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Life is made up of many certainties and even more uncertainties. We are creatures who tend to prefer certainty to uncertainty, and as a result often indulge in speculation to try to move from one state to the other. Speculation is the forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence, and it’s something that’s been rife over the past few months!
There are many things in Scripture which are crystal clear… but many which are not. That can often be very frustrating for us, for we much prefer certainty to doubt. But many things which God does baffle us. We can’t understand why some die and others are healed, why God intervenes miraculously in some situations and appears to leave us floundering in others. This is nothing new: the early church had to work with the fact that devout leaders Stephen and James were martyred (Acts 7:54-60, Acts 12:1-2), but Peter and John were spared (Acts 4, Acts 12:5-11).
So often, we speculate about things like this; we wonder if one person is more deserving than another, if God has favourites. The truth is that we do not know why. We cannot say that Peter was spared because the church was praying earnestly for him and therefore James was killed because the church didn’t like him as much and didn’t pray! Such speculation is harmful and will never be satisfactory because we simply do not know. As the commentator Maclaren says, ‘this is a question easily asked by us but one that simply cannot be answered by us.’ Tom Wright says this chapter shows us how God’s providence ‘remains both remarkable and inscrutable.’ (‘Acts For Everyone’ Pt 1, P 184)
This is very hard for us to accept. When a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness or dies, when we lose a job we were convinced was God’s position for us, when tragedy strikes, we want answers to the question ‘Why?’, but so often, we simply do not have the answers we crave. Instead of then wasting our energy and time on pointless speculation, we need to learn to accept God’s sovereignty and rest on His goodness. Even if life seems unfair and we cannot work out what God is doing or why, we need to cultivate a heart that leans on all we know of His nature and trust in His unfailing love.