Obeying God and Putting His Promises to the Test

Sometimes, after you have been a Christian for a while, you have so much of your life, relationships and self invested in “God” that the thought of Him not coming through for you and therefore having proof He is not real is terrifying.  To find out that what you have based your life on is a lie is too embarrassing a thought to deal with.  So, we hedge our bets.  We pray, “God, you said that if I put you first, as Lord and Savior, you would provide for me and my family.  But if you don’t, I will still love you and trust you and feel the same way about you”.  This may sound good, but I suggest that this kind of faith is not honored in the Bible.  What is most important to God is our intimacy with Him, our trust in Him, our faith in Him.  And God says in the Bible that this faith is more precious than gold.  It is so important to God that He will rock our world until we come to the point of saying, “God, I have put You first.  You said that if I did, you would supply food, clothing and shelter for me and my family.  You have to come through for me.  I have no plan “B”.  You promised you would and I am holding You to it.  If you don’t, then I have no reason to trust You anymore.”

God doesn’t say not to put Him to the test.  God says not to put Him to a foolish test.  Satan suggested to Jesus that He jump off the top of the temple because God promised to send His angels to hold Him up.  Jesus answered that it is written, do not put God to a foolish test.  If God says He will do something for you when you obey Him, He wants you to test that.  Obey Him and then hold Him accountable for what He promised.  That’s not a foolish test.  That’s faith.

And here’s my disclaimer:  Though I have had success in trusting God, I have also experienced complete hypocritical failure at trusting God.  I am not an expert.  For every time I have trusted God and seen Him keep His promises, I have not trusted Him multiple times (with disastrous results).  A turning point in my life came when I trusted God and obeyed His teaching by refusing to participant in the production of certain advertising promoting what I felt was pornography, abortion, or the occult.  I risked my family’s main means of support because of this apparent insubordination.  Many true friends prayed for us.  God gave me the chance to talk about His heart of love and concern for people to top levels of management.  God softened the heart of the main decision maker who eventually said I could go back to work without having to touch these ads. (True to God’s style, five years later He had this same company ask me to write large religion section advertising telling people about the love and acceptance of Jesus.  This series of ads ran for fourteen years).

You’d think I would have “lived happily ever after”.  However, less than two weeks after being cleared to not do these ads, I caved in to the gripping fear of losing my livelihood. I moved an objectionable ad from its wrong position on the page to the right position, an ad I previously said I would not touch even to the point of losing my job.  I did it because I was afraid people would think of me as a self-righteous hypocritical trouble maker and reject me if I caused them problems (this was satan lying to me, because I worked with some great people).  There after whenever I was presented with an objectionable ad I always struggled with whether Jesus would protect my job or not if I refused to do the ad.  It was never told to anyone I worked with that I didn’t have to do these ads and I feared others’ resentment for having to do them for me.  There are too many other examples of my failure in trusting God and too embarrassing as well.

It can be hard, very hard, to decide to obey God.  But when I obey Him, He always makes it worth it.  And when I don’t, I always eventually regret it, wishing I had obeyed Him.

God "embarrasses" Himself with Love

Luke  15:11-32 NKJV

11 Then [Jesus] said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

God, our Heavenly Father, the Creator of the Universe, loves us with such intensity, that He “embarrasses” Himself in His pursuit of a relationship with us.  There is nothing so undignified or beneath Him that He won’t do it to win our hearts to Him.  (I am not talking about sin of course).  In the above parable the son disgraced his father and himself and trampled their relationship by demanding his inheritance while his father was still alive.  Yet his father loved his son, kept watch for him, and ran to greet him as soon as he saw him coming back.  In Jesus’ day and culture a dignified adult man would not run, it was considered beneath him.  Yet Jesus portrays God, Jesus’ Heavenly Father, as someone who loves us so much that He is willing to “embarrass” himself by running to greet us to communicate His great love for us.

Of course, this was ultimately shown when He hung naked, brutally beaten and bloody, nailed to the cross, dying, so that he could provide a way for us to spend eternity with Him.

Love doesn’t get any greater than that.

When you die and meet Jesus He will not ask you about the size of your bank account, what neighborhood you lived in, the car you drove, whether you never smoked, drank or danced, how much you gave, whether you never missed church… etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

He will ask you, however, what did you do with “Him”. He gave you His all.  He gave you Himself.  He does not condemn you.  He does not demand perfection.  He wants surrender.  He just wants you.  He wants an unhindered love relationship between you and Him.

What are you telling Him everyday by how you are living your life now?  Go back to Him.  He is waiting for you.  And when He sees you turn, He will run to greet you.

God protects more than crops and fruit!

