Give God time to keep His promise

I try to control too many things. But I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember, so I’m not entirely sure when it started. I just have this driving urge to keep a handle on life so it won’t get away from me. Which is ridiculous, as any self-respecting Christ-follower knows (Luke 17:33). But, hey, I’m being honest here.

I try to control the silliest things too. When I go grocery shopping, I try to think of everything I need for about a month. Grocery stores aren’t exactly convenient to where I live, so it’s easier to make one big trip. But that means I have to plan ahead. That means I have to make meal plans. That means designing several different meals all at once and hoping that life doesn’t go crazy between shopping trips.

The trouble is, life always goes crazy. Life always screws up my plans, and usually I’m left with expired produce, questionable meat, or stale crackers. And none of that would have happened if I’d planned a week in advance rather than a month.

I’m not saying don’t plan. But what I am saying is don’t rush ahead too far, because you never know what curve balls are going to come at you.

Life will take crazy twists and turns. God will lead you down paths you never dreamed possible. He may take you down roads you never even thought you wanted to go down, and somewhere along the way you’ll realize you never belonged anywhere else. But that’s all part of His promise (Psalm 37:4). And God can be trusted to keep His promises (Hebrews 10:23).

But that means we have to wait.

I hate waiting. Maybe you didn’t know that about me. Unlikely if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time. Waiting is my least favorite thing.

At least, it used to be. God has been working on my old stubborn Scottish heart this past year, and I’ve begun to see the joy we can have when we release the things that scare us and trust God completely.

I had to go there several times in 2016. More than once, I had to pry my own hands off of my life and hand it over to God. And then I had to sit and wait and trust and pray, and that was literally all I could do.

No, I should clarify. It was all I did, but I could have done several other things.

I could have gone back to the corporate world and asked for my job back. I could have gone to my many loving and supportive friends and asked for a loan, just big enough so that I could afford groceries for the next month. I could have gone to a pawn shop and sold anything I had of value (I’m not joking, the thought did occur to me).

I could have done any of those things, but one question kept hovering at the back of my mind: “Do you trust God or not?”

I told Him at the beginning of this journey that I wanted to rely on faith rather than finances. I told Him I didn’t care what was coming, that I wanted to place my trust and my life and my future entirely in His hands. And if this was the life I was supposed to be living, I needed Him to provide for me, and if it wasn’t, I needed Him to stop.

Good gracious, friends, be careful what you ask for. Because God will hold you to declarations like that.

A few times throughout last year I thought God had stopped providing, but that was because I was planning too far ahead. So I started looking at life differently. I woke up every morning and thanked God for what I had that day, because every day I had what I needed for that day. And when tomorrow arrived, I would have what I needed then. God just wouldn’t always let me know ahead of time.

That is the recurring tale of my 2016. Until the end of December when God opened his storehouses and poured some major blessings on my silly head—blessings enough to provide over and above what I had expected for 2017.

While part of me is concerned He’s providing this much this quickly and telling me about it, the louder part of me is simply choosing to be thankful. I don’t want to forget what He’s taught me this year. Even if I have enough for months and months, it could still all be lost in an instant.

God has to be enough. Just God. Not money. Not possessions. Not power or influence or book sales or car maintenance or health insurance. All those things are wonderful blessings, but God is enough for me. He’s enough to provide what I need when I need it, and He doesn’t have to tell me what He’s doing or when He’s doing it. He’s God. He’s got a plan. He’s working everything out for my good. (Romans 8:28)

My part in this story is to be still. To trust. To wait. My responsibility is to give God time to keep the promises He’s made me, because He will. He always has, and He always blows me away with His goodness and generosity.

Are you trying to control your life? What about your finances or your health or people in your life? You can’t. You need to let go and give it to God and trust that He will work things out. And once you do that, you need to wait.

Even if it feels like you’re standing still. Even if it feels like you’re wasting time. Even when it feels like you should be doing something—anything. Just wait.

You’ll see the door when He opens it. There won’t be any doubt in your mind.

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Screenshot from King's Quest (copyright Sierra Games 1987)

It’s not about the carrot

When I was very young, I started playing a computer game with my dad and my brother called King’s Quest. Amazing game. It required thinking skills and reasoning skills and the ability to type fairly fast. You moved your character with the arrow keys and typed instructions. Anything you wanted your character to do, you had to type it. Move rock. Pick up dagger. Swim. Jump. Play fiddle.

And there was one part in the first King’s Quest where you had to convince a goat to butt a troll off a bridge so you could answer Rumpelstiltskin’s riddle and get the beans to grow a beanstalk. (Nope. Not making it up.) The thing about the goat was that it wouldn’t follow you just because. You had to give it a reason to leave its pen, and that reason was a carrot you pluck out of the king’s garden.

So what on earth does that have to do with anything?

Well, if your Christian experience is anything like mine, then you’ve probably encountered some disappointments along the way. Am I wrong? You’ve chosen a path and walked down it faithfully, fully expecting God to turn up and work miracles as you go, and He doesn’t. Or you sacrifice and give up your dreams to pursue a course you think God has laid out for you, and you encounter nothing but difficulty every day until you finally have to turn around and go back to where you started.

What is that? Why is that? Does that mean God is unreliable? Does that mean God just lures us along and is waiting for the opportunity to pounce on us or use us? Are we just the goats and God’s promises are the carrots?

