I was told by a mentor that seeing as much answered prayer as I do is a gift. I hope this is not true. I don’t see nearly as much of what God is doing as I would like. And I hope everyone sees as much or more of what God is doing than I do.
If you are like me you have blamed God when things go “wrong”. “God, how could you let this happen?” If God gets the blame when things go wrong, shouldn’t He get the credit when things go right? And if He should, do I thank Him? for everything? Did my alarm clock get me out of bed for work? Thank you Jesus. Was there air in my car tires to take me to work? Thank you Jesus. Did my car start? Thank you Jesus. Did the traffic lights work? Thank you Jesus. I could spend all day thanking Jesus in my head for all the things that He makes go “right” for me.
If I think these examples are trivial then what would I do if Jesus didn’t make these things go “right” for me? I overslept, had a flat tire, my car wouldn’t start and after I had changed the tire, jump started the engine I found myself in a traffic jam because the traffic lights were out. If it is not trivial when it goes wrong, it is not trivial when Jesus makes it go right. I’m going to thank Him.
I told my employer that I would not work with pornography, occult, or abortion ads. They threatened to fire me. My Bible-study group prayed for my wife and me and I prayed God would tell me what to say. God didn’t give me the exact words to say, instead He made my thinking very clear, He made the path of love very obvious. I would be hurting others by doing these ads. I was responsible for my actions. There is a chain of actions that takes pornography from producer to user and I would not be part of that chain. God gave me the chance to tell top level management about Jesus. And in the end, I didn’t get fired. In fact, five years later they asked me to write an evangelism series of ads for them.
When we first adopted our two sons (they were 6 and 2 years old) they had lost a toy. I suggested to them that we pray and ask Jesus to help us find it. We prayed, “Jesus would you help us find this toy”. I simply told my two sons that Jesus would help them find the toy and that He might not bring the toy to them so they needed to start looking. And then I had to resist the urge to “help God find the toy.” This was nerve-wracking for me. Did I really trust God to come through? What if we didn’t find the toy? What would that communicate to my sons? to me? I was relieved when they found the toy. I decided that every time we lost something we would ask God to help us find it as a faith building exercise for my two sons, and me. Sixteen years later we now depend on God to answer our prayer to help us find things that are lost and for everything that concerns us. And I realize God doesn’t need my “help” finding things, I need His. We have found all but a handful of the things we have lost. And some of those things may have been thrown away by mistake.
Jeremy and John were swimming in a lake with their toys, one of which was a truck called “Mator” from the Disney film Cars. They lost it in the murky water thirty-five feet from shore. They yelled to me, “Dad, we lost Mator, we’ve been looking for it and we can’t find it anywhere… should we pray?” Now this was a test for me. I have never found anything I have lost in any lake if I couldn’t see it. And, dozens of strangers were standing around us waiting for my response. I yelled back, “Dear Jesus, please help them find it.” Jeremy took one step and his foot stepped on top of Mator. My boys were ecstatic. But not as much as me. My trust in Jesus soared. I laid my public reputation and my life’s purpose on the line that Jesus could do something I could never do, and He came through.
I expanded this idea for my youngest. He spent a lot of time playing video games then and I said to him, “You know how we pray to Jesus and He helps us find things?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “He can help you play video games too. Just ask Him.” Jesus has turned playing video games into a faith classroom for my youngest son.
Interest rates were at record breaking lows for mortgages and the time seemed right to move. I decided I wouldn’t do anything until I heard from God. My wife wanted to move, people were telling us now was the time, but I wanted to make sure not to run ahead of God. I waited and prayed for God to let me know it was His will to move. I waited months and heard nothing from God. I told God that time may be running out. Finally, my wife said, “Jim, you’re waiting for God to tell you it’s time to move, how will He do that?” I said I was waiting for an impression, something similar to how God has communicated to me in the past. She said, “Maybe God is speaking through our circumstances?” Though our elementary school special ed experience had been excellent our sons needed a school system with stronger middle and high school special ed programs. I realized I had had tunnel vision, expecting God to work in only the ways I had experienced before. We moved and our boys have had a great special ed experience. My wife is my best counselor and Jesus uses her daily to help me.
In our old house I could lay on my bed with my head at the foot of the bed and look through the bedroom door, across the hall, through the bathroom door and make sure my youngest son was okay taking a bath. I asked God, “How am I going to be able to watch him like this in our next house?” He had me stand next to my bed, lay down and look at the wall. He said I would be able to monitor John by laying on my bed just like that.
I didn’t believe Him.
After we had bought our new house I realized that the extra door to connect the master bedroom to the main bath was exactly where God said it would be for me to be able to see into the bathroom and monitor John in the tub.
I told my oldest son about the benefits God claims for those who give Him back the extra 10% he gives us. My son gave 10% to our local church of the money he had earned and we watched what God would do. Within a few days a co-worker had run out of people to give free movie tickets to so she offered them to me and my family. God had taken Jeremy’s $7 and given Jeremy $40 in tickets. Now here’s the disclaimer: God is not Santa Claus, a vending machine or the stock market. If you give to get rich you will be very disappointed. God’s goal is that we learn to love and depend on Him, not manipulate Him so we can love money more.
When I first was saved by Jesus my mentor said that I over-spiritualized. I saw everything in the context of Jesus. More recently one mentor said, “God doesn’t care what color socks you wear.” I believe that if it matters to me, it matters to God, and that if it matters to God, it should matter to me. And I believe no circumstances are by chance, everything that happens has been planned by God. And I believe there is no part of life that you can say, “This doesn’t have anything to do with God.” There is no such thing as “secular.”