Note: I did not overhear this in church, this time. I was too sick to go to church.
So I have taken the Scripture reference from what I know of the sermon and invented my own application to some of my recent life happenings.
If you have recently been disappointed in any huge thing, you will not like what follows. I did not like it. But it is truth; it has the power to liberate . . .
It’s all a part of life and we all do all we can to prevent it. We use words such as if a lot, to remind each other of the fact that we don’t always get our own ways on every subject.
And usually we are okay with that. We use all sorts of philosophical gymnastics to assure ourselves we are okay with it. We wink and say things such as, if the creeks don’t rise, to remind everyone we do have limitations.
We have lots of limitations, in fact. Gravity is one. The number of hours of daylight is another. The inability to be in two places at once is still another. This could be a long list, much of it understood, much of it jokingly passed around as reminders of our mortality.
But sometimes we develop what we hope are immutable plans and think the fact that we want something badly, that it is very important to us, will make it happen.
If we are thwarted, we tend to come unglued. We’ve all seen this.
(Or have done it.)
Let’s take apart what is really happening, and try to learn from our mistakes.
First, a couple of passages from Scripture:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but you don’t get it. You kill and covet but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:1-3
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16
Okay, we’ll add a few verses I skipped, later, but examine these, above. How simply laid out it is! That “coming unglued” we see others do (or that we do ourselves) simply springs from the following:
- Not getting what we want.
- Not asking God.
- Having wrong motives.
- Forgetting we are mortal.
- Boasting and bragging.
1. When Self Does not Get What Self Wants
Oh, we’re supposed to set goals, be organized, have vision, etc., and if we are smart, we will always have some sort of “plan B” on the back burner, but really — we want what we want when we want it, don’t we? I mean, we firmly plant our hopes in our “A” plans, don’t we?
Our grandson recently celebrated his first birthday. A family tradition is to let the 1-year-old celebrator sort of investigate the cake at close range, while we take photos of facial changes as he samples his first ever smears of frosting. After a while, we rescue what is left of the cake, give him his own piece to finish decimating, and enjoy our own samples. Mmm!
This year, though, when we removed the confection for slicing, our grandson broke out in real tears of total disappointment, thinking those few samples would be all there was coming. Not until we laughingly handed him his own piece (while photographing the face at all times, of course) could he be comforted. He never guessed he’d get his own, couldn’t be expected to grasp that eating the whole thing was unthinkable.
And we can self-apply this easily, on a larger scale, I am sure.
2. When We Think We Know it Is Okay with God.
(But We Neglect to Ask)
When I teach a friend how to do home canning, I often lend things like jars and even a canner, making it less costly for her, should she decide this is just not the way for her, and helping her see the expense will be worth it to buy her own, if she makes the choice to continue. One year, though, in such a situation, I came home to discover one of my students had been at my house and had helped herself to jars. Thinking she could not possibly wait to do another batch and feeling sure I would not mind, she had not waited to ask.
The jars I lend are modern, flawless, regular canning jars. The jars she’d helped herself to were antique, family heirlooms made of gorgeous, thick, blue glass and having a nick or two, here and there.
And she learned, I hope: In the process, she broke a jar that had belonged to my husband’s grandmother. Her beans were ruined, being full of glass shards, and I was not happy with her, at all. I had been happy to lend, but not to find my property invaded and plundered and ruined in that way. And she was rather insulted when I suggest she buy some jars.
Self-apply this, to our relationship with our Heavenly Teacher.
3. When Our Motives Are Wrong
I think what comes to my mind most often, here, is the bad motive for marriage. How many young girls dream of marrying a doctor or lawyer or some other “rich” guy, especially if he’s tall, dark, and handsome? Why? Because it would be fun to be rich and famous or something? How many feel horribly disappointed when we don’t get that? How many feel horribly disappointed after we do get exactly that? Not too hard to see, is it? (Don’t get me wrong: Many handsome lawyers are also Godly men. It’s the wrong motive that can lead to disaster.)
And here, I insert a bit of the left-out Scripture:
Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. James 4:4
That certainly can explain a few things, can’t it. When we are God’s enemies, why should He help our lives along any?
4. When We Forget We Are Mortal
More important than forgetting we are mortal is the truth lying behind it: We think we are God. Oh, the grief we cause ourselves when we slide down this slope. Exists there any hope for recovery?
Let’s hope it.
Rather than list a bad example, here, I am going to relate an amazing example of doing this the right way:
David Wilkerson, a famous preacher in New York, had planned an enormous event involving many guest speakers to appear at his church the exact week of the bombing of the Twin Towers. (Only, no one on earth knew this was coming, yet.) (Well, few knew . . . )
But God knew.
And God put it into David Wilkerson’s heart to cancel the event. He could not explain why. He just knew when God was making His will undeniably clear, and he knew this was one of those times. So he obediently cancelled the event. This was a difficult decision, making him look idiotic, and not at all what he had envisioned; even hugely disappointing. Until . . .
. . . After the destruction fell upon us, there was David’s church, near the site, geared up for thousands who were not coming, (and who were protected from coming) praying to learn what God’s alternative plan might be, with no other agenda for days and days. They were totally prepared, without even knowing it, to be God’s hands and feet of mercy, care, sustenance, and assistance.
It gives me goose bumps and tears, even now, to think of it, of what he risked to do God’s will, and what he gained in return. I want to be like that, with God, and not bombastic like those who think they are God.
5. When We Boast and Brag
Boasting in ourselves is evil. We should never boast in anything but the wondrous work Christ Jesus had done in us, through us, with us, and for us. His death, His gifting us with Life, His empowering us to do anything right, His paving the way, His leading and teaching us, and many other things from Him are the only things we can claim of any worth. He did it all; he does it all. And really, that’s all that matters. Then, if He wills, we will live another day, and carry on.
Do you believe that?