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When God Doesn't Give You What You Want

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If you’re a husband, then you’ve probably experienced the terror of your wife asking you to pick up something she needs from the grocery store. We all know that she has a specific brand, size, price, and color of the item that she requested and you had better get it right. To be fair, most of us as men don’t consider the amount of time and effort our wives put into preparing a meal for our families and therefore don’t understand the importance of getting what she asked for. However, most of us have experienced the tension of giving our wives something different than she asked for. It’s frustrating to ask for something and not receive what you asked for.

We’ve probably also been on the receiving end of this in our relationship with God as well. We are striving to be obedient to His call on our lives and in the meantime we ask Him to take care of our physical needs. Often, He does give us exactly what we’ve asked for as long as our motives are right in our requests. Maybe just as often though, He doesn’t give us what we’ve asked for.

There’s an interesting passage in 2 Corinthians where Paul is asking the Corinthian church to be cheerful and faithful in their giving to the saints in Jerusalem. He challenges them to “sow bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6) and then he gives them this assurance:

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8

Maybe it would seem appropriate that if God is asking us to give financially that he would return the favor by blessing us financially - and sometimes He does that. However, the greater promise here is that as we are obedient to God by living with generous hearts, He will make his grace abound to us so that we would have “all sufficiency” (read contentment). While we may hope for financial blessings (temporary), God lavishes on us spiritual blessings (eternal).

The result is that we become even more generous and joyful because no longer are we doing this through our own strength, but the grace and strength He provides us to live with true contentment no matter our circumstances. He sustains us with something far greater than a balanced checkbook and a solid financial future. It may seem impossible to have true contentment when life keeps throwing curveballs at you and it may seem frustrating when God does not give us what we ask Him for; especially when we think we need it. This is why Paul gives us the encouragement in Philippians 4:

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:13

The truth is, if we have Christ, we have enough. He knows your needs (Matthew 6:8), He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7), and He is able to meet them (Matthew 6:33), but in our praying and searching for material provisions, let’s not miss the greater blessing of his grace enabling us to live with real contentment. It is only when we live with true contentment that we can live with true generosity anyway.

Called to Win Souls - not Arguments

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We’ve seen it over and over again: Christians with a desire to share their faith getting into heated debates with non-believers. Far too often, these debates are about everything besides the main issue of the gospel - Jesus Christ. There’s a question I’ve been thinking about that should cause us to rethink our evangelism: what would we accomplish if we “won” the last 5 debates we’ve had with unbelievers?

Think about the last conversation you’ve had with an unbeliever about spiritual things - what was the main subject of the discussion? If you had completely convinced them of your side of the argument, would they have been born again in that moment? Maybe the topic was important, but was it focused on the Jesus and the Gospel?

We have so much to learn from Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:1-21. One of the main parts of that passage that makes me rethink my evangelism tactics is verses 11-15:

“11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Jesus made the issue about Himself and what it means to be born again. He could have discussed with Nicodemus the work of the Holy Spirit (it’s what Nicodemus inquired about in John 3:9), but He knew that Nicodemus could not understand those things unless he was first “born again.” Nicodemus first approached Jesus because he wanted to ask Jesus about the signs He was performing. Jesus could have gotten into a conversation about where He gets the power and authority for such signs, but He completely redirected the conversation to the issue of being born again. Why?

Jesus knew that the thing that Nicodemus needed before he could understand or believe anything else, was to believe in Him. This wasn’t about winning a debate, it was about winning a soul and debates don’t do that - the Holy Spirit through Gospel proclamation does.

So the next time your conversation with an unbeliever shifts to anything besides Jesus and the Gospel, bring it back to the main thing. Those other topics are highly important, but they are secondary. Furthermore, lost people will not understand spiritual matters until they are first born again - we can’t have spiritual conversations with spiritually dead people. They need the power of the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts to being them to life as the Gospel is proclaimed. In the words of Jesus, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

Has God ever Broken your Legs?

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There is something that shepherds have been known to do to sheep that on the surface sounds brutal and inhumane. If one of the flock (particularly a little lamb) is consistently getting lost and wandering off, the shepherd will find it, break its legs, place it on his shoulders, and nurse it back to health. What happens during the healing process is that sheep learns total dependance on and trust in the shepherd. Because of it’s broken leg, it needs the shepherd more than ever and doesn’t leave his side. More importantly, the shepherd doesn’t leave the sheep’s side.

At first, that causes us to potentially be angry and the shepherd, or offer up other ways to train the sheep. However, if the shepherd continued to allow that sheep to wander, before long, it’s going to be eaten by a predator. By breaking the legs, the shepherd now has the opportunity to keep the sheep safe, but to teach it dependance on the shepherd, which is really the ultimate goal.

By comparison, there’s an aspect of our relationship to our Shepherd that is difficult to talk about, and even more difficult to go through - His discipline. The writer of the book of Hebrews explains it much better than I could:

“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
HEBREWS 4:5-11

Our world has made discipline an enemy of love, but that passage teaches us that it is the very limitless, extravagant, perfect love of God that fuels His discipline of us. As a matter of fact, the author goes so far as to say that if you’ve never experienced the discipline of the Lord, you’re not a legitimate son or daughter. That means that in all of our efforts to avoid the discipline of God and not talk about it because it’s uncomfortable, we’ve avoided one of the indicators that we are His children!

His discipline is always meant to draw us closer and make us more dependent on Him, which leads to holiness and the fruit of righteousness. It may be painful, but it will lead to your greater pleasure in Him. We may be tempted to get angry at Him or think we know a better way for Him to work in our lives, but if we trust Him and the discipline He brings, it will always result in our ultimate good. If He is able to take all the brokenness and sin of our lives and turn it into something beautiful, how much more can He use His very own work of discipline for our good and His glory?

Has God ever broken your legs? How did you respond? You can be sure that if He has brought discipline in your life, it is because He is the Good Shepherd who desires to give you abundant life. In the meantime, you and I must stop our wanderings and depend fully on Him and His leading in our lives.

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