James 4:1-8 What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? 2 You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is in vain that the scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind.
Recently, I had a good friend tell me that God had forgotten him. My friend thought that God was distant and he simply could not understand God’s purposes for his life. We have all been here. God seems distant, all the while we believe we are doing everything possible to bring ourselves close to God; it’s just so frustrating!
The other day I was putting together a shelf, yes, a simple 4 rack shelf. I got all the pieces out of the box, spread them out, and quickly came upon my first disappointment, I could not figure this out, I would have to read the instructions. So I stopped, read the one page instruction, and set out to make my simple shelf. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but lets just say that in 30 minutes I was furious at the shelf, it’s maker and the entire shelving community (whoever that would be). This thing just would not, no, could not go together! I started to believe that a group of engineers in shelf making corporate America that had one day decided it would be good fun to produce a shelf that could not be constructed. These evil engineers would laugh and laugh at every shelf sold, knowing the frustration