Who He is, not what He gives.

{This is a post I wrote a few months ago, but it’s been on my heart for that last few days, so I wanted to share it with you lovely people again.}

Yesterday, I heard probably the best sermon I’ve had the privilege of listening to for quite some time. It was a new church in Nashville that I’d never been to before, but was invited to go with a couple of friends. So off I went, and it was wonderful. Not only was the worship amazing, but I could feel God’s presence all around me. And when the pastor began speaking, I felt a bit as if I had come home.

The subject of the message that morning was spiritual warfare. I’ll admit I haven’t done all that much research on the subject as it tends to freak me out a bit and give me nightmares. (I also kind of avoid the book of Revelations for basically the same reasons.) I’ve always been pretty superstitious. I’m a bit like Marshall from How I Met Your Mother- ghosts, Bigfoot, creepy paranormal creatures you see on the Discovery Channel are a real and ever present danger. I hate horror movies with demons in them, because that’s just terrifying. Voodoo and a zombie apocalypse aren’t laughing matters. And I still maintain that I heard a werewolf outside my window. (I don’t care if my dad ‘thinks’ it was a deer. Please.)

So when the pastor started talking about spiritual warfare, I wasn’t all that thrilled. But he took it to a different place. He focused on the final temptation of Jesus by Satan. The final trial that Satan gives Jesus is by tempting Him to throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem. If you are the Son of God and throw yourself from this point, Satan tempts, and God will send His angels to rescue you. Jesus replies with, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Luke 4:12).

Jesus, the pastor explained, could have done it. He could have thrown Himself off of the temple, demanding that God take action and prove His love for Jesus. Jesus could have demanded a sign from God; He could have forced God’s hand. And everyone would have seen and known the truth.

Mankind has a history of demanding that God gives us a sign to prove His presence, love, and power. Faith has always been a hard pill for us to swallow. Centuries and centuries of human history works against us in this case. We just aren’t satisfied with believing in the unseen, because all of the horrible stuff that has happened in the past tends to raise doubts. The Israelites in the Old Testament were the ultimate seeker of signs. After Moses led them out of captivity in Egypt, their doubts resurface over and over again. They demand sign after sign, from water to manna to quail to clouds and fire. They see and then believe and then forget and ask for another. And if God doesn’t give them one fast enough, they build an idol instead. The Israelites are the perfect example of how short-sighted people can be.

It’s no wonder that it was then written that we shouldn’t put our Lord God to the test. All of those signs and miracles have never satisfied our human skepticism. They force God to act as an entertainer or magician, pulling something from His hat of tricks at our every whim. Jesus knew this, which is why when Satan tells Him to jump and see if God will catch Him, Jesus says no. He doesn’t need the sign; He doesn’t need the miracle or act of supernatural power. He already believes and has faith in His Father who, just before His temptation, told Jesus, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). Jesus has no reason to doubt God, because God has already told Jesus exactly what He needed to hear.

We ask for God to prove that He loves us. We beg Him for signs and miracles. Just show us one thing, we ask, and I’ll believe. Just give me this one thing, and I’ll know you love me. But what we’re really saying is do this one thing for me, and then I’ll love you. Show me something tangible and I’ll finally believe.

He already gave us that. Jesus was His ultimate sign. Sending His Son down to perform miracles, spread God’s love, and preach salvation and grace to the world was the best sign God could give of His eternal devotion to a race of people that repeatedly turn their back on Him. He sacrificed Himself on the cross and rose from the dead, and still we say, “But prove to me that you are really God.”

God can obviously do anything. But I’m not that sure that is the most wonderful thing about Him. Religions all over the world have deities that can do powerful, awesome, amazing acts. But the most inspiring thing about our God, the Christian God, is that He knows when to step back. He knows when the things we are asking Him to do, the miracles we ask Him to perform are not because we trust and believe in Him, but because we want something from Him.

God doesn’t exist to give us whatever we want. He doesn’t exist as a magician, to make every difficult thing disappear, to pull whatever we want from a hat. But He does exist to show us love and to be loved by us. He does exist to be glorified and worshipped. He does exist to gives us grace and mercy, and guide us through our struggles. God truly is the most amazing of things. And we should come to Him, pray to Him, and praise Him not because of all the things He can give us, but because of who He is.

Thank you for reading! Feel free to let me know what you think. And maybe follow me on Twitter?

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3 thoughts on “Who He is, not what He gives.

  1. Good points. We always want control. That was the original sin, really. We want to be the one who does something and then have God respond the way we like.

    But it works the other way. God always moves first, and then we respond to Him. So our aim shouldn’t be to control our lives, control other people, and so on.

    God made us free moral agents, so of course we have to make decisions, but we do well to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Col. 3:15), and to abide in Him.

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