When God Is Your Hostage
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Third Time’s The Charm
I recently had the opportunity to hear exciting news from a friend. For the sake of this article, we’ll call him Steven. Steven applied for a job and was ecstatic when he was selected for an interview. He told his friends that he needed prayer because this was a job that he desired. Two weeks later, Steven informed us that he didn’t receive the job.
This is a normal part of life, right? Not for Steven. He explained that he felt like God abandoned him. The fact that God did not provide this job for Steven indicated to him that God does not love him. Despite friends encouraging him otherwise, Steven continued in his sorrow and bitterness for some time.
A couple of weeks later, Steven applied to another job, and just like the previous time, he was ecstatic when he was selected for an interview. Again, he asked for prayer because not only did he desire this job, but he also felt that it was God’s plan for him to get it. Like clockwork, his friends began to pray and waited for the results. For the second time, Steven was not selected for the position.
Steven began to openly vent his frustration towards God. Surely, God must hate him. If God is a good father who gives good gifts, why couldn’t he grant Steven this job? For Steven, God’s love was connected to how well he was doing in life. Similarly, for many of us, God’s love is circumstantial rather than steadfast.
A couple of weeks after his second rejection, Steven applied for a third job, passed the interview, and received the position. He made sure to let everyone know about God’s faithfulness. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were filled with his praises to God. In minutes, God and Steven became best friends again – God had shown Steven that he still loves him by providing this job. God had finally fulfilled his promise towards Steven.
I couldn’t help but take note of his theology of God. In good times, God was good. In bad times, God was bad. What would have happened if Steven was rejected after his third interview? Would he trust in God and find comfort in him or would he become even more distant?
You Know Not What You Ask For
The book of Ecclesiastes is a game changer for many Christians. It tells an amazing story about a man on a journey to seek out the purpose of life. He committed to “explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 1:13) and after doing so, he learned that “all is vanity…” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). To put this man’s journey into perspective, these are some of his accomplishments:
“…I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves and I had homeborn slaves. Also, I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men – many concubines. Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me. All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11).
He had everything that his heart desired. Could you imagine living like that? Try to imagine never having any lack in your life. Imagine being able to eat any food, build any house, or visit any place. For this man, there was almost nothing that he couldn’t do.
Isn’t this what we all desire in life? We study for years, work for decades, or build businesses not only so we can provide for our basic needs, but also so we can achieve our greatest dreams. So many of us are desperate to live a life where we have no lack. This desperation drives everything we do in life, which often influences even our faith in God.
The reason why the book of Ecclesiastes is critical to the lives of so many Christians is that after attaining and experiencing everything that this world had to offer, the author realized that all was vanity. By the end of the story, he summarizes his experience in an unexpected way:
“The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep his commandments…” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Life is about God more than it is about us. We must stop trying to find ourselves outside of him. This is a reality that many of us ignore. A poor man with nothing to his name but God is better off than a rich man with everything to his name but God.
God Is Not Your Hostage
If you’re anything like my friend Steven, this article is for you. Many Christians envision God as a personal genie; he exists only to grant you the things you desire. However, as I’ve written previously, we seldom appreciate the things that we need and we often desire the things which are harmful to us. God is in the business of growing us rather than spoiling us but we desire abundance over provision, material goods over spiritual things, and the world over God. This may be a tough pill to swallow, but if we’re to mature in our faith, it must be swallowed.
What are some of God’s promises according to the scriptures?
- Salvation when we place our faith in Christ Jesus (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10).
- The Holy Spirit to teach us, comfort us, and lead us (John 14:16-17, John 14:26).
- That we would become more like him (Romans 8:28-29, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
- Our daily needs rather than our selfish desires (Matthew 6:11, Matthew 6:25-34).
- Persecution rather than our best life now (John 15:20, 2 Timothy 3:12).
God is not your hostage. He does not exist to give you whatever you want and his arm will not be twisted. He is about his will, not your will.
Too many of us have convinced ourselves that a life of obedience to God is a boring and unfulfilled life. Please listen to me: There is joy in Christ! There is fullness of life in him! He is life itself and nothing else can satisfy like he does. Stop searching elsewhere.
I pray God helps us be more spiritually-minded and less-earthly minded. I pray we would desire him more than anything else. There is freedom in God rather than bondage; give us eyes to see and ears to hear, O Lord.
As Peter proclaimed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69), let our proclamation be the same. He is worthy of it all.
May our hearts burn with the knowledge of Christ.