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What does God get?

The discussion in Bible class was about prayer and how God does not give us everything we ask for.  Some examples were brought up of Christians who had been sick, the church had prayed for them to get better, but they had died.  It was a win-win situation, someone observed.  If the church’s prayer was answered, they were restored to their health.  If not, they went to be with God.  Either way, they would win. 

But what does God get?

That’s the thing about prayer in 21st century America --- it tends to be all about us.  Of course, prayer should be about us to some extent, but it was never meant to be completely about us.  Somewhere down the line, it should also have something to do with God.  Jesus demonstrated that in His prayer in the garden, didn’t He (Matthew 26:36-46)? He had deep and profound personal needs that He expressed to God.  Then He qualified it all by praying that God’s will, rather than His own, be done (v. 39,42,43).  This is a model for us!  Furthermore, Jesus gave His disciples a model for prayer He told them  to pray for the kingdom to come and God’s will to be done (Matthew 6:10).  He lived what He taught! 

This is a serious issue for disciples.  It’s right to see the death (or the deliverance from death) of a saint as victory (Psalm 116:15).  But we need to see more.  We need to see that our Father is omnipotent.  He is not limited by any situation.  Instead of thinking merely in end terms, we need to see God using and being glorified by the process as well.  The person who is sick, diseased, or disabled, will not just glorify God by getting better or going home to God, they can glorify Him if they never get out of their present condition!  Our deliverance prayers are well-intentioned, but they’re not always well thought-out.  Let me say it again:  we don’t have to pray a person into better circumstances for God to get something (we do that for our well being), He’s already using them!  Before Paul spoke of departing and being with Christ or remaining in the body (the win-win), he prayed, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death,” (v. 20).  He understood that Christ could be exalted regardless of his circumstance so his primary focus was not getting delivered from his circumstances, but exalting Christ!

This can be a hard truth, but it’s one we need to square ourselves with if we wish to address the present needs of those who are suffering. 

Not long ago, I read something concerning John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, and one his former players.  It seems that although the team won a couple of national championships during this player’s time, he didn’t get to play very much.  As a result, he held a grudge against Wooden for years, unfairly concluding that the coach didn’t like him.  Although he later went on to be quite successful as an executive for one of the television networks, he nonetheless harbored ill feelings toward his old coach.  Finally, one day on a golf course, it occurred to him that much of his success was due to the principles he had learned under Wooden.  He then called the coach, set up a meeting, and now they are quite close. 

Because he wasn’t out on the floor playing, the player made the mistake of thinking he wasn’t important  to the team and the coach didn’t like him.  Neither of those were true (as he one day realized).  If God is really in control of things as the Scripture asserts over and over that He is, then whether we’re out on the floor playing or not, we’re still part of the team and He is using us.  (That we don’t understand how or don’t like our role are separate issues).

This must have been something of John the Baptist’s mindset when he sent messengers to Christ (Luke 7:18ff).  John’s in a prison cell.  He’s not out preaching as he would have preferred.  He wants to know if he has misunderstood things --- isn’t Jesus the One sent from God?  Isn’t that what John witnessed when Jesus was baptized by him?  Of course it is.  The subtext to John’s inquiry is, “If you are the One and I’m part of the team, why am I on the bench?”  Christ’s answer is, “I am the One and you are being used by me in ways you cannot comprehend,” (v. 21-22,26-28).

This is much easier to preach than it is to live, but it’s important to preach because many of us will be called on to live it one day.  If and when that day comes, God will help us to have the faith to pray that Christ will be exalted in our body.       

That's what God gets.
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