Letter to a Perplexed Eleven-Year-Old

Dear Tommy,
This is not your real name. But I do know your real name. It starts with an A. Your father told me your name. And I know you are 11 years old. And I believe your parents want to be missionaries.

After I preached in South Carolina recently, your father came up to me and handed me a note with his email address and your name on it. He asked me to write to you. He was very serious and said you had a serious question. The question was something like this:

If God promises to meet all our needs, why are we hungry?

I had just preached a message aboutthe complete authority of Jesus over everything. I didn’t get a chance to talk to your father very long. But I think he agreed with what I said. So he wondered how I would answer your question.

It sounds like your family has been going through some hard times. I am sorry about this. It makes me sad. The Bible says that you and I are like parts of the same body. You are like an arm, and I am like a leg. That means that when you are having a hard time, I feel it, because the Bible says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians [12:26]).

The Bible also says that God’s love makes us want to help people in need. “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love remain in him?” (1 John [3:17]). So if I can help you with something you need, please let me know.

But what your father asked for was not money. He asked for an answer to your question. This means your father loves you very much. He wants you to have truth in your heart, as well as food in your stomach. He knows that there are some situations when truth in the heart is more important than food in the stomach. I’ll tell you about one of those situations in a few minutes.

Tommy, let me tell you a few things that I said to your father and all those people who were at that meeting in South Carolina. These are the things that make your question really important.

God Governs the Smallest Things

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew [28:18]). I said this means that Jesus is the absolute ruler over the world and everything in it, including how much food is in your refrigerator, and what kind of car your family drives, and what kind of house you rent, and how many toys you can have.

Do you know what a sparrow is? You’ve probably seen lots of them where you live. Jesus knew all about little birds like this. They were everywhere. So many of them you couldn’t count them. One day Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew [10:29]).

This is amazing! There are so many of them! Millions all over the world. And God has so much knowledge of each of them, and so much power over them, that not one of them dies and falls to the ground apart from God’s plan.

What was Jesus trying to teach us when he said this? Wasn’t he trying to help us see that even the smallest things in our lives are under God’s control? Things like billions of breezes all over the world, and countless waves on the ocean. He guides them all.

Jesus Can Do All Things

The Bible says he does. Jesus made the winds stop and the waves die down. And so his followers said, “He commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (Luke [8:25]). They were right. Wind and waves obey Jesus. They do what they are told. He still commands them today. Because the Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

This is why your question is so important. What does it mean, if your family goes through a really hard time? What if you want to be missionaries, and the money doesn’t come in the way you prayed it would? What if there’s hardly enough money to pay the rent, and buy food?

Does it mean Jesus has lost some of his power? Does it mean he doesn’t care for you? Does it mean the family has sinned and is being punished?

Tommy, it does not mean any of those things.

You Are Not Being Punished

Jesus cannot lose his power. He is God! (John 1:1-2). And “all things are possible with God” (Mark [10:27]).

He never stops caring for his people. “You are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew [10:31]), and if he watches over them, how much more you! So the Bible says with total truthfulness: “God cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). He really does — right down to the details of food and clothing and shelter.

And you are not being punished because of your sins either. How do I know that? Because you and your parents are Christians. You trust Jesus. And you know what that means! It means Jesus died for you! And you know what that means, don’t you? It means “he bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter [2:24]). And if he bore your sins, Tommy, you can’t bear them! And your family can’t bear them. There is no more punishment for them, because Jesus already took that punishment for you! “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts [10:43]).

So when you go through hard times — and there’s not enough food, and you are hungry — it does not mean that Jesus lost his power, or stopped caring for you, or started punishing you. No. No. No. That is not what it means.

Written by John Piper
Full story at Desiring God

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