I have been thinking about writing this for a while, but after the series Culture Clash at Hidden Valley, I thought this was fitting.
Jesus lived a life of obedience to the Father, servanthood and surrender – words many of us don’t like to hear.
Jesus said, “The most important commandments are to love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:27-28
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate* father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even their own life, such a person cannot be my disciples.” Luke 14:26 (*Matthew 10:27 says love more than me)
“In the world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John16:33
Almost all of his disciples were killed for their faith. To follow Jesus meant total commitment and surrender.
Yet, many American churches and Christians seem to view God more like a genie in a bottle. We want God to bless us, make things easy, answer all our prayers…
We pick out verses that fit this view on God…
He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
“Ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you…” John 15:7b
“Ask and it will be given to you…” Luke
The problem, we like to pick out part of the verse the fits and not the whole verse in context.
This is the entire verse and some other verses in Psalms:
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. (4) Commit your way to the Lord, Trust in Him and He shall bring it to pass. (5) Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him… (7)
When we just quote the second half, we thing God will give us the desires of our heart so we can be happy. We are asking God for this or that to make us happy… If I just had a relationship, a new car, this job… This is the desire of my heart God, give it to me and I will be happy. But if we are truly delighting ourselves God, we are happy with God, God alone. Than our hearts desires will be God or God centered. They could be the same desires but for God’s purpose, and our happiness is not dependent on the desires, our happiness (delight) is in God.
The same concept is true with the next verse. How often do we want to make plans and then say God will bring it to pass. But the first part says commit your way to the Lord. One definition of commit says to give in trust or charge, to consign. That would mean the we would give in trust our plans to God, He would be the one to set our plans, then we can trust Him to bring it to pass. Not here’s what I am going to do God, make it happen.
So, not only do we want to use these verse to get our desires and have God make our plans happen, we also want it done right now! God’s timing is not our timing. Verse seven tells to wait patiently for Him. We don’t want to wait for anything, yet often God asks us to wait. Abraham, the Father of Faith waited over 20 years for the promised son! So even if our desires are God’s desires, it our plans our His plans, we still may have to wait.
Here is another verse we like to quote part of but don’t always read in full context:
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:7-8
Jesus is saying that He will do whatever we wish when we remain in Him, just like delighting in Him and then it is His words (His wishes) in us. The purpose is threefold; to give God glory, to bear fruit and to show that we are His disciples.
Luke 11… Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”
9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!
A couple thoughts… Ask is followed up by seek. Could it be to seek God’s will on what we are asking? Then knock, if you look at the story illustrated in the previous verse, it was took knocking, waiting, persisting… Then verse 13 says He will give us the Holy Spirit. So, what we are asking for is His spirit so we can seek His will and be encouraged while we knock, wait and persist. If you look at the verses just before, it is the Lord’s Prayer which says… your will be done… give us our daily bread… just food for thought!
There are other verses we could dig into, but I think it is clear that the Bible is not giving us magic words to use to get what we want. Jesus did not teach that, He taught and modeled a life of obedience and surrender to the God, a life of servanthood. Servants do what their master says. So is God the Lord of all our Life or do we look at Him as a genie in a bottle to get what we want?
** As a follow up… Jesus does promise to be with us always (Matthew 28:20) He promises to give us abundant life (John 10:10) but this life is not always easy (Matthew 7:14). His plans for us are better have we can ask, think or imagine (Ephesians 3:18-20). He has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11). But to get all He has promised, the life He has promised, we have to be willing to first lose (surrender) our life. (Matthew 10:39)