Many wonder: Why does God allow suffering if He truly cares for His creation? But are all the troubles in the world the result of God’s choices… or mankinds?
“This Is My Father’s World” is a popular hymn written by Maltbie Davenport Babcock and first published in 1901. There is little doubt that it came from a heart that was grateful for the beauty he saw on his walks along the Niagara Escarpment and on the shores of Lake Ontario in upstate New York. Whether sung a cappella by children or by more polished voices with accompanied instrumentation, it has a captivating melody with words declaring God’s glorious creation.
Who can dismiss such phrases as, “I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—His hand the wonders wrought”? Or, “And to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres”? King David of Israel shared similar thoughts when he wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork…. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:1, 3).
Never in the history of man have we had so little excuse to not believe in a divine Creator. We can now see further into the universe than ever before imagined, and we can also turn the lens around to peer into the intricacies of the tiniest of life’s structures. We can dive into ocean depths to discover strange and marvelous creatures. In the last hundred years, we have explored a world of wonders totally unknown to previous generations—birds, insects, fish, amphibians, and primates.
There seems to be no end to the creations of God we can see in living color on our televisions. Yet almost every nature documentary gives credit to a blind evolutionary process. For sure, microevolution is at work. New dog breeds are constantly being developed, for example—but they still remain dogs. The same can be said for cats, cattle, fish, and birds—new breeds, but always the same kind. And the gap between dead dirt and vibrant life is so great as to be mathematically and logistically impossible to bridge. Life is infinitely more complex than science once thought, and men who are honest with the facts must either admit this to themselves or continue to be blinded by an irrational, anti-God ideology.
Babcock looked at the world as he saw it in nature. But he wasn’t unaware that there were problems: “Oh, let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” With that we most certainly agree—God is the ultimate ruler of the universe.
Each stanza of Babcock’s hymn begins, “This is my Father’s world.” In one sense, he was right—God created this planet and all the marvelous creatures in it. He is in charge, overall. But in another sense, this idea obscures a vital truth that most miss—even those calling themselves “Christian.” That truth is that Satan, the devil, is currently the ruler of this world.
Now, please don’t take my word for that without proving it for yourself. Look up and read how Jesus three times referred to His adversary as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). This truth is further shown by the Apostle Paul: “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3–4).
Paul wrote of Satan in a manner that should be a serious warning for all of us, describing the Ephesians’ past conduct “in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh” (Ephesians 2:2–3). Yes, the devil truly has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9). This is currently his world. This explains why we see so many troubles throughout history and why we are no closer today to peace than we were thousands of years ago. We have brought this truth out more than once to Tomorrow’s World subscribers—so, what is the point? Why is this so important?
Few areas of life direct the course of our world more than how we entertain ourselves. As an example, this past summer, the wildly popular Barbie movie raked in more than a billion dollars in box office sales in the first three weeks after its release. But this was hardly a harmless escape into fantasy. As many reviewers recognized, an agenda behind it was intent on slamming the unique biblical roles given to men and women.
Agendas have always been pervasive in popular entertainment. I grew up watching Popeye the Sailor cartoons, not knowing at a young age that they contained promotional messages to get children, especially boys who wanted to sprout big muscles, to eat more spinach. Tobacco companies donated their products or paid for placement so that millions of viewers would see cool and sophisticated actors and actresses smoking on camera. Millions bought the image—and millions have died from heart disease, COPD, lung cancer, and other maladies as a result. “Reality” shows are hardly more than infomercials for products—and for “lifestyles” that were taboo not long ago.
Adults may see through this, though many are clearly persuaded by the not-always-so-subtle pitches. But what about our children and grandchildren? Do they recognize that adults—who themselves are deceived by the spirit ruler of this world—are shaping their malleable minds, baking into them various anti-Bible agendas?
Behind it all is that “prince of the power of the air” who hates God and His institution of the family. Only a very few recognize that Satan has directed the course and path of human culture and trends. Consider how successful he has been in promoting tattoos to the minds of those who accept his propaganda—contrary to God’s explicit prohibition (Leviticus 19:28). How many comprehend this and make decisions accordingly?
Clearly, great dangers in our culture come from entertainment promoting anti-God agendas, gory and sexual video games, pornography, politics, and so many other aspects of “the course of this world” directed by “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.” But if God is all-powerful, why does He allow this rebellious being to corrupt the world? Why doesn’t He stop him? The answer is found in understanding God’s overall purpose for man, which He reveals in the opening chapters of the Bible.
Man was not made like any animal. It is God’s purpose to make mankind in His image, after His likeness (Genesis 1:26–27). We were made to be born into His family as His children (Romans 8:12–17; Hebrews 2:12–18; 2 Corinthians 6:16–18). But Adam and Eve rejected God’s command on how to live, determining right and wrong for themselves with the devil’s encouragement. Though He had warned them not to, God gave them free rein to do exactly that, and He has given this same free moral agency to all people since. We want it our way, and God essentially says in response, I won’t stop you—but understand that there will be consequences.
God is testing all of us to see which way we will choose. We must learn to resist the wrong and choose what is right. Doing so builds holy and righteous character within us. But time is running out for mankind’s experiment in self-rule.
Jesus prophesied that the course of this world, left to ourselves, will lead to human extinction (Matthew 24:21–22). Only at the brink will God step in to stop mankind’s madness. Only after Jesus Christ’s return will we be able to rightfully sing, “This is my Father’s world; why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!”