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From reading the Bible, I have always had questions about how God works slowly over many generations of people and more specifically about those who live in what I call "God's Silent Periods".

For example: The Bible contains many instances where it states to the effect; "..and becuase of this, the Jew's were enslaved in Egypt for 500 years" and then moves on to the next Bible worthy important event - as if 500 years is nothing!

Perhaps to God 500 years is a blink of an eye, as He is the same in the past, present and future - but to these generations who lived during the 500 years (just imagine if you and your generations lived during that period) that is many life times of a specific experience of who God is. It appears it is God's will that some will live and experience their lives in such periods (perhaps us), to forward his will - on His time line.

For example, during the slave generations, even if one individual had enormous faith in God, it could not change their life predestined in slavery. On the flip side, for the generation of Jews that lived when Moses came, their tested faith now had a new power - the power to directly free them from slavery.

(Please note this is just one example of this what appears to be cyclic nature of God.)

The question is: How do Christians incorporate and harmonize their personal present moment everyday faith, in light of God's nature as explained above from the Bible?

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"many lifetimes of a specific experience of who God is" What does this mean? Is the idea that all these people have a similar experience of who God is? "on His time line" Is His timeline different than ours? Or do you mean His "perception" of time, if we can say that? And what is the problem? Is it that God seems to "overlook" those people, that He only chooses some small segments of time to do his work? –  Alypius Mar 23 '13 at 1:44
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I did not realize you had a really excellent question here. The title confused me so I never read it. I would have not even noticed but the bounty put it back on my radar since I also have a bounty going. You might want to consider rephrasing the title, so later on google searches will pick it up. –  Mike Mar 23 '13 at 6:55
    
One could ask the flip-side as well. Most people are blessed enough to live in relative peace and normalcy. Why does God have to pick on us every 500 years or so? –  svidgen Mar 24 '13 at 4:42

8 Answers 8

God is timeless. He is not constrained or bound by time, so to him the future and the past are "happening" with the present. His purpose and plan are also incomprehensible to fallible man. Each Christian has his duty to spread the Gospel, regardless of whether or not they're living in a time of great supernatural action or not. God is always acting in the world, but most of it goes unnoticed.

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The answer may vary among the Christians. It depends on how much we understand and accept God's Divine Plan.

  1. God has a plan for small events. For example, Jesus waited for his time for turning water to wine.

    John 2:4 (NIV) “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

  2. God also plans for a "Big Time". For example, Jesus waited for his specific time to die.

    John 7:30 (NIV) At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.

  3. God has the Biggest plan for eternity.

    Ephesians 1:4,5 (NIV) 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will

God has a plan for everything. We cannot say that even the movements of a tiny living creature is planned by God but, on a Bigger scale, God plans everything.

God also reveals His truth according to His timeline.

  1. The Old Testament never reveals the Truth of Salvation for the soul in a crystal clear manner.
  2. The New Testament reveals that the way to Salvation is through Jesus Christ.
  3. The New Testament promised that Jesus Christ will come back again but never tells us when it will happen. Even though The Book of Revelation is about the end times, all are in symbolic form. We will understand them fully only when it actually happens.

God's will also changes as time passes.

  1. Sacrifice for forgiveness of sin was not commanded prior to the time of Moses.
  2. Animal sacrifice was commanded as a Sin Offering through Moses.
  3. While Jesus was on Earth, God's will was to listen and follow him.
  4. After Jesus died on the Cross, God's will was to believe in the Cross.
  5. After Jesus ascended to heaven God's will was to establish the church.
  6. Now, God's will for us is to wait faithfully until Christ returns.

God's divine plan is revealed one by one with the course of time. Therefore, Christians should always go in line with the Will of God and the Divine Plan.

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good points........... –  Greg McNulty Mar 27 '13 at 17:36

I think a Catholic, and most other Christians, would suggest that God works with our human nature and our personal choices. To some extent, we are where we are in our span of history because of who we are and the choices we'll make. God's plan is both predetermined and sensitive to our wills.

To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination,” he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 600)

For that reason, it's partially our own fault that God's whole plan didn't fully unfold immediately after the fall. It's our fault, so to speak, when we go 500 years without a notable divine intervention. God works with our freedom.

Even with that in mind, God is never silent or inactive. At worst, He's speaking and we're simply ignoring Him. But often enough His activity is obvious to the persons involved; it just isn't always globally recognizable as a step in the spiritual story. All of us who pray, grow closer to God, have profound insights or experiences, offer help to someone at a critical time, etc. -- we're all experiencing and taking part in God's activity. He is not silent, He is simply not calling all of us to be Biblical archetypes.

No one's going to add my journal to the Bible -- however inspired it may be. No one's going to retell the story of a time when so-and-so actually had cash on him for the homeless folks on State Street. And that really great prayer you said last night is really great for you -- but it means little or nothing to the rest of us, let alone my childrens' children.

All scripture is about Christ. And we should all be able to recognize Christ in the scripture.

