April 12, 2009

Kingdom Promises

I will admit, I have spent the last 9 months mad at God. It took me all this time to admit it. For the longest time I called it “hurt”. That sounded better, plus it made me the offended one which justified me to take my time and demand my space until I was ready to forgive. Sounds blasphemous to even make such a claim – that I would ever need to forgive God, but let’s be honest, if that’s what was going on inside me, it doesn’t really matter how you dress it up to make it sound better.

I have spent twenty years walking this journey of faith, many steps of which I made in pursuit of blessing. I believe He is God and He is the Giver of all good things just as the scriptures teach us. I know only God can grant my heart’s desires, therefore I agree to play by His rules. Yes, I want to obey God because I love Him and am indebted to the cost of the cross, but I am half flesh and flesh doesn’t serve or love or sacrifice without anticipation of reward. Twenty years into this partnership I felt entitled to an eventual return on my investment. By my definition, that meant simple pleasures, reasonable happiness, safety, security, provision, and health. By my expectation, provision should come in the form of a faithful, god-fearing husband to grow old with and if I must wait for that then safety should come in the form of a stable, well-paying, enjoyable job. By my definition, security should come in the form of healthy, happy children to share my life with and if I must wait for them then unconditional love should come in the form of healthy pets to come home to and keep me warm at night.

I played by these rules and believed, “God, I’ll stay faithful to your rigid life instructions, I’ll work to further your kingdom, I’ll pay my dues in the ring of morality, but I’m anticipating these specific requests be met.” I was convinced that He loved me enough to die for me so why shouldn’t His perfect will over my life be comfortable and painless?

As reality played out, neither my dreams nor the substitutes occurred as I expected. The godly husband was not provided and my dearest friend became widowed in an instant. Still childless, my five year old dog was diagnosed with cancer requiring the amputation of her leg. The stable, stimulating job didn’t come without attempting and failing eight times, returning to school, and forfeiting years of leisure for hard work followed by a abrupt season of unemployment.

After repeat disappointment, longsuffering and tragedy, when my coping skills failed me, I eventually concluded, “What have I been doing all this for? Everything I’m living to attain is worthless. What do I have if I ever get the things I’m working and waiting for? If I ever get it, I can lose it in a second. Apparently you have changed the rules on me God. I don’t want to play this game your way anymore.”

I fell out of love with God just because my expectations were not met. I locked myself away in the privacy of my own little hovel and I surrendered to my anger. I wanted nothing to do with God. I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want to go to church. I didn’t want to deal with my spiritual life at all. I hardened my heart and God allowed me to distance myself from Him.

The Bible warns about those who harden their hearts, they become vessels of evil and run the risk of never returning to Him. A hard heart is a very dangerous thing and although I discovered that mine is capable of such an about-face, God was merciful. He tolerated my sinfulness and remained ever patient waiting on me to return to a place of desiring Him again. He never left me although I did everything to shut Him out. He did not return my treatment of Him with the banishment I deserved. In a gracious gesture of love, He extended a lifeline to me so that I could see the precarious state of my heart and come to understand the foolishness of my ways.

In a moment of revelation He ministered to my heart with this truth, “I have not answered your prayers because you have asked for things that I reserve only for Heaven. You have anticipated a husband who can not die, a dog that can not get sick and a job that you can not lose. I have made you no promises at all because I refuse to make promises that I don’t intend to keep. Until you understand that this earth possesses only temporary blessings, then you are always praying, believing and living outside of my will and I can not meet your requests. I will not grant kingdom promises on earth. That is what Heaven is for.”

Revelation 21:4 confirms the reality of Heaven with this depiction, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

If God performed according to my expectations, then what difference would there be between Heaven and Earth?

There is one thing on this earth that I can celebrate today which I will not lose tomorrow and that is that God is on His throne in a place of power and control keeping all things in line with His plan. Not even sin, wickedness or tragedy triumphs over God’s authority. He is the great “I AM”. Have you ever let that single truth resonate its power through your being?

So when we pray, “Our Father which art in Heaven” remember that He reigns supreme over the earth but not on the earth. We are still on the earth, we are not yet in Heaven, and the earth has its proper place contrary to Heaven. Your experience and mine on this fallen planet can’t be anything but fallen. To expect otherwise is to delude ourselves.

And when we pray, “For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever” notice that His kingdom is not this one. This earth and all its pain will pass away, but His power and His glory can be praised even now! Let us praise what is worthy to be praised and not objects of illusion. Striving to capture and preserve this life is nothing but nonsense. It will be gone tomorrow no matter what we do or how much we wish otherwise. Cling to the reality that never fades, Christ crucified and the victory won!

1 comment:

Matthew said...

First, fear... In any form, fear is the enemy of faith. It has so many faces, and we are so often fooled. Worry is a face of fear. Hurt is a face of fear. Fear, in any form, will kill hope. Fear can be very mild or very strong. I believe the enemy would like nothing more than very weak fear to be at the root of all believers thoughts to stifle their faith; and therefore, question their conviction that God is in control.

Second, the Holy Spirit...He is on the earth with us. That alone tells us "Kingdom Promises" manifest themselves on earth. Jesus told us the Holy Spirit would come and He did.

So, if fear is the enemy of faith, and faith is the substance of things hoped for, then hope is our delicate flower we must protect from fear. But how do we recognize fear, especially the very subtle faces of fear?

The answer to recognizing any form of fear is best stated in John 14:27. Jesus gave us His peace and told us to not let our hearts be troubled or afraid. If we do not feel peace about something, somewhere fear is lurking about, waiting to steal our faith. The Apostle Peter told us to cast our cares on Jesus because He cares for us. That 'release of our cares' to something, actually Someone, that is unseen is impossible when fear has gained access into our lives.

To the unbeliever, saying 'I don't care' about something hoped for means there is no love for that thing we hope for. To believers, saying 'I don't care' shows we have faith that God will manifest our hopes in this world in the face of whatever fear the enemy throws our way. It's a paradox that our minds have trouble grasping...and that is why nothing pleases God except faith.

All that being said, we can relax. God is good. Don't ever put your rightousness up against His. That's like the child that tells his father he is not a good provider at the dinner table. Sometimes, it is best to keep our mouths shut about our fears and wait on the Lord. Don't tell God how big your problems are. Instead, tell your problems how big your God is.