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The Big Surprise
By David A. DePra
One thing Iíve had to repent of over the years are my grips against God. Chief among these was what really boiled down to a couple of accusations. For instance, I used to blame God for not answering my prayers. Iím not talking here about one-time prayers, but prayers that lasted for many years. I thought God just ignored me. And to me, that wasnít right.
Put aside for a minute the fact that God cannot lie, or fail. Put aside the fact that we often cannot understand the WHY of Godís ways Ė and need to trust God, and not our understanding. Those Truths are sometimes forgotten when you pray and get no answers. They are Truths that seem empty at times like that. Actually, it is our own unbelief that creates our inability to see Godís hand, and then the accusation itself. But when that is going on, you donít know it. You just think you counted on God and He let you down.
There are many times in life when we ask God for help, and donít seem to get it. There are times when we want Godís guidance, and either get silence in return, or think we have heard, only to end up taking a path that leads to disaster. And when these kinds of things happen, there is simply no use saying they havenít happened. They HAVE.
What complicates these situations is that if you turn on Christian television you seem to encounter folks who NEVER face these kinds of dilemmas. They ALWAYS hear from God, on cue. In fact, they donít even need to pray to hear from God. God is carrying on a dialog with them. He says this or that to them. Why isnít God talking to YOU like that? What hot line have they found to God that escapes you?
Christians by the millions have these questions, and often they are told that something is wrong. But that answer doesnít quite do it for me, because I already know that something is wrong. Isnít there always something wrong with each one of us? Is God waiting for ME to fix what ails me before I can reach Him? What is going on here?
I used to think that I was this great person of faith. The reason, other than spiritual pride, was that I believed God. I believed Him no matter what. I never gave up on God, and was never really guilty of serious compromise. It would come as a very humbling shock when I discovered the Truth about myself and my so-called faith.
I discovered that often the reason that I, "believed God," was to get from Him what I wanted. In other words, if I wanted God to give me something, I was smart enough to figure out that this required faith. So -- I had faith. In short, I was believing God FOR what I wanted.
But you know, there was always this grip in me towards God. It would go something like this, "God, I trusted You. God, I obeyed You. And you did not answer me." There was a spirit of accusation in me towards God because He didnít do what I trusted Him to do.
Now, donít get me wrong. I sensed that this was wrong. I would renounce it, ask God to help me to stop it, and I would try harder not to do that. I knew enough about Biblical Truth to realize that I was griping against a perfect God. So despite my griping and accusing, I would usually come to my senses at some point. But I was like a ping-pong ball.
At some point, and I believe that this was God REALLY being faithful to me, I began to see what I was doing. I had created the terms by which God must answer me. And I trusted Him to do that. But when He didnít answer on my terms, I got mad at Him. And then I had to dig myself out of that, and start over again. Often, I started by creating new terms that were still my terms. And this pattern continued.
There were times when I actually wanted God to prove to me He was faithful so that I could trust Him! I didnít put it in those words, or realize that this was what I was doing, but it came down to that in the end. I was fearful to trust God on certain matters because I thought maybe He wasnít there for me. So I would ask Him to show me He was there before I trusted. He never would. So I would end up trusting Him anyways. Iím glad I did. But Iím sorry it took me so long.
What I am describing in all of this is certainly not unique to me. I think most Christians go through some version of it. For those who havenít, I think it is simply because they have not had their faith tested to that point. The fact is, faith is the easiest thing in the world to claim that you have Ė until it doesnít seem to work anymore. It is easy to proclaim the faithfulness of God when you have money in the bank, your health, and reasonably good relationships in your life. But when those things begin to fall apart, and you know of no reason they ought to fall apart, then you find out whether you have faith.
I think many Christians believe that they have the blessings they do because they have been faithful to God. Or we think that we OUGHT to have blessings from God because we think we have been faithful to Him. Earlier I shared that this is what I believed. Somehow we think that our faith to God obligates Him to us Ė according to our terms. We say we want HIS terms, but really, they are often our terms. And when our terms donít come to pass, we blame God.
Unbelief is an amazing thing. I think we have little idea of just how deep it is in each one of us. Unbelief motivates us in many ways. For instance, we put on faith as a mask. Rather than real faith in God, our faith is something we hide behind because we know God wants it. Our faith is often a religious poise. It may even be faith in our faith, rather than faith in God. In other words, we are confidence because we think we believe, and this obligates God.
It is terrifying to discover that even your best days towards God have an element of self-interest in them. You seek God FORÖyou pray FORÖyou believe God FOR.
Now, the good news is that God knows all about this. And He is not defeated. But that is why He often does not answer us. He cannot affirm such deception. He is drawing us out from under our mask, and seeking to prove our faith, and to make it real. But while He is doing this, we donít realize it. Therefore, we blame God for not answering us.
It took me a long time before God finally broke through to me and showed me the key to this whole dilemma. What I was doing was wrong. But the solution was not some THING I needed to do right. I did not need some different pattern or formula to use on God. I did not need some creed or doctrine to discover on how to get God moving Ė indeed, thinking THAT was a big part of the problem, not the solution.
The key was this: I needed to seek God Himself. Not merely answers from God. Not merely teachings and formulas on how to pray and get answers. Not the right THING to do, or the right prayer to say. Not anything more complicated than God Himself.
The incredible thing was, this Truth was right in front of me all the time. I knew it from the Bible. I just never plugged it into my experience, probably because I mistook knowing the teaching from the reality of the Person behind it. I need to seek God Himself. That is what Jesus meant when He said, "Seek you first the kingdom of God Ė His rule and inner life Ė and all things will be added." The Bible says this a thousand other ways.
Yet how do we do this? Well, I had to warm up to the scary thought that this boiled down to unconditional surrender. It boiled down to trusting God WITHOUT any proof He was there, and WITHOUT any assurances whatsoever as to what was going to happen if I did. I had to LET GO. I had to stop trying to get God to do what I wanted. I had to stop trying to be religious with God. I had to recognize that there was nothing about me to obligate God. In short, I had to realize that God is faithful by His own initiative, or it is all over for every one of us.
God wants us to enter into a personal relationship with Him, based on a personal revelation of Him. But it is never going to happen until we let go. We have to repent of trying to direct God, and start realizing that He has ALWAYS been trying to direct us. We have to realize that the main reason we donít believe God is NOT because God has failed, but because we have a hardness of heart.
You see, we seek God for things. God wants to give us Himself. Then He can give us the things. It is only the faithfulness of God that He denies us a departure from this pattern.
Job had this realization, and it just about took his life. He had walked uprightly with God. God Himself said so at the beginning of that book. And despite forty chapters of stress, arguing, and pleading for justice, at the end of the book of Job, God again applauded Job. God said, "My servant Job has spoken rightly of me." And yet, Job REPENTED. Of what did Job repent?
Job tells us. He says, "I spoke of things too wonderful for me. I heard of You with the ear. But now my eyes see you. THEREFORE I REPENT." Job repented because he realized that despite his true words about God, that he had never really seen the One about whom He had rightly spoken. He was repenting of his blindness; of his smallness. Job had thought he knew God. He now realized just how much more there was of God.
Job had spent all that time during his suffering begging to see answers. God refused to answer. Job got only silence.
Read the book of Job. You will see yourself in there. You will see rehearsed in the book of Job, and in the Psalms, every human questioning of God, and every human reaction possible in those situations.
But then we are given the answer. Job did not see the answers. But he saw God. And that was the whole purpose towards which God was working.
When we are in situations that test us, somehow it is difficult to connect our situation to this purpose. But despite other considerations that may be involved, it comes down to this in the end: God wants to reveal Himself to us. And apparently there is NO OTHER WAY in which this will happen, except in our situation, right now, just like it is. God wants us to surrender to Him through that.
You will notice in the book of Job that once Job saw God, the end of his trial did not immediately come. It was only after Job prayed for his friends. I do not think that this is presented as a formula as to how to get out of a trial Ė just pray for others. I think what we are seeing is evidence of a change in Job. Job had spent all this time focused on himself Ė trying to find God so that he could get out of his suffering. But once Job saw God, he was able to leave himself alone Ė leave himself in the hands of God. Because of that, God was able to say, "Now we are done. This is the faith and relationship I was building in you this whole time."
This is what I began to realize. Somewhere in the process of my trials, I began to realize that despite the fact that God had not pleased me with big signs, wonders, and proofs of His faithfulness, that He had, in fact, always been faithful. He had not always done what I wanted, but even THIS was geared to getting me to seek HIMSELF. I began to realize that had God given me some of the things I insisted I had to have in life, that I would have never gotten to the place where He really wanted me to be -- with a revelation of HIMSELF.
I also began to see that the greatest disasters in life were, in fact, all preparatory for what I really wanted Ė freedom in Jesus Christ. God is not punishing us, nor He is teasing us. He is doing exactly what is best for us. It is only our unbelief, self-will, fears, and ignorance, that makes it difficult for us to see or accept this. The problem, therefore, is not God. The problem is us. Does that really surprise any of us?
Once I began to stop interpreting things through unbelief, I got another big surprise. It should not have been a surprise, but it was. Once I began to look at things through faith, I saw them in a totally different light. Once I looked back and operated under the, "assumption," that God had been in faithful charge all the time, I began to see that He was. This was not damage control, or a self-imposed brainwashing. No. It was me finally seeing that God was faithful.
When a person finally sees God, the questions and murmurings begin to cease. We find out that, indeed, the problem was never with God, but with us. And our entire perspective, as a result, gets turned right side up.
This is what God is after for us: To reveal Himself. To set us free because of that. And He is working on that right now Ė even if we cannot see how. This doesnít mean that God will fail us in other things. It simply tells us that we can afford to seek first HIM Ė and that He can be trusted for all other issues in our lives.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for each of us is going to come when we stand before Jesus Christ. We are going to see, on that day, that He was absolutely right, faithful, and loving, in every thing He caused or allowed in our lives. We are going to see THEN, what we need to believe NOW. Hopefully, for most of us, it wonít be TOO big of a surprise, because we will have come to embrace it by faith.
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