Negotiating With God

It was a familiar conversation. One I've had too many times. The person sitting in my office was hurting. Life was not working out. A lot of bad decisions had been made. The consequences were piling up. Discouragement was verging on despair. And then he said it:

"I told God I'll do anything he asks, if he will just fix this problem and get me out of this mess I am in. But I don't think God is listening or that he is going to clean up this mess. I told Jesus I'll be more serious about doing what I am supposed to do if he will just take care of this lawsuit."

Somewhere along the way you begin to sense that the Christian life is not exactly working the way you thought it was going to work.

Some things you wanted to happen that make life easier for you are NOT happening.

Some things you wanted God to take away are STILL there in your life.

Some things you asked God for (more than once) you have NOT YET received.

And you start to feel . . . well, you could be feeling a variety of things.

Disappointment is common.
So is confusion.
Frustration and irritation with God are there, but they seem a little "risky" so you keep those things pushed down.

Some place along the way, and from some speaker somewhere, you may have heard that it is your fault things aren't working out. And a favorite line is: You don't have ENOUGH FAITH. More faith is what you need. Work up your faith.

I get it. We've all been there and we've all done that. And it is likely to happen again in our future.

Depending on how serious the issue is and how much pain you have, you might become desperate.

Desperation leads to bargaining...
Making deals...
Making promises...
Negotiating with God.

God, if you do this then I'll do that.

That almost never works, and if it does, it is probably more a coincidence than it is God at work.

We want the Christian life to be neat and tidy. If we are honest, we want to have more control over the outcomes than we do.

I do think that when we are very new in our faith, when we are what the Bible calls spiritual babies, God may actually interact with us in ways I just described. We don't know any better yet. Spiritual babies don't know their way around or have more ability to take care of themselves than physical babies do.

So God, who is loving and generous, does a lot of things for us.

But as children grow up, any good  parent wants their child to become mature, responsible, and accountable. They want their child to stick with things, tough it out when that is needed, persevere during hard times, hang in there, and stay the course.

Life is usually NOT neat, rarely easy, and little is guaranteed. Mature people know this and live with faith, hope, and love. We live with trust.

Negotiate with God - NO.

Wrestle with God - YES.

In the Old Testament, there is a man named Jacob. Jacob was a schemer, perhaps something of a scoundrel as well. Jacob liked to make deals and bargains, and he usually was able to get the best deal. He would find out those who were on the other end of the deal were not very happy with him.

Still, bargaining and negotiating continued until he realized the dead end road he was on.

That is when Jacob stopped bargaining and started wrestling with God. You can read the longer story in Genesis 25-33. The core story is Genesis 32:22-32.

Jacob wrestles with God and his name is changed to Israel. One very good translation of the name Israel is "he who struggles with God."

He who struggles with God! That is us. That is what we do. That is what we need to do. Not bargain. Not walk away. Instead, struggle and wrestle through all our hurts and questions.

One author, perhaps a little condescendingly, said, "Christianity is big boy religion." It is time to let go of childish things and grow up.

Yes. Blunt, but right on.

We all start as as babies but we don't stay there. We grow into spiritual adulthood, and at the core of our journey with Jesus will be STRUGGLE. Because as you wrestle with God, you are changed.

No pain, no gain.
That's not in the Bible.
But it could be.

Jesus never said his way was easy, only that it was good, right, and true.

Jesus also said he would never abandon you as you walk his way. You'll have to keep on wrestling with him until you believe that to be true. When you get there you'll be glad you did.

I know it is hard. Stay the course. You are loved. Jesus is with you. Don't let go.

Pastor Brian Rice
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