Malachi 3 NIV

6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.
9 You are under a curse —the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 
11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit, ” says the LORD Almighty.  
12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

 I interpret Malachi 3:11 to mean that God is interested in protecting more than just my crops and fruit (I don’t have either).  I interpret the verse to mean that if I honor God with my tithe He will protect, among other things, my cars from rusting and wearing out.  I know they won’t last forever but they each are over ten years old, each have over 120,000 miles, and each have very little, if any, rust.  The 2002 Pontiac Montana needs a perennial repair of the heater core thermostat (or something like that, I’m not a mechanic) and may need an engine gasket replacement in 40,000 miles.  The 2003 Toyota Camry has only had the tires, windshield wipers and battery replaced; (but soon needs something like a timing cover gasket replaced).

What I think is most significant is that God has protected ME!  God has kept me safe and free from accidents that were my fault.  I have been in two accidents that were not my fault since I gave my self to Jesus, and He saved me from much harm in both.

You will only find out how God will bless you if you accept His challenge and put Him to the test by tithing.  Try it and see!

So if Jesus pays the bills, what do I do?

Jesus Christ said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NIV84).

 Jesus isn’t against working hard (for the right reasons). Jesus isn’t  against planning for the future and putting something away for a rainy day.  I think the point of this verse is Jesus wants us to see our value to God.  And to know that if God cares enough about birds, to supply them with what they need to survive, He will with certainty care about us, to give us all that we need.  He wants us to stop worrying about what only He can provide, and wants to provide, for us.

Now, God doesn’t take the worm and bring it to the robin and put it in her and her young ones mouths.  The robin has to use its God-given abilities to hunt for the food and take it to her family.  We are no different.  We have to do what God wants us to do.  When God fed the Israelites manna from heaven they had to go out and collect it and grind it and bake it.  God does what only He can do, we do what we He tells us to do.

I think God wants us to trust Him for everything.  From trusting Him about food, clothing and shelter, to trusting Him enough to give Him back His 10% of our gross income by giving it to the local church.  And, trusting Him to make the other 90% meet our needs.  I think we also need to ask Him what He wants us to do with the skills, abilities, knowledge, and particularly the ability to practically show love to others, He has given us.

But, the process of growing in trust is HARD for me.  It involves risking the seen for the promise of the unseen.  I can risk looking stupid at times.  I can be at odds with society.  Hey, I didn’t have Christian role models in my life when I was growing up so I’ve never seen this done before.  As the Christian pop singer Carmen might say: if I step out on nothin’ will I find somethin’ there?  But taking the chance of obeying Him is the only way I can find out if He is trustworthy or not.  Jesus said that if anyone does His word he will find out if Jesus is from the Father.

I used to be afraid to tell Him I will obey anything He asks (okay, I still am a little;-).  Now that I have obeyed Him several times I have much more confidence that He is as good as He says He is.

As Charles F. Stanley might say, “[Trust and] obey God, and leave all the consequences to Him.”

Will Jesus pay the bills?

When I was a child I depended on my father to supply my needs.  I didn’t wonder where my next meal was coming from and I didn’t worry about how the mortgage payment would be paid.  My father loved me, I was his, and I assumed he would take care of me.  And he did.  Jesus said that to enter the kingdom of God I and you need to become like children.  We need to trust our Heavenly Father like I used to trust my earthly father.

Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV84).  Jesus said that He would supply our needs if we trusted Him as our Lord (His kingdom) and Savior (His righteousness).  He also said, that we could not serve God and Money.

We need to make a choice as to whom we want to trust.

We can see Money.  We can predict what Money will do.  And when we make Money our master we are deceived into thinking we control Money and that we are the master.  And it is very “normal” and natural to love Money.

But to trust God for the daily basics of life is not natural.  And very few people trust God with their lives.  We can’t control Him.  And we can’t predict everything that He will do or want us to do.  And we can’t even see Him.

So why do I attempt to make Him my King?  Why do I try to give up loving what I can see for the One I can’t see with my eyes?  Why do I trust Someone who lived 2000 years ago?

What I can see with my eyes doesn’t satisfy for long.  And then I need more and it still doesn’t satisfy.  Alcohol, drugs, sex, power, prestige do not fill the emptiness of the human heart.  Even good things like spouse, kids, work, and church busyness are empty without Jesus.  In the end, depending on this world that we can see, touch and hear will leave you helpless and hopeless.

The emptiness we feel and search the earth to fill was designed to be the home of God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.  He made you, He loves you and He died in place of you so that your sins could be forgiven.  Then He rose from the dead to give you a new heart, and a new living spirit.

Jesus loves you and wants you to know Him personally and have your soul satisfied with His infinite love and eternal care for you.  And you can know Him right now.  Agree with Him about your wrong attitudes and actions.  Ask Him to forgive you and to fill the empty spot in you with Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Then tell others about Jesus.  Read the Bible.  Find a church that believes the Bible and preaches it.  (And tell me about it, I would love to pray with you!).