What a great question... and great opportunity to learn more about the nature of God!
- First, it is essential to understand that God is love.
"The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:8, NASB)
"We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." (1 John 4:16, NASB)
- Next, it is important to understand what God's definition of love is, because it is different than the world's definition. In God's love toward His people, He is compassionate, tender-hearted, patient, slow to anger, and bears with us, enduring our treatment of Him.
"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NASB)
"The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness." (Psalm 103:8, NASB)
"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32, NASB)
- God even goes so far as to forget the sins of His people, and treasures it when His people are willing to also overlook the sins of others.
"I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins." (Isaiah 43:25, NASB)
"A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression." (Proverbs 19:11, NASB)
- It would be great if the people of God could walk in perfect faith, always recognizing His voice and trusting Him, but alas, we do not! It is wonderful to see the love God pours out on us in these times of need. He is willing to walk along side us and answer our requests as we struggle through life, learning to trust Him. I love the picture we get from John (the "Apostle of love") about Thomas' doubt and Jesus' response:
"But Thomas... was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.' After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came... and stood in their midst and said, 'Peace be with you.' Then He said to Thomas, 'Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.' Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'" (from John 20:24-28, NASB)
- We should strive to walk by faith, receptive to the word of God, trusting Him. It is not "OK" to doubt.
"...whatever is not from faith is sin." (from Romans 14:23, NASB)
- However, God, in His love, is willing to overlook our mistakes. Consider the following powerful example of this. Notice how God made a promise to Abram, and how Abram responded. Then notice how Abraham is remembered before the people of God by the writer of Hebrews.
"Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, '...I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you'... Then God said to Abraham, 'As for ... your wife, ...I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her... Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, 'Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?' And Abraham said to God, 'Oh that Ishmael might live before You!' But God said, 'No...'" (from Genesis 17:3-19, NASB)
"Abraham, who is the father of us all... believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken... Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore IT WAS ALSO CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." (from Romans 4:16-22, NASB)
- We can be sure that Abraham, Gideon, and Thomas were God's people. We can be sure that they had some trouble walking by faith. We can also be sure that God, in His infinite love, bore with them and helped them, overlooking the weakness of their faith, and remembering them from a perspective of love, rather than of law. I will leave you with one final passage - a cry from David to the Lord.
"Remember, O LORD, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses, For they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; According to Your lovingkindness remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD." (Psalm 25:6-7, NASB)
- As followers of Christ we can rest assured that He will be there to help us, and we will not be judged according to our performance. (Thank God!)