Monday, January 14, 2008

Ask What You Can Do

The speaker at the Christian entrepreneurs' meeting was going full throttle on the value of positive thinking. On how her life was a failure in terms of health, income, and family relationships until she realized God wanted only the best for His children. "And then I prayed: 'God, I want this illness to shrivel up and disappear, and I want to find a six-figure job, and I want this family problem to be resolved for good...". On and on went the list of "I wants," without even a "please" finding its way in edgewise.

I went away wishing I'd had the nerve to ask that speaker a few questions: Are you saying that we always know what's best for us? Was St. Paul a weak Christian because he never got rich? What's more important: that we be comfortable and successful according to the world's definition, or that we become as spiritually mature and Christlike as possible?

Certainly there are strong Christians who are successful by the world's standards (and don't we all long to be counted among them!), but I doubt many of them got there by talking to God as though He were a butler. Jesus Himself told us to seek first the advancement of God's Kingdom and godly righteousness, and then expect God to meet all our needs (our basic needs, not our every wish--see Matthew 6:31-34). And while "You do not have, because you do not ask God" is also in the Bible (James 4:2, NIV), in context that verse is hardly a license for demanding what we want when we want it--quite the opposite, it is part of a warning against greed and selfishness.

Even among Christians serious about developing godly character, it is relatively rare to hear someone pray, "Lord, show me what to do and I will do it." We'd rather make our plans--and they may well be made with every intention to serve God or meet genuine needs--and then ask God to bless them.

What we really need is to remember Who has the right and wisdom to make all the plans in the first place.

Our God is a God of provision;
He fills every cup to the brim:
But ask not what He can do for you,
But what you can do for Him.

Our God owns a world full of riches,
And all of the stars and the sea:
But ask not what He can give to you,
But what He would have you be.

For the joys of this world are fleeting,
And the rich of this world are poor
If they spend their thoughts on earthly wants
And miss Christ's knock at the door.

We become distracted by good things
And forget that "one thing" is key:
If the way of Christ is your one goal,
He will give you all that you need!

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