The Difference Between Christian Faith & Worldly Fatalism

1 Samuel 3:18

It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): When the awful tidings were broken to the aged Eli that both of his wayward sons were to be smitten by Divine judgment on the same day, he quietly acquiesced saying, “It is the LORD: let Him do what seemeth Him good.”

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): This he speaketh not out of obstinacy or hypocrisy, as some have censured, but in a humble submission to his heavenly Father.

A. W. PINK: It is to be carefully noted that he did not take refuge in fatalism.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Fate and fatalism; the world has believed in that―what is to be, will be.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): What is fate?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: What’s fate? “Well, nobody knows what fate is,” they say, “all we know is that there seems to be something that’s influencing us and governing us, and it’s more powerful than we are. If you’re fated to do something, then you’ll do it; if you’re fated that such a thing should happen to you, then it will happen to you.” That’s fatalism—this belief in some unseen power that we can’t define, but which is obviously there governing circumstances and what happens to us…It teaches that what is to be, will be—therefore it is utter folly to strive or make any effort. Fatalism teaches that you can do nothing about life, that there are powers and factors controlling you inexorably, and holding you in the grip of a rigid determinism.

C. H. SPURGEON: But there is a difference between that and God’s Providence. Providence says, ‘Whatever God ordains must be.’—I hear one say, “Well, Sir, you seem to be a fatalist!” No, far from it. There is just this difference between fate and Providence: Fate is blind; Providence is full of eyes. There is a design in everything and an end to be answered… All things are working together and working together for good. They are not done because they must be done, but they are done because there is some reason for it. It is not only that the thing is because it must be. But the thing is, because it is right it should be―the wisdom of God never ordains anything without a purpose. Everything in this world is working for some one great end. Fate does not say that. Fate simply says that the thing must be. Fate is a blind thing…Providence is not that ‘what is, must be’but that, what is, works together for the good of our race, and especially for the good of the chosen people of God.

A. W. PINK: And what is faith? A blind credulity? A fatalistic acquiescence? No, far from it. Faith is a resting on the sure Word of the living God, and therefore says, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose,” Romans 8:28.

OSWALD CHAMBERS (1874-1917): The difference between fatalism and faith lies just here. Fatalism means, “My number’s up; I have to bow to the power whether I like it or not; I do not know the character of the power, but it is greater than I am, and I must submit.”  The submission of faith is that I do know the character of the Power, and this was the line Job took:  “Though He slay me, yet I will trust the fact that His character is worthy,” Job 13:15.  This is the attitude of faith all through—I submit to One whose character I know but whose ways are obscured in mystery just now. We do know the character of God, if we are Christians, because we have it revealed to us in Jesus Christ—“He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” John 14:9. Anything that contradicts the manifestation given in and through the Lord Jesus Christ cannot be true of God. Therefore we know that the character of God is noble and true and right, and any authority from God is based, not on autocracy or mere blind power.

C. H. SPURGEON: That man who says, “It is my Father’s will,” is the happy man!

A. W. PINK: There is a general lack of regard unto God’s admonitions and instructions when troubles and sufferings come upon Christians. Too often they view them as the common and inevitable ills which man is heir unto, and perceive not that their Father hath any special hand or design in them. Hence they are stoically accepted in a fatalistic attitude. To be stoical under adversity is the policy of carnal wisdom: make the best of a bad job is the sum of its philosophy. The man of the world knows no better than to grit his teeth and brave things out, having no Divine Comforter, Counselor, or Physician.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Now, on the other hand, as soon as we are convinced that God cares for us, our minds are easily led to patience and humility.

C. H. SPURGEON: We find a depth of comfort in saying, “It is the Lord, let Him do what seems good to Him.”

A. W. PINK: The contentment here exhorted unto is something other than a fatalistic indifference: it is a holy composure of mind, a resting in the Lord.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): How often, when a difficulty or trial has arisen, either from feelings within or from circumstances without, helpless as an infant I have shut my door and come to the Lord, and laid it before Him, pleading the promise—“Cast thy burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain thee,” Psalm 55:22.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The great advantage and efficacy of prayer are declared and proved: “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” whether he pray for himself or for others―Elijah “prayed that it might not rain;” and God heard him in his pleading so that it “rained not on the earth for the space of three years and six months.  Again he prayed, and the heaven gave rain,” James 5:17,18.

A. W. PINK: And Paul was no stoical fatalist. “Pray for us…that I may be restored to you the sooner,” Hebrews 13:18,19. The language used here by Paul denotes that he believed man’s goings are of the Lord, that He disposes the affairs of the Church much according to their prayers, to His glory and their consolation. “That I may be restored to you the sooner” is very striking, showing that Paul was no blind fatalist: if God had decreed the exact hour, how could prayer bring it to pass “the sooner”? Ah, it is utterly vain for us to reason about or philosophize over the consistency between God’s eternal decrees and prayer: sufficient for us to be assured from Scripture that prayer is both a bounden duty and blessed privilege.

CHARLES SIMEON (1759-1836): Know ye, then, your privilege: Carry to the Lord your every want, your every fear; and “cast all your care on Him, who careth for you,” 1 Peter 5:7. “Commit your way to Him,” and not only shall your trials be alleviated, but “your very thoughts,”―the most variable things under the whole heaven―“shall be established,” Proverbs 16:3. “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,” Isaiah 54:17; and they who possess it, enjoy a heaven upon earth.


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