(note: this is a futher development of the blog entry entitled “How Big is Your God?” While the beginning of this is the same as that entry – up through the quote, the rest of it has been further developed and completely re-written)
I heard this quote in a sermon this past week by one of my previous pastors, Chris Goins, and I can’t get the darn thing out of my head (thanks, Pastor Chris!)…. I just have to share it (it’s from James Montgomery Boice):
We do not have a strong church today, nor do we have many strong Christians. We can trace the cause to an acute lack of sound spiritual knowledge. Why is the church weak? Why are individual Christians weak? It is because they have allowed their minds to become conformed to the “spirit of this age,” with its mechanistic, godless thinking. They have forgotten what God is like and what he promises to do for those who trust him. Ask an average Christian to talk about God. After getting past the expected answers you will find that his god is a little god of vacillating sentiments. He is a god who would like to save the world, but who cannot. He would like to restrain evil, but somehow he finds it beyond his power. So he has withdrawn into semi-retirement, being willing to give good advice in a grandfatherly sort of way, but for the most part he has left his children to fend for themselves in a dangerous environment.
Such a god is not the God of the Bible. Those who know their God perceive the error in that kind of thinking and act accordingly. The God of the Bible is not weak; he is strong. He is all-mighty. Nothing happens without his permission or apart from his purposes — even evil. Nothing disturbs or puzzles him. His purposes are always accomplished. Therefore, those who know him rightly act with boldness, assured that God is with them to accomplish his own desirable purposes in their lives.
This quote has had me reflecting all week on how I see God. As I reflect I find more and more truth in this quote (unfortunately). As I talk with people I think they experience this as well.
I believe the reason for this rests not only on how we view God, but how we view prayer. How many times have you heard someone say (or said yourself), “I prayed for so-and-so to get well, but they didn’t. I guess God didn’t want to heal him.” Or we ask for stuff in prayer – and we believe we’re asking in faith – but the answer we receive isn’t the one we want.
So what’s the result? Being the self-obsessed creatures we are, we conclude that the problem isn’t with us, it’s with God. Instead of asking God what He wants, or surrendering to His will, we get mad and throw a temper tantrum like we’re undisciplined toddlers. In an effort to spite God (and save face), we conclude that God isn’t interested, God doesn’t care, or God is unable. We never for once consider that perhaps what we asked for wasn’t good for us. We never once consider that the prayer may not have been answered because we have unconfessed sin or we’ve built a wall between us and God. We never consider that God’s ways aren’t our ways. In short, we won’t surrender to Him, so instead we blame Him and then limit Him.
This quote actually reminds me of another one of my favorite quotes (which I believe I’ve shared in the past):
There is a God we want, and there is a God who is and they are not the same God. The turning point of our lives is when we stop seeking the God we want and start seeking the God who is. – Patrick Morley
In short, I think our answer is found in focusing less on ourselves and more on Him. John Eldridge talks about going on the adventure with God. But the thing about adventures is that they’re not only exciting but also scary – both feelings come from a sense of the unknown. We can’t expect God to tell us everything or give us everything we think we deserve. But we can count on Him to give us (and tell us) everything we need (and, truth be told, He’s given most of us far more than we need).
So instead of asking, “How big is your God?” (which is a very legitimate and important question), we should be asking ourselves, “What’s your vision of God?” or “What’s your vision of prayer?” (or even, “What’s my vision of myself?”– perhaps I’m too big).