—both suffering and sin. There are eight sets of questions at the end of each week to help you determine if your understanding of this collection of God’s attributes makes your struggles better or worse, easier or harder, and in what ways.
Too often we read the Bible without asking the basic question, Who is God? We are looking for answers to other personal questions or are enamored by the drama and/or beauty of the text. There is great benefit to dedicating a month to focusing on God’s person in the Bible and allowing all application and reflection to point us to him.
I have used this helpful little book a number of times in counseling. Every time we have both grown in our understanding of God and his character. We have become more aware of how His attributes are manifest in the world and how each character quality impacts our ability to trust and obey Him on a daily basis.
Quotations taken from:
Hambrick, Brad C.. God’s Attributes: Rest for Life’s Struggles (The Gospel for Real Life). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.
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