Monday, January 30, 2017

Be Careful What You Pray For

January 30, 2017

It is often easy for us Christians to become too comfortable in our ways. Those of us who are ready to dig into the Scriptures at the drop of a hat may be particularly susceptible to complacency. We all approach the Scriptures with a particular set of personal and cultural blinders that tend to guide us towards texts that support our opinions and away from those that challenge them. Those texts that seem to contradict our presuppositions and beliefs we study all the more, that we may find some way of minimizing its impact upon the bulwark of our personal faith. Those who believe in eternal security have trouble with texts that posit danger for those who fall away, while those who believe it's possible to lose one's salvation don't know what to do with texts that declare the elective purposes of God.

It's the same whether one is dealing with our cultural issues of sexuality, women's rights, or even inner healing and demonology. We're like W.C. Fields, whose relationship with alcohol was particularly friendly. When he was sick and apparently dying, a friend visited him only to find him reading the Bible. Somewhat surprised, he asked why. "I'm looking for loopholes," was Field's reply.

Years ago as a teenager, I attended the wake and funeral of my Sunday School teacher's husband, who died suddenly from a heart attack at a rather young age. Her son was one of my best friends, instrumental in my coming to faith in Christ. I'll never forget the morning she addressed our class some weeks after her husband's passing.

"Be careful what you pray for," was her admonition. "God will take you seriously. I had prayed constantly that if there was anything coming between me and Christ, that God would take it from me. I loved my husband dearly, even more than God. God took me up on my prayer. Be careful what you pray for."

We sat in stunned silence. I still do. I've related this story to people who confidently declare that God wouldn't do such a thing; that she was mistaken. "The devil is the one who does such things," they proclaim with certainty. I'm not convinced. If a patient has gangrene in a limb, the surgeon does something radically painful in order to save the patient's life. Amputation is never preferable, but there are times it is necessary. The first commandment states, "You shall have no other gods before me." My Sunday School teacher told us that she had put her husband before her God, and when she prayed, God did radical surgery.

Some who read this will instinctively recoil at this suggestion, but I'm not so sure she was wrong. She never wavered in her faith, trusting that the God who saved her loved her enough to do whatever necessary to draw her close. Too often, I have hedged my prayers, playing it safe, asking God to work his will in me, but in ways I approve. So I wonder, how radical is my love for, and commitment to, Jesus Christ? I am thankful tonight for this godly woman who years ago refused to let either herself or God off the hook in her pursuit of him.

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