Screenshot from King's Quest (copyright Sierra Games 1987)

Screenshot from King’s Quest (copyright Sierra Games 1987)

Today’s verse is Hebrews 10:23.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

It’s not wrong to ask questions. Let’s get that straight before we go any farther. God wants us to ask questions. He wants us to be wise about our choices, and you can’t really be wise until you are brave enough to question what everyone tells you is true. Wisdom begins by understanding who God is and learning that it’s His opinion and His Word that matters. No one else’s.

But my goodness, it gets frustrating sometimes. I’m just being honest here. Sometimes I wish God would just tell me what He wants me to do. Or if He won’t do that, I want some kind of confirmation that I’m doing the right thing–a confirmation that sticks around instead of popping up momentarily and then vanishing without a trace.

But that’s what happens when you rely on signs and symbols. That’s what happens when you go looking for carrots.

Now it’s not wrong to look for signs. It’s not wrong to look for incentives. There are many times throughout Scripture where God says that He’ll bless us if we do something. But there seems to be an idea among Christians that faith is generally incentivized. We’re supposed to take great leaps of faith because God will reward us financially or in some other quantifiable, measurable return. And I’m not saying that’s not true. But should we be doing God’s work for the sole purpose of a return on our investment? Should we obey God merely because we want to get something out of the deal? Or should we do what God tells us to do because He told us to do it?

Hey, Christian, did you know that if you give to God, He’ll give back to you? Hey, Christian, did you know that if you live by what the Bible says, God will bless you? Maybe it starts with incentive, but it doesn’t end there. Maybe God does offer us incentives, but following Christ isn’t about what we can get out of it. It’s not about the incentives. Just like the game. It’s not about the carrot; it’s about who’s offering the carrot. It’s about getting the goat to fulfill a greater purpose than just hanging around in a pen for the rest of its life.

The irony of the game is that after the goat beats the troll, it wanders off on its own. The goat gets to go roam free and find new adventures of its own. It doesn’t care about the carrot anymore. The carrot doesn’t matter anymore because it was never about the carrot anyway. The carrot was just an opportunity.

The incentives God offers us aren’t the point. God is the point, and God can be trusted. His promises aren’t flights of fancy or caprice that He forgets whenever it suits Him. No, when He makes a promise, we can trust that He will keep it.

So what incentive are you grasping at today? Are you sure you’re focusing on the right thing? Are you obeying God just so you can get something out of it? Not saying that’s bad or even wrong, but have you considered maybe forgetting the incentive and just doing it because God asked you to do it? Stop worrying about what you’re going to get out of it and just walk with God.

Get out of the pen, whether there’s a carrot involved or not. You won’t regret it.

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

How strong is your hope?

Do you have hope that bounces back when it gets dropped? To really answer that question, I think we need to understand a little bit about hope in general. Hope isn’t some ethereal insubstantial concept that’s just floating around in the void; hope is a real, solid thing. Granted, you can’t touch it, and you can’t see it, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

Hope is something we experience when someone we trust makes us a promise. When someone promises us something we don’t yet have, we trust that they will keep their word, and we have hope that one day that promise will come true.

I’m working on a trilogy of books at the moment. The first one is pretty much about hope. The second one is about promises. The third one is about trust. And in my studying and researching and praying about this series, I learned something about all three. They’re all connected.

 

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Hebrews 10:23.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Hope is only as strong (and as resilient) as the character of the person who makes the promise. If someone you don’t trust at all makes you a promise, you won’t have any hope that it will happen. Even if that person is sincere in their desire to do something good for you, even if that person means well, if they are untrustworthy, you have no reason to hope that they will do what they say.

But what about someone you trust? What about someone who has proven themselves over and over again? If they make you a promise, would you hope that they would keep it? Well, I would. But the real test comes when it doesn’t look like they’re keeping their word. Right?

Life gets in the way. People let us down, and it’s easy to believe that God will too. But God isn’t like people. God is God. And because of Scripture and because of God’s work in our lives, we know we can trust Him. It’s just that He doesn’t work the way we usually expect Him to.

Honestly, the question isn’t really about how strong your hope is; the question is really about how much you trust God. Hope is an extension of trust; hope is a response to trust. So if you trust God, you will hope in Him, and when it looks like (and feels like) He is going back on His word, your level of trust in Him will determine how long your hope will endure.

So if you feel hopeless this morning, especially this week before Christmas when it seems everyone is depressed about something, stop asking why your hope is gone and start looking at who you’re trusting. Are you trusting the current economy to solve your problems? Are you trusting your finances to answer your questions? Do you trust the talking heads on television to explain why your life isn’t working? Are you trusting your friends to identify you and provide you with self-worth? I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with any of those, but if you put your trust in any of those things, that’s where your hope is centered.

The economy isn’t stable. Neither are your finances. They’ll be good one moment and gone the next. And people are fluid and foolish, especially the ones on television. Even your friends will let you down, including the ones you trust because no one is perfect. Where will your hope be then?

That’s where God comes in because He never lets His people down. He never abandons His people. He never forgets His people. And though we may feel like He’s not around or like He’s not working, most of the time that’s because we’re not really looking for Him. Or if we are looking for Him, our attitudes need an adjustment, like a near-sighted person wearing glasses for farsightedness.

Think about it. How strong is your hope? If it’s not strong at all, you might want to consider re-evaluating who you trust.