We often make deals with God.
God I’ll do this for you, if I get this in return.
So when we don’t get what we wanted in return… the deal is off.
There are two powerful lines in Finding God in the Dark (p.68) placed back-to-back by Ronnie Martin:
Joy happens as the result of being fulfilled by one person, and that’s Jesus.
I had come to a point where I was getting no fulfillment from being in Christ.
Can you relate to this? I often can. We know the truth of where we get joy from, yet we aren’t experiencing it. This happens, as Martin points out, when we start loving something more than God.
Consider the deal made with God above. What is the thing you wanted God to do for you? It was likely extremely serious and significant. If we turn our backs to God when we don’t get the thing we wanted, it takes a lot of honesty to admit we loved that thing more than God. To repent to God that we are guilty of idolatry.
In Martin’s case, it was the type of career success he had envisioned for himself. When that success didn’t come, the joy in Christ left.
Many can relate to this, especially those of us in Christian ministry. It’s all too easy and convenient to cloak our selfish ambition with a blanket of “but why wouldn’t God want to use me to reach lots of people for Christ?” (See James 3:14-16 for some sobering up on this subject)
For others, it’s in their marriages. “Well God, I’ve done it your way, now give me my payback…make my spouse like this, or like that… Or reward my career because I’ve given you the morality of my sex life.”
Do you realize Jesus didn’t even get what he wanted when he prayed? See Luke 22:42. The “cup” Jesus didn’t want to endure was his oncoming death on a cross for the sins of the world. The key to Jesus’ prayer, as well as his continued response to his God-not-intervening-suffering was his trust that the Father’s way is best. He genuinely believed in the almighty power of the Father and His perfect plan. I preached on this last Sunday:
One thing that I, and many others, can tell you from experience, is that sin will never make your situation better in the long run. Our idea of a sinful quick fix or a sinful escape has never worked out in the end. Sometimes this is all you have to hold on to when you are going through your most difficult times: God led me here, and He will lead me through it, and no matter how bad things are, they are better than any sinful alternative. So I will press in to the Father, just like Jesus did on the cross time and time again, rather than turn my back to the Father.
The thing about our deals with God is that they never end. The thing about selfish ambition is that it never ends. If God gives us an inch, we want a yard. If he gives us a yard, we want a mile. The whole mindset is out of whack.
Rather than living like we are entitled to receive what we want from God, what if we lived like we were pardoned?
Imagine you’ve committed heinous crimes and now are sent to prison and sentenced to death. After spending some time in prison, a pardon comes down from on high and you are free to go. How do you feel? How do you live?
And not only are you pardoned, the One who pardoned you loves you, is trustworthy, is in control, and invites you to walk through life with him at your side, as he prepares an eternal place of perfection for you as a member of his family, where there’s no more pain, suffering, or death.
This is the joy we have in Jesus.
This is the joy and the peace that nothing in this world can give.
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