All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ, “because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ” (CCC 134)

What we include in scripture, therefore, are the events that The Church recognizes, worthy of reading in the liturgy, which glorify The Living Word of God, Jesus Christ. They're the archetypal milestones that most every saint can identify in their spiritual journey until they finally find themselves crucified and risen with Christ.

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nicely put, thank you. –  Greg McNulty Mar 27 '13 at 18:06

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5

..I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. ~ Phillipians 4:11-13

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Welcome to the site! Although it seems you may have mistaken the purpose of this site. I'd invite you to read the FAQ, as well as these posts: meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/692/… and meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/1379/… –  David Stratton Mar 24 '13 at 2:41
    
@DavidStratton Hey there, thanks for the welcome. I read the links and I'm afraid I'm a bit unclear as to why you would think I may have mistaken the purpose of this site, as I do not see anything I have done wrong? Perhaps you can help me out and point a little more closer at my infraction(s). I interpreted the OP's question to in a nutshell be this: "How does a Christian 'handle' their 'lot' in life?" To which I replied with two bible verses which tell Christians how they are to regard their lot on life. –  Crayon Violent Mar 24 '13 at 5:04

If I understand your question correctly, the answer is "watch and pray". In Luke chapter 21 some of his disciples were remarking about how beautiful the temple was when Jesus told them that "the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

The disciples then asked "when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?"

Jesus then tells then what signs to look for and ends his instruction by saying "Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Mark 13 also gives an account of this interchange between Jesus and his disciples but concludes a bit differently with the parable about the man who went away, leaving his servants in charge..."It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping."

What were they watching for? The signs that Jesus is about to come again. What were they to pray for? To be awake, so as to escape from the coming judgement.

This is especially meaningful in light of your question of the "inter-generational" nature of God's timetable. God knows it's going to be a while between courses but he's trying to get us to focus our attention, knowing we are very prone to wandering off the path if we see some shiny bauble. It's almost like he's saying "pay attention!"

Jesus asked his disciples to wait for him outside the garden where he went to pray just before he was arrested but rebuked them with "couldn't you wait for one hour with me?" (He probably would have said "Jeez" if he wasn't Jesus). But I think the point is that in our everyday lives, we are waiting for someone, and the exhortation is don't get impatient as it may be a while. Just keep looking every day, and just keep waiting every day, and while you're waiting ask the Father for mercy. I think it keeps us focused in the right direction as it keeps our eyes on Jesus, rather then worrying about the timetable.

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Welcome to the site. Good answer! And this agrees with my answer, because this is exactly what we're doing today! –  David Stratton Mar 23 '13 at 22:12
    
I don't know if I should say thank you here or not. I'm looking for the rule that covers responding to a welcome so pardon my ignorance as I learn to navigate and use this site. Anyway. Thank you David. –  Christine Mitchell Mar 28 '13 at 4:25

Your question is interesting to me because it seems to miss one obvious fact.

You refer to people who lived in between events that were noteworthy of being included in Scripture, and wonder, essentially, what their faith is like during those time periods. But the fact is, you're surrounded by Christians who are, right now in one of those time periods.

There hasn't been a noteworthy event in Scripture in close to 2,000 years, and we are patiently waiting for the next event - the return of the King of Kings. (Exact details unclear. Many different views exist on the order of events and the exact details, but we do know it's going to happen.)

The clearest answer is "In many ways, all of which are going on all around you for you to observe."

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It seems you are asking: ‘How do we adjust our view of the ‘unchanging God’, during the ups and downs of apostasy and faith in which each generation lives?’ Also, ‘How does this affect our view of our own self in the current state of affairs in which we live?’ If we are at a highpoint how does this reflect on us, what about a low-point or mid-point? This is a very good question.

Some more examples just like the one you mention: At the time of Samson ‘the LORD gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years (Judges 13:1). Samson seems to have been a bit of an inconsistent believer. Sometimes Samson was fighting God’s war. Things were great as ‘the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him’ and when he ‘found a fresh jawbone of a donkey’ and ‘struck 1,000 men’. (Judges 15:14–15). But as Samson represented the highest point of the ‘low period’ of the judges, he also represented it lowest point in parallel with Israel’s Apostasy. We even see that ‘Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her’ (Judges 16:1).

What is going on with this hero Samson? Why is he considered great by God (Hebrews 11:32) but not so great at all? I thin it is clear he is like a David but as he lived in a ‘low point’ of Biblical history his behavior does not fully vindicate his faith. There are low points where a person seems to stand up well like Noah.

Lot on the other hand is another righteous man but made a selfish and sinful choice in seeking out ‘the best portion of the land’ seeking a place in this world. Here he finds himself not only a fairly low point of history but in a ‘low locality’ in an utterly perverse city. How did this righteous man react to his low environment? His soul was ‘greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked’ (2 Peter 2:7). We not have the idea of location. A Christian living in one part of the world may be at a low-point of God’s kingdom and a person living somewhere else may not.

