Sunday, September 17, 2017

The race is not to the swift

I've discussed Nabeel's situation before, and some of my posts have been occasioned by his dire situation, even if I didn't mention him in particular. But I have some parting thoughts. Christians will have questions about his death, and Muslims will have malicious things to say, so I might as well offer my 2¢.

I can't read God's mind, so I don't have anything "authoritative" to say about this particular case. But a few general observations:

i) From God's standpoint, Christian celebrities don't get special treatment. To be a famous believer doesn't mean you go to the head of the line. From God's perspective, there's no express check-in or express boarding if happen to be a famous. 

I don't mean to suggest that Nabeel was just a celebrity. There are good Christian celebrities and bad Christian celebrities. From everything I've read, he was a sincere and dedicated apologist and missionary. Still, God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).

ii) There's a sense in which the number of miracles is arbitrary. God would always do one more miracle or one less miracle. There's no intrinsic threshold. 

At the same time, there's a balance to be struck inasmuch as miracles disrupt the future. In a cause-effect world, changing a variable in the present has widening ramifications down the line. So it's a question of what kind of future God wants. There are tradeoffs. One man's meat is another man's poison. A beneficial miracle today may harm someone else tomorrow. 

iii) It's not God's intention to perfect a fallen world. God intercedes often enough to keep the Christian flame going from one generation to another. 

iv) Prayer isn't like buying up lottery tickets, where you raise the odds of getting what you ask for by adding more prayer warriors to the prayer chain. It's not as though, if a nobody patient has one person praying for him, while a celebrity patient has ten thousand people praying for him, the person who gets the most votes wins the heavenly lottery. 

Indeed, the God of 1 Cor 1-3 is apt to confound that calculation. If anything, God is more likely to do a miracle for somebody who's got less going for him. "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all" (Eccl 9:11).

v) God doesn't love us because we're indispensable to him; rather, he is indispensable to us. 

vi) God cares about little things as well as big things. Nabeel's conversion blew up his family life. His illness brought them back together. That may seem less important from a global perspective than his ministry, but God cares about the little picture as well as the big picture. Individuals. Individual families. 

Due to artificial familiarity, there's a tendency to feel that celebrities belong to all of us. But that's an illusion. They belong to a tight little circle of family and friends. Until he was sidelined by cancer, Nabeel used to spend most of the year on the road. After the diagnosis, family came first. 


  1. Steve I think your insight is profoundly insightful yet again

  2. We also have a tendency to think of death in a completely negative light, but that is only from our earthly perspective. If we view it also with eternity and heaven in view, we will better grasp that death has lost its sting and our sorrow is but momentary.

  3. Of course, I was speaking generally and not intending to be insensitive to those Nabeel has left behind.