I was late for church yesterday. I had gotten up in plenty of time to make the 8:45 service but I was delayed. I did something that caused me to be late. I opened up Facebook. I know. I know. But I'm not all THAT addicted. At least that's what I tell my wife whenever I "come up for air." But I do like to keep an eye on my friends. And actually, it wasn't the opening of Facebook that caused my tardiness. It was my replying to a message I received. A message from a friend.
It was the third or fourth message of this type I have gotten in the past few months so I thought it might be beneficial to write something about it here today. All of the messages seem to be based on a couple of common misconceptions. The first is that we have been placed here on this earth to have fun. The American dream is to get the most we can out of life and have good time doing it. We want to have a good job, a nice home, and perhaps a spouse and some kids. These are the things that we all want for ourselves. But then something goes wrong with the plan. Our plan. So naturally we complain about it.
The messages I receive usually begin with the same "dream theme." Life was going along good but them all of a sudden something bad happened and everything just went into the toilet. It might be the loss of a friend, the breakup of a relationship or the loss of a job - some life-changing event or another. The problems are all major to the person experiencing them. That brings us to the second misconception, that God caused it. I don't know if God CAUSED it so much as He ALLOWED it.
"Why is God doing this to me?"
"What did I do to God to deserve this?"
"Is God punishing me for something I've done? Why?"
"God must want me to be unhappy in life. Why else would this be happening to me?"
The main problem that everyone of these people have, and quite frankly a lot of us have (including me), is this: We simply do not KNOW God. If we truly knew God we wouldn't be asking those types of questions. If we truly had faith we would know exactly why we are being tested or tried or even punished. It's really rather simple to understand . . . from a heavenly perspective.
Think about it. What does God really want from us? Does He simply want us to believe in Him? Or does He want something more? Our devotion perhaps? Or our love? Our obedience maybe? The answer is . . . yes! He wants ALL those things. And more!
If we are to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength . . . and we are . . . just where do WE fit into things? When do WE get what WE want? And that's the problem. WE should not be a consideration. At all.
Maybe this would be a good time to ask that age-old philosophy question, "Why are we here?" The answer, from a Christian perspective, is easy. We are here to worship. To a minor degree we are also here to grow, to learn and to follow but primarily we are here to worship and praise our creator. We are slaves, our lives having been bought and paid for on the cross.
But does God really punish us? Surely not our loving Daddy God!!! Really? Did your parents ever punish YOU? Do THEY love you? Then why wouldn't God punish us? He loves us enough to discipline us so that we will learn. Learn . . . from our mistakes.
The Old Testament is filled with examples of God punishing His people. Let's look at the book of Jeremiah for one particular example AND the answer to all of the "Why me?" questions we keep asking. Please read this and read it . . . slowly.
"11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity." - Jeremiah 29:1:11-14
God has a plan for us and His plan is for us to prosper! To have hope and a future! And what's God looking for? Verse 12 . . . He wants us to worship Him and praise Him. And then what? What does God promise He will do then? He will listen to us!
Our primary focus in life must be the Trinity - God, Jesus and His Holy Spirit! After we offer up our praise and worship THEN God will hear us from heaven. And when I say "hear us" I mean he ALWAYS hears us but then, through our faithfulness and obedience, God is more likely to act. "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." - James 5:16
When we learn more about God we will find ourselves asking different questions all together. Rather than ask, "Why is God doing this to me?" we will be asking, "What is God trying to teach me?" Instead of asking, "What did I do to deserve this?" we well ask, "Why has God shown me His grace when I deserve death?" Instead of asking, "Why is God punishing me?" we will say, "Thank you Lord for revealing my sins to me. Please forgive me."
God loves us. There is no denying that. He loves us enough to discipline us when we screw up. Remember, sanctification is a life-long process. We are trying to become more and more Christ-like in our behavior. God is just trying to help us get there. Let's allow Him to do His work in us.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" - Micah 6:8