Another kind of low point is an entire dispensation. Christians often understand the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as ‘raising the bar’ as it were both for the level of glory in God’s manifestation on earth and correspondingly a higher expectation on the holiness of those in that era. We can see this even in the Apostles. Before Pentecost they were bungling around, making mistakes everywhere, always misunderstanding, almost pathetic. After Pentecost Peter (who before denied Christ) now ‘standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them’. The ending of his sermon indicates he lived in a ‘low point’ among a ‘crooked generation’ but was suddenly experiencing a step-change towards a ‘high point’ fulfilling a prophecy of Joel and resulting in immediate conversion of many souls:

“Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:14, ESV)

Before the New Testament one could be considered a fairly good and wise believer even with many wives like Solomon. Under the New Testament this is really not the case. In summary, our perspective of God may change based on the overall progression of God’s kingdom, based on our own generation of faithfulness or based on our own locality in which we live.

So what? This knowledge can be applied how? What is important is for us to at least obtain a clue as to where we personally fit into the scene. Some preachers use the story of Acts and create an expectation that only constant perfection is the norm and that the low days are over. There is no longer such a situation where a modern version of Samson, or Lot is to be found. I find this rubbish. If Paul had to rebuke the Apostle Peter on a very serious matters after Pentecost (Galatians 2:11). Even the almost seemingly perfect Paul had a ‘sharp disagreement’ with is good friend Barnabas. The argument was so bad they parted ways.

Barnabas did not agree with Paul in judging the conduct of Mark with such severity; the latter was, besides, his nephew, Col. 4:10. [Ἀνεψιός, consobrinus, Vulg.; relative, de Wette; cousin, Robinson: Meyer.—TR.]. A discussion, conducted with great warmth,—a sharp contention (παροξυσμός)—ensued, and the result was that the two men parted, and took different roads. [“There is little doubt that severe words were spoken on the occasion. It is unwise to be over-anxious to dilute the words of Scripture, and to exempt even Apostles from blame.… We cannot, however, suppose that Paul and Barnabas parted, like enemies, in anger and hatred. (Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Gotthard, V. L., Gerok, C., & Schaeffer, C. F. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Acts (295). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.)

Clearly the idea that we now are among a constant high standard after Acts is implausible, when at the very high point perfection is not to be found. As we progress after the first generation of Christianity we see many, many troubles. I will not even mention all the Apostasy and low times as Christians are so divided on how to interpret the chaos. Needless to say to large division occur among Protestants and Catholics on how to determine what the lows and highs are, and who were the Samsons and who were the Delilahs of church history.

To your question: We must soberly try and evaluate our circumstances and discern where we stand among them. A good gauge on where we are in history is how do we respond to the basic bread-and-butter gospel. If you read history the up-times of the church occurs when people defend original sin, justification by faith and an assurance of salvation by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Love for our neighbor and our enemy, out of a love for God is the drumbeats of morality preached during those times. Does our locality or generation focus on the cross and grace of God? Does our nation? Where do we fit into this? In my own private world I identify with Lot and Samson more than David. I groan inside at what I see. Maybe others are in better surrounding then me. I identify with Luther as a Samson at a low point in history. I think we are approaching a similar point but not that bad yet.

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very interesting and thought provoking, thank you. –  Greg McNulty Mar 27 '13 at 16:04
    
fyi - "‘the best portion of the land’ seeking a place in this world" I have not met a Christian who does not do this... –  Greg McNulty Mar 27 '13 at 18:30

I think the answer you get for this will depend on the Christian, but I'll give you my viewpoint.

I think the question that needs to be asked in order to answer this question is, "what do you have faith in?" Even if somebody else had had faith that they would be able to escape from the Egyptian slavery, that doesn't necessarily mean that God would have allowed it. In that instance, the person's faith is in something that God never told him/her to have faith in. I don't believe that God would ever tell somebody to place their faith in something that he isn't going to ultimately allow to come to fruition.

In Moses' case, God told Moses specifically that he would be the instrument that God would use to free his people. I don't think that it was the faith itself that had the power to free them from slavery, I believe it was God who had the power to free them from slavery, and Moses had just enough faith to simply be obedient to God and do what he asked. I don't think things are too different today.

As an example, God promises those of us who live today a few things. Among those things are:

  1. Christ's death pays the penalty for your sinfulness, and provides reconciliation between God and man.
  2. Christ will be coming back someday.

I do have faith in both of these things, and yet I might not live to see Christ's return. Ultimately, I hold to my faith, and I'm thankful for the grace I've received through Christ, and I try to be humble enough to recognize that that may be simply enough for me. God may not allow me to see his return, or he may. He may also choose to use me in significant ways, or he may choose to use me for nothing more or less than simply loving my wife and children, and impact just a few people like that. That's not for me to say. My role is simply to be thankful for his gifts, and rejoice in the fact that this life is nothing more than a fleeting shadow, after which I can, on Christ's dime, spend eternity with God.

tl;dr: Humility is the link between everyday faith and God's nature.

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thank you............... –  Greg McNulty Mar 23 '13 at 0:16

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