Finding God's Winning Spirit

Pearl of Wisdom

August 21, 2014 | Greg Smith | Focus

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I was in church Sunday enjoying the sermon when the preacher told a story about a member of one of his former churches. The story goes that this man became very successful financially and retired at a reasonably early age only to begin drinking and gambling. Unfortunately these both became addictions and he was in danger of losing his family and his financial security. One day this particular individual asked Jesus to cure his addictions and these desires “immediately vanished”. The preacher went on to say that once we give our lives to Christ our ills, fears, evil desires and addictions will be taken away. I cringed.

Don't get me wrong, this preacher is theologically correct. The Bible clearly tells us to “ask and it will be given, seek and ye shall find” and God is free and powerful enough to take away any of our desires, weaknesses and illnesses. I cringed because in reality this is not always the case. I cringed because as a Christian therapist I know that statements like this on Sunday make my phone ring on Monday. Unfortunately many Christians hear this message at church and pray for God's intervention, asking Him to relieve or remove their misery and pain but with no relief.

Inevitably I am going to have a housewife sitting across from me who has been praying for years that God would take away her depression or a young person who has prayed to stop craving cocaine. The client addicted to porn, alcohol or work who has attempted to “give this up to God” with no relief has some serious theological questions.  What does this mean? Where do they go from here?

I can tell you from experience that most individuals, who pray for God's intervention and (in their minds) receive none, usually interpret this negatively toward God or themselves. Many times these Christians either feel unworthy, “not faithful enough" or start to think that Scripture is not practical, or even worse, that God really doesn't care. The danger here for ministers is in telling their congregation what God will always do. After all, "God moves in mysterious ways" means just that – mysterious. The last thing we need to do as ministers is unknowingly put the thought in the back of our parishioners’ heads that "the Bible doesn't really mean what it says". 

The answer to the disparity of what we are promised and what we sometimes get is simple – God's playbook is bigger than ours and timing is everything. Perhaps we are not clear on what we are really asking (more on this in earlier blog – Father Knows Best); perhaps our continual struggle is required to keep us focused or to keep us from being self-righteous or prideful. Perhaps our particular affliction is preparing us to help others. In other words, maybe our grain of sand needs to be in place a little longer to make our pearl larger.

I want to be clear that in my opinion it is important and imperative that we share all of our desires and wants with God. We should feel free to ask him for anything we need knowing that he hears us even before we ask. It is through prayer and faith that we rejoice in this relationship which, by the way, is not determined by the answers we expect.

The bottom line is that God knows what is best for me and what I need to grow closer to Him. If I knew what He knew than one of us would be unnecessary. Instead of pouting or criticizing God for not delivering perhaps we should step back and try to see the potential lessons that can be learned or gleaned from our particular plight. If we could learn to live this way pearls would abound.  

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