Praise God for what you don’t have yet

My first novel hits the stores today. It’s a project 13 years in the making, and I never expected it to get this far. I’m so excited that I can hardly focus or think about anything else, but I’m absolutely terrified that people will hate it. And more than anything, I’m scared that it will fail.

I want it to challenge the way people think. That’s why I wrote it, because God challenged the way I think, and I wanted to share what I learned about faith and about following Him. I just did it with spaceships, bounty hunters, and malfunctioning androids. Different strokes, you know?

I’m asking that God will use it, not only to challenge our way of thinking in 21st Century America but also to support itself. I’d love to be able to make a living on this thing and its sequels. And I found myself yesterday telling God that if He made it successful in the ways I wanted, I would praise Him for it. But just as I thought that, I felt a little tug in my heart.

You know the feeling. It’s the finger poking you in your chest or that hand slapping the back of your head like Gibbs off NCIS.

And that unmistakable still, small voice asked me a question that rang in my ears: If I can praise God for what I already have, why can’t I praise Him for what He’s going to do later?

1056131_54670030Today’s verses are Acts 16:22-25.

A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.

Paul and Silas were among the world’s first missionaries, and they always seemed to be getting into trouble. This was no exception. Because they couldn’t stop talking about Jesus, they got themselves beaten and arrested. But they weren’t moping or feeling sorry for themselves. No, they were singing praise songs.

I’m sure they had both gotten to the point where they could thank God for the tragedies and the difficulties in their lives, but I don’t think they were spending all this time thanking God for the chains and the prison. I firmly believe they were already seeing past the prison, to what God was going to do in their lives after He got them out of prison, which He did in rather spectacular fashion (check out the rest of Acts 16 for the rest of the story).

But how does that apply to us today?

Have you ever tried to praise God for something He hasn’t given you yet? To thank Him for prayers He hasn’t answered yet?

It’s easy to praise Him for what He’s already given us. We have it. We can see it. We can hold it in our hands. But praising Him for something He hasn’t given us yet takes faith–faith that He will do it, faith that He’ll provide and open doors and that He’ll really do what He’s promised to do.

Maybe it sounds arrogant to praise God for what He’s going to do for us tomorrow. And, granted, if you aren’t careful you can turn into one of the “name-it-and-claim-it” prosperity gospel preachers who tell you God will always give you what you want. And that’s not from Scripture. Not at all.

God always answers prayers in the way that’s best for us, and that doesn’t mean we always get what we want. It means we get what God wants–and ultimately that’s better anyway.  But regardless if God answers the way you expect or the way you don’t, He still answers. And maybe His answers aren’t what you want, but you can know they’re always good. Because He is good.

Will my book be successful the way I want it to? I don’t know. I hope so, but more importantly, I want my book to be successful in the way God wants it to. That’s what matters. That’s what will make a difference.

So whatever you’re asking God for today, don’t bargain with Him. Don’t base your response to Him on whether He does what you want or not. That’s not the point.

If you can praise Him whether you have what you want or not, you’ve already achieved something greater than mere success. You’re seeing life from His point of view. And that’s worth more than any 5-star review or royalty check.

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