Returns for Our Faith: Examining What We Expect From God

vending machineIn 2000, I had the pleasure of talking to a Messianic Rabbi about where I felt the church was heading. At that time, my life and faith were both dramatically changing, and as a result, I was really frustrated in my church life. Everything was the same old, same old. Where I wanted to press in deeper to God, I felt held back. I was taking a fresh look at what I had taken for granted for many years, and what bothered me the most, was how we were treating the Lord.

I told the Rabbi that we were treating God like a vending machine. We inserted:
a) time in church, and/or
b) tithes and gifts, and/or
c) the expected praise and worship, and/or
d) the expected Bible study, and/or
e) the expected prayer…
… then we expected God to spit out blessings, healing and deliverance in return, as we’d done what the Word said to do.

But what about the times when prayers didn’t get answered, no matter how obedient we were? What then? What about when God seemed to be saying, “no.” But… but we’d done what was asked and expected, so where were our answers? I knew Christians that were confused by that, and in the past I had been too.

Let me take you back further to 1989, when after being offered life insurance, a Christian friend of mine said, “I don’t need insurance, I’ve got God!”

She was right, however, she was also wrong. Reliance on the Lord is the ultimate faith, however, she was in danger of turning the Lord into an insurance policy. It was again, taking faith and turning it into a contractual arrangement.

The Lord loves to give to His children. Jesus said: “keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.” Matthew 7:7-11

We can seek, yet a balance is needed. One day after school, I came home and found that my parents had been shopping. Often they’d bring me back some small thing, but this day, I asked outright what I had gotten and was told, it was nothing. My mother angrily informed me later, that she had gotten me a treat, but because I got greedy, she acted as any wise parent would, and held it back. Can we get so greedy with the Lord, that He sometimes finds it wise to do the same? This may be one of the many answers.

The strongest people in the Bible, are those who loved God unconditionally through sheer hell. I am referring to Moses, Job, John the Baptist, Paul and King David. All of them lived out their faith the hard way. They went through the most severe trials, not just discomfort, all because they were serving God. At times answers did not come, or were delayed.

Just then a hand touched me and lifted me, still trembling, to my hands and knees. And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling.

Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.” Daniel 10:10-14

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” Job 13:15a

Just because you are a Christian, don’t expect to get it easy, or to get everything you want. Being a child of God is about being faithful and devoted to your Heavenly Father, no matter what.

We don’t believe to receive, we believe because we know and love God.

In John 16:33 Jesus said plainly, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Because of the sin in the world, that applies to all of us, no exceptions.

hope-candle-blueSo if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.” 1 Peter 4:19

“The righteous person faces many troubles, but the LORD comes to the rescue each time.” Psalm 34:9

So despite the temptation to believe in any theology that gives us a promise of a guaranteed answer, whether that be prosperity, healing or any blessing, we have to bite the bullet and be prepared for life to be rough at times. It does not mean we haven’t pleased God, or that we aren’t overcomers; neither does it mean that the Lord has deserted us. There is nothing to be gained by blaming ourselves, or God, for falling short of impossible standards of quick victory. Moses had bad days, as did David. [Refs: Numbers 11:10-15 and Psalm 6:1-7] They were both honest with God and knew that in good time, answers would come. If you have read the full accounts of their lives, you’ll know that God did fulfil His promises and care for all their needs. They are our role models. The same principles apply equally to our lives.

The secret to success in not in any specific Bible verse or prayer, it is in our genuine love for the Lord, which motivates us to stay close to Him – no matter what.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honour come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in Him at all times.
Pour out your heart to Him,
for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:5-8

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