God’s People, part 246: Dorcas

Read Acts 9:36-43

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”  (Romans 12:1, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Dorcas_TabithaPart 246: Dorcas. According to Luke, Tabitha (or Dorcas as she was known in Greek) was a Christian believer and someone that was kind, compassionate, and always serving others, especially the poor. She was a woman who lived by the very example of her Lord Jesus Christ and was, clearly, filled with the Holy Spirit. What a powerful witness she must have been to our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, it must come as a shock to learn that this sweet, kind, loving, compassionate and thoughtful woman found herself succumbing to a serious illness. How could a such a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ die? How could God allow that to happen? Such questions lead us into a realm of theology known as theodicy: why does God allow sin, evil, pain, and suffering to happen to good people. Why do those things exist at all?

Before we progress anymore into Luke’s account, I want us to pause here. First, there is no answer that will satisfy why evil, sin, pain, and suffering exist. The search for solving the dilemma of theodicy has led people in different directions. Some form some pretty horrifying theologies to explain why God either causes or “allows bad things to happen.” Such theology has done much physical, spiritual, psychological and emotional damage to people. While some have found a safe haven in such theology as it seems to give their suffering a purpose, others have been further lost in their suffering as a result of a theology that locks them within it.

What’s more, that theology has lead people to develop and opposite and equally damning theology. “If I am forced to believe in a God who causes or allows evil to happen,” such a people say, “then I would rather just not believe in God. Thank you very much! Have a nice day.” It’s what leads people like outspoken anti-theist Dr. Richard Dawkins to proclaim, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully”[1]

What’s important to understand is that much of this comes from a misunderstanding. Most people think that, because God is good, then only good things will ever happen to those who follow God. Yet, as can be seen in Acts, Scripture never promises that. Yes, God is good and wants the very best for us; however, we live in a broken world where people use their free will to turn away from God and follow their own selfish desires. That is sin, which in turn can lead to evil, pain, and suffering for self and for others.

If God were to simply end all sin and evil, what would be left of this world? I think we have a story in the Old Testament that points to what would exactly happen were God to do that: NOAH and the flood. Dawkins, and those like him, fail to realize that the story of Noah was written to provide an explanation as to why God is so patient with the evil and sin that we perpetuate out in the world.

Again, that may not exhaustively satisfy one’s thirst to discover an answer to Theodicy; however, it is also important to not miss the forest for the trees when it comes to stuff that is beyond our understanding. The presence of evil, sin, suffering and pain do not cancel out the possibility of God’s existence any more than they prove any sort of divine reason or purpose for them existing.

Back to Dorcas. Yes, she was a faithful servant who got ill and died. Like countless faithful people before and after her, she fell ill from a virus and died. Had people not been greedy to the point of their being impoverished people, might she had avoided getting ill? We’ll never know as we don’t know how she got ill. Beyond that, even if she hadn’t gotten ill and died then, she would have died eventually. That is a fact of life.

The truth is, unlike Dorcas, most people don’t get resurrected back to life immediately after dying. As with any miracle, her resurrection brought honor and glory to God and caused many people to believe in Dorcas’ Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This miracle, as with all miracles, was performed to glorify and bring others to Christ.

Let us remember what miracles are for and let us also learn to not only look to aggrandized signs as miracles. Miracles happen every day and they come in all shapes and sizes. Anything that brings people into a relationship with Jesus Christ is a miracle.

Dorcas, herself, was a miracle because her loving, compassionate, kind spirit brought people to Christ in life, just as much as in death. Nurses and other frontline workers are miracles as they selflessly risk their lives to save the lives of others and you better believe people are coming to know the glory of God as a result of it. So, instead of waiting around for miracles and signs, and instead of us wondering why God doesn’t do anything to eliminate sin and evil, let us be the miracles that God created us to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
How quickly we forget God’s great deliverances in our lives. How easily we take for granted the miracles he performed in our past.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see the miracles in my life that have brought glory to you, and help me to be a miracle in the lives of others so that they may see your glory as well. Amen.

[1] Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008), 51.

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