He's Not the God You Want
I have a really good friend who I’ve known for more than 10 years. He is an Atheist who strives to convince people of the dangers and irrationality of religion. I am a Christian who strives to glorify God and make Christ known. We both love music, humor and long conversations about the important things in life. The other day he posted a part of his journey to Atheism that I hadn’t heard before. Here’s what he said (reproduced with his permission):
“I was raised a Jew, but not very religious. I decided to test god at a very young age.. Maybe 10 or so, by wishing for something every night that I didn't actually want. So every night I would pray as hard as I could for a piano. I had no desire for it and so it would be completely random for me to receive one. In this praying I told god that it was simply a thing to prove he exists and that he can take it right back. I did this for months (the better part of a year if I recall correctly) and the piano never arrived. I realized then that god wasn't real, at least in any way that it had ever been explained to me. I am really glad I knew to question things at such a young age.”
On the flip side of the same coin, my pastor last Sunday referenced a certain church (not ours) that has recently challenged its members in this way:
"Each of us has a unique opportunity to be a part of the incredible life change happening around us at _____ Church by bringing our tithes and offerings to the House…If you are not tithing already, the 90-Day Challenge is the best place to start. We commit to you that if you tithe for 90 days and God doesn't hold true to his promise of blessings, we will refund 100 percent of your tithe."
Source credit: http://www.christianpost.com/news/texas-megachurch-promises-100-percent-refund-in-tithe-challenge-if-god-doesnt-hold-true-to-his-promise-of-blessings-121544/
You don’t really want that God. You don’t want God to be like that. What would it mean if He was?!?!
What if you could pray hard enough, or correctly enough, or long enough to make God do what you want Him to do...even if it was for seemingly good things like to show you that He’s real, give you a tangible sign of His existence or abundantly bless you? Have you ever considered that if God functioned this way He would be forced to be subject to everyone’s will? What if the people you know (friends, enemies and everyone in between) could cause God to act how they wanted Him to by having enough faith? Would that be in your best interest? In society’s best interest?
It is MERCIFUL for God not to respond to our demands like some divine Santa Claus. Thankfully He is NOT a vending machine of blessings. If He did all we asked Him to do, just to prove Himself to us, that would make Him weak, needy and unworthy of our worship. If that’s how God functioned He wouldn’t be God at all! He would be something we made up to feel better about ourselves and give us purpose in life. If God could be bought, He wouldn't be God. God doesn’t need our approval or validation to be God. The fact that I don’t completely understand God and His ways is what makes Him worthy of worship to me! If I COULD completely understand Him, that would make me better than, or at least equal to God, and I KNOW that I’m not worthy of worship...and neither are you.
And when He doesn’t respond the way I want Him to I say, “I guess He doesn’t even exist. I’ll put my faith in something I can control.” Which is another way of saying, “I’ll put my faith in me.”
This way of thinking elevates the things I want above God. It says, “I want ‘blessings’ so I’ll do my part by tithing. God better do His part now!” God becomes a means to an end. In effect I’m saying, “God, I don’t want YOU, I want what You can give me.” Which is another way of saying, “God, I don’t want You.”
This is very bad for us. It sets us up to fail. What happens when the blessing runs out? Even if I get my tithe refunded I’ll spend it eventually, right? What happens when I “believe in myself” and then fail? How can I be sure I won’t fail again, and at a more critical time? What about when things seem out of control? When friends aren’t what we need them to be? When the things, people, processes or theories we put our trust in don’t meet our expectations? When suffering inevitably comes? What do we do?
Paul David Tripp says:
“When a certain set of desires rules our hearts, we reduce prayer to the menu of human desire. Worse, we shrink God from his position of all-wise, all-loving, all-powerful Father to a divine waiter we expect to deliver everything we ask. But God will not shrink to this size. He will only be our Father and King, who “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Ps. 103:5). He knows what is best, and he will not let there be peace until he alone controls our hearts. He is a Warrior King, who will not rest when we are captive to other kings. He fights for us, for the thoughts and desires of our hearts.” (Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, p. 83)
As He fights for us it may sometimes feel like He’s fighting against us because our desires, which are rooted in our pride and a quest for control, are ultimately for what isn’t best for us. “What I think I want can be deceptive, convincing me of something less than what God created me to experience.” (Peacemakers University Conflict Coaching Participant Guide p. 53) And what is what’s best for us? What did God create me to experience? Desiring, seeking, knowing, resting in and becoming more like Christ. When we know Christ personally, our Father will sovereignly work to bring those things to fruition in our lives because He loves us and is for our good (Romans 8:28-29, Matthew 6:33). We were designed to be in perfect relationship with God. When we rejected God and chose to be our own gods, that relationship was fractured and our desires became self-centered and broken. God loves us too much to let us hopelessly wallow in our own self-destruction, and has provided us a way to be in right relationship with Him again through the self-sacrificing life, death and resurrection of Christ. We can trust our all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving Father to do what’s best (conform us to the image of Christ), even if what’s best includes not acting the way we want Him to or being who we want Him to be. He isn’t the God we want. He is the God we need.
Sally Lloyd-Jones says:
“Our strong God is the one who rescues us - not our strong faith. Because faith isn’t just you holding on to God. It’s God holding on to you.” (Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing, p. 127)
For more on this subject read John 6 and take note of how, after the feeding of the 5000, the people can’t get their focus off of bread (a.k.a. a free meal) and how Jesus keeps explaining that they will only ever be fully satisfied in Him, the Bread of Life.