How Will You Choose? “When You Want Your Way… And God Doesn’t”

All across the story of giving God glory, humans have a common history. Across almost all cultures. And all times. We begin with confession. We own up. So as your pastor, I guess I ought to do just this. I confess. Sometimes I wanna nudge God! (‘Not bowl Him over, mind you, just kinda slip him the hip!) I want what I want. And when I notice that this doesn’t seem to be exactly where the Good Lord is in the matter, I’d prefer to change God than change me. ‘Bend God’s will… just a little! Maybe this sounds… just a little familiar! Maybe more than one of us wants to make a hymn out of Toby Keith’s Country Western Chorus:

I wanna talk about me
Wanna talk about I
Wanna talk about number one
Oh my me my
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see
I like talking about you, usually, but occasionally
I wanna talk about me
I wanna talk about me

There you have it. So in a day when I don’t want to hear any more election stuff. Or Wall Street stuff. Or the church has a need stuff. Or Iraq or Iran or Darfur or Baltimore stuff. Or even doctor or school or auto mechanic or grocery store or Meghan or Micah or Beverly stuff. On such a day, when I’d just like to bend the world and the Almighty just a little my way, I’m left with a mighty big problem I think we share, you and I. Here it is. How will we choose when we want our way… and God doesn’t? Or at least, doesn’t seem to!

First off, you and I need to gauge our attitude by our altitude. This is not new! Heaven has not just-now taken notice of the problem. Something like 700 years before Jesus, old Isaiah the Prophet, set his ear toward the sky. And he heard the Holy Voice to say, “‘…My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” There you have it. It turns out there’s a grander plan than can be seen by any woman or man. There’s a grander scheme than our personal or corporate daily, weekly or decade’s theme. Our big-ness set beside God’s goodness and grand-ness simply, but determinedly, reveals our smallness. The Eternal Master asks us what he asks Job. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! [NOT!] Or who stretched the line upon it? [You have trouble measuring your buildings; I have taken the measure of the universe!] On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? [What building committee or budget group, UN to your church or neighborhood or family-pow-wow can answer?]” If we’re to achieve some attitude adjustment, we’d better prepare for an altitude assessment. We ain’t that high and mighty, you and I. Oh, we recoiled together in our Bible Study groups when we heard Hosea speak for God. “Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel. The Lord has a controversy with the people of the land. There is no faithfulness or kindness, no knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds and murder follows murder. Therefore the land mourns. You are grief-stricken! Even the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea. [The consequences of your chaos are cosmic!]” Hos. 4: 1-3 JW Johnson penned it just right. We need to hear the word. “Young man, young man [or woman], your arm’s too short to box with God!” We’d better adjust our attitude. We fly, we do, at low altitude! If we are too small to budge God, we’d better not try to nudge God! How to choose when our wants and God’s seem not the same. Give God some space!!! Afterall, he’s way above and beyond us. (I know we all know this. But we don’t always act like it!)

Second, we need to know we can lean when things get mean. Gee whiz, do we really need to hear this just now! We may not be able to dissuade God, divert or manipulate God for our own ends. But it’s God’s nature to be moved by us. And to move to our side. Do you feel a little overwhelmed these days? I do. By personal things. And church stuff. And that’s before I get outta bed and see, hear or read the news. Do you ever wonder even what or how to pray? Allow me a little word of instruction. When you pray this week, remain in your favored prayer posture three extra minutes. (Five’s even better.) Lean forward a bit. And here’s exactly what you need to say. [Blank/pause.] Nothing. Now you might be surprised how long 3/5 silent minutes can be. Stillness. Attention. Listening (not meditation). Space. See, these days provide us with a real moment for spiritual growth. They invite us to experience what we’ve heard and said and read for years. (Rms. 8: 25-28) “…If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. …The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

O, Jesus himself has no problem with our asking God for what we need. (Mtt. 7: 7-11), “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Jesus understands this both spiritually and materially. Christ is clear about the goodness/richness of God’s heart toward us. “What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? …If you then, [who are evil], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” But when you don’t know quite what to ask or what to say, why, Christ himself makes a promise. God will give you the words! God will send another Counselor. We’ve heard what Paul writes. The Spirit! We’ve seen what Christ promises. The Counselor, and himself with us always. The upshot: ask when you can. Trust when you can’t …that God will say what you cannot… and answer as only God can (in Jesus Christ). Now, remember what the song sings. “Leaning, leaning, safe and secure in all alarms. Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.” Often we’ve sung it. Now it’s time to do it!

Just one last thing when you’re tempted to nudge God. One more assurance when you want what you want more than what you seem to be getting. One more promise when you’re not certain what-you’re-thinkin’-you’re-gettin’ is what-you’re-sure-you’ll-be-needin’. We can trust God’s income for our best outcome! That is true in our spiritual life. And in our material life. At least one couple here’s gonna have a first baby this week. They need to know (and so do we) that God’s love will always give enough. For them, and for the next-&-best treasure of their lives, that little one on the way. God’s Word will be enough. His commandments, enough. His exodus from slavery to freedom, body and soul, enough. God’s prophets, enough. The Lord’s exile-time and the Lord’s returning-time… even when it feels they are coming in our time, enough. Christ, enough. Christ’s grace, teaching/healing, enough. His cross, enough. His victory… even over sin and death… enough! We can trust God’s income for our best outcome. Wise King Solomon had a proverb for us. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (3: 5-6) What was true IS true. Solomon’s great-great, great-great grandson, the rabbi from Nazareth, Jesus advised, “Don’t lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, nor anyone/thing break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Friends, when it ain’t goin’ right, keep these three things in mind and heart.

1. Adjust your attitude by your altitude.

We’re not that high and mighty, you and I.

God is in charge. And though the wrong seems oft’ so strong,

God is the ruler yet!

2. We CAN lean when things get mean.

It’s God’s nature to be moved to our side.

We have a Counselor. The Spirit prays for us. Shhh. Listen!

You and I, safe and secure from ALL alarms.

3. We can trust God’s income for our best outcome!

With God, there will always be enough.

In Christ… is our all in all!

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