The Christian existence is filled with ludicrously shortsighted sayings that sound funny when we first hear them (too often, from the pulpit), but ultimately result in the weakening of our faith and approach to the throne of God.
Like this one, which I politely tolerated long before there were Facebook memes:
“Don’t pray for patience, because by golly, God’ll put you in situations to make sure you get it!” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Or, if you must, LOL.
Who Wants Pain?
Given that the average human being has an eye out for comfort and security, the end result to statements like this is that we won’t pray for patience, because that cold-blooded, insensate God we serve is ready to slap us around with suffering and pain, since, well, we asked for it.
So we don’t ask for it, because while we would, sort of, kind of, like to grow in our Christian lives, we don’t want to do it that way.
Thankfully, we are told, there are other, painless ways to grow in our Christianity:
We join small groups, sit in circles, and share.
We attend Sunday School, sit in a circle, and nod sagely as the teacher up front reads from his lesson plan. We raise our hands, like schoolchildren, when we have a question or socially acceptable comment.
We participate in ministries suggested to us by those over us.
We watch videos of Christian leaders instructing us how to manage our money, our lives, our children, and our relationships. Afterwards, we sit in a circle, and discuss. The leader reads from his lesson plan.
Busy and Active and Safe
It’s all so safe and secure and busy and purposeful — how could we not feel that we are “living the Christian life” when we spend so much time doing and doing, doing and doing,
” . . . rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there”? (Isaiah 28: 10)
But after it’s all said and done, and we’ve switched off the nightly conservative Christian news report interpreting our world for us, are we any more patient? Trusting? Perseverent? Courageous? Different, in any significant way, from people who do not believe in Christ?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 6: 19 to “not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
In other words, there is no Christian 401k retirement plan, one that looks just like what the world wants except with words like Jesus, God, faith, power, and, “It’s a God Thing, man,” thrown in.
God Gives Us Good Things; They Just Don’t Look Like It
Acquiring treasures in heaven involves asking God for them — not for money, not for security, not for status, not for fitting in — but rather, for that patience we’re so scared of praying for.
There’s nothing frightening about praying for patience, or a deeper faith, or for understanding, or a genuinely compassionate heart. While it’s true that the result of this prayer will likely be painful, it’s not because God is a sadist. It’s because He put the desire to pray for whatever quality we need in our heart in the first place, and when we ask Him to push us, change us, teach us, we are responding to His prodding.
From a spiritual perspective, it is a good, necessary thing. From our human point of view, it’s something we’d rather not have, thank you.
So we have a choice, now, of listening to that voice and moving closer, deeper, more profoundly into our relationship with Christ, or we can ignore it, plug our ears, close our eyes, sit in the circle, and share.
In Isaiah 6: 9-10, God said,
“Go and tell this people:
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.
“‘Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.
“‘Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.'”
Who is “this people,” and could it possibly be any of us? If you ever wonder, vaguely, whether you’re a little dense, a little obtuse, a little too involved in life’s cares to be fully paying attention, this is a good, solid first step.
The second step is the biggest: it’s asking God, “Are my eyes closed? Are my fingers in my ears? I’m turning, God, and facing you. Heal me.”
What happens next will, I’m pretty dang sure, involve growing pains. But the alternative is to go back to the group, sit in a circle, and nod our heads.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. Years ago, while I was gently sleeping, God shook me awake and said, “Open your eyes! I love you, and I love the world so much that I died for you, and them. I’ve given you unique gifts and abilities, and I want you to use them.
“It won’t be easy. You’ll look different from many people around you, including those who call themselves Mine, but I need you up. Now, my precious child. I am with you — why are you afraid?”
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