I’m realizing that people say the stupidest things, and by people I mostly mean me but I’ll bet you say some stupid stuff too don’t you?
The other day I was wondering about some of these stupid things and I realized that we have a whole bunch of phrases that we like to use that don’t really mean anything.
Like the other day I was with two people and one of them got mad at the other one so they stood up and stormed out of the room and the other one said, “Don’t let the door hit you on the ____ on the way out!”
Have we ever wanted the door to hit someone in the blank on the way out?
Wouldn’t this have been the perfect time for wanting the door to hit someone?
What about when you’re sitting in a room with a friend talking about someone and then they walk in? One of the two of you is obligated to say, “Well speak of the devil!”
Did we just call this person the devil?
It’s not enough that they were probably already worried that we were talking about them, but now we also insult them?
Whenever I walk into a room and someone says this, I just introduce myself to everyone else in the room as “the devil”.
What about the phrase “Thank God?”
Have you ever found yourself saying “thank God” and wondered if you’ve really meant it?
You know what I mean, you’ve said “thank God” on a reflex, like “thank God” was an exclamatory phrase akin to “awesome” or “oh yeah”.
I started thinking about this the other day so I made a list of things that I’ve “thanked God for” insincerely:
Getting a front row parking space at Fred Meyer,
Finding the remote control in the couch cushions,
The Red Sox winning the World Series,
Getting the last slice of pizza,
Getting off with a warning,
Not failing something I should have failed,
Finding a pair of jeans that fit AND look good after the age of 30,
Van Halen getting back together,
The lawn mower starting on the first pull,
School being cancelled for snow,
Church being cancelled for snow,
Finding a Nintendo Wii.
Remembering the password to my online banking account.
Sometimes I hear people thanking God for things that I’m pretty sure that God wants nothing to do with. This usually happens at award ceremonies when someone writes an absolutely filthy song and then starts out their speech by saying that they want to thank, “Their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
I’ve heard people thank God for getting away with something that they shouldn’t have done in the first place:
“Thank God she didn’t know about my criminal record or we would’ve never gotten married.”
I’ve heard people thank God for giving them something that they weren’t supposed to have:
“Thank God we found the key to his parents liquor cabinet.”
Sometimes we are guilty of adding God to what it is that WE are hoping to achieve.
In the Book of I Samuel, we find a portion of God’s story that has to do with trying to “add a little God into our lives”.
The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield.
When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the LORD bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.”
So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
In case you’ve never seen an Indiana Jones movie, the Ark of the Covenant was a special handcrafted chest inlaid with gold and inside it were the most sacred items that the people of Israel had, including THE 10 commandments.
Now the most important thing about the Ark was not what was inside of it but rather what was on top of it. See the golden lid of the Ark was known as “the Mercy Seat”, and when the Ark was placed in the tabernacle of worship the Bible tells us that the Mercy Seat became the place where the Glory of God dwelled.
The Israelites got back to their camp after a long day of getting it handed to them by the Philistines and they recognized that they tried to go out and do something without God. They started a task and they realized that God was not with them. They had a natural response to this. When they realized that God was not supporting what it was that they were doing, they went to the place that God was and they said, “You are coming with us.”
When the ark of the LORD’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?” When they learned that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid. “A god has come into the camp,” they said. “We’re in trouble! Nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the desert. Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!”
Notice that God has a reputation. Even today God is still considered to be mighty and powerful, but back in this day, God’s reputation was unparalleled. It was unparalleled because the God of Israel had gone toe to toe with Egypt and brought the most powerful nation the world had ever seen to it’s knees. The Philistines were VERY aware of God’s reputation.
So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died. -I Sam 4:2-11
This is not what the Israelites were expecting. The Israelites were convinced that if they could bring God in on their endeavor, then surely God would come through for them. They put God in a situation where they thought he needed to come through in order to protect his reputation. It’s a good thing that we don’t do this today…
Have you noticed how easy it is to get someone to do something if you attach God’s name to it?
Sometimes it happens with political agendas,
Other times it happens with fund-raising campaigns.
It happens with entertainment,
And as I learned just recently it also happens with food.
This may sound like I’m nuts but what If I told you that God doesn’t endorse breakfast cereals, or popular music, or politicians, or products, or buildings.
God isn’t entertainment or a marketing strategy for books and candles.
God is the all-powerful, sovereign ruler of the universe, and he’s not interested in lending his reputation to causes because he doesn’t work for us.
This going to God to get a stamp of approval is the reason that the Israelites failed and it’s the reason that we as people continue to fail today. When I talk about us failing today, I’m not just talking about commerce and politics. That’s the “Those people out there” problem, but what about personally?
Here’s what it looks like for me:
I’m not always looking to have God be the boss of life.
I’m looking to employ God in more of an advisory capacity.
I want to do what I think needs to be done and then, when I get into a sticky situation, turn to God for his bail out program.
I like to do what I want when I want to and then throw some time and money God’s way when I’ve got some to spare.
I think if we’re honest, we all do this don’t we? Our lives are going pretty well but then one of our kids starts acting up and we go to church. Gotta get them hanging out with a different crowd of kids, maybe sick the youth pastor on them. Maybe you’ve gone weeks without actually talking to God, aside from mealtimes, but then a relative gets sick…
Maybe you’ve been a complete donkey and now no one trusts you?
It’s hard to get people on board with your plans because you’ve ruined your reputation so why not borrow some of God’s pull?
We’re all guilty of this aren’t we?
If you run into a problem, “mix a little God in” and hope for the best.
Unfortunately these situations are actually just set-ups for more defeat because when we decide to tackle our problems by mixing in a little God we’re actually just starting a new problem between us and God and guess who’s going to win that one every time?
It’s God and I’ll tell you why:
God doesn’t need to make US successful to defend HIS reputation.
God let his people suffer a tremendous defeat because it was only when their hearts were broken that they were going to be able to turn to him completely.
God is calling for us to have hearts that are undivided towards him, and in a strange paradox this undivided heart only arrives when our hearts are broken. It’s only when we stop trying to use God to solve our problems that we begin to understand that God doesn’t solve our problems, He IS the solution to our problem.
That problem is a heart divided against Him by sinful desires to accomplish our own plans instead of joining him in his.
God allowed the Israelites to be defeated. He did it in a way that not only defended his reputation, but also strengthened it. The Philistines were overjoyed by their victory and, assuming that their fish god had given them victory over Israel’s God, they took the Ark back and put it in their temple. For seven months the Philistines were afflicted with plagues until they realized that God was punishing them for having taken the Ark. They had no idea what to do so they took the ark put it on a cart, hitched up some oxen, pointed it towards Israel and smacked em on the rump.
The Israelites were out working in their fields when the cart came back and they were overjoyed. They got the ark and called a meeting. It’s at this meeting that we see how a broken heart becomes an undivided heart. The people gathered, and the new priest, a man named Samuel came forward to address the people, we find this part of the story in I Samuel 7:3:
And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods… commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only.
This brings up some tough questions for us today doesn’t it? I mean how do we know that what we’re doing is really what God is calling us to do? How do we know if we’re deceiving ourselves by merely adding a little God in to what we selfishly want?
I’m going to be really honest and tell you that this is probably the most difficult part of the Christian life because this is where you get to wrestle with God and see if you really will let him win.
Are you going to let him break your heart?
Are you willing to pour yourself out and say, “see, search, and take?”
If so I have some suggestions for you, things that have helped me over the years:
1.) Find someone older and wiser than you and hang on for dear life. When you find someone who God is using, follow God’s example and use them too. Most of the older Godly people we meet have already been broken in ways that we can learn from. The best way that you can resource a Godly mentor is this; give them permission to tell you that you are being an idiot and then ask them if you are being an idiot.
You know what I’ve found? If they’re Godly it’s an encouragement to hear that you aren’t.. and if you are, even if it doesn’t feel good, you always feel better knowing the painful truth that God is bringin’ on the heartbreak.
2.) When things around you just aren’t working out, don’t assume that God didn’t feel like showing up, instead look for reasons that God didn’t go with you towards your desired goal. As you look for things like this, remember that God does not reveal plans to you that are inconsistent with who he’s revealed himself to be. God doesn’t reveal things to your heart that contradict what he’s said in his word.
Most of us want to know God and his plan for our life, but we don’t actually want to do the two most basic things that it takes to get to know him: read the book and ask him questions. Mostly we go out of our way to ignore the book and then ask him to do things for us.
See reading the book and asking questions isn’t as easy as hoping for revelation. Unfortunately hoping and asking for revelation is not nearly as effective as reading and asking questions.
Most of us want a great relationship with God, but we also expect that God is going to do all of the work.
By definition, a relationship is about the interaction between two people, not one person sitting around looking awesome while the other one works miracles in their life.
God wants that relationship.
The people in right relationship are the ones that he provides for.
That’s something to sincerely “thank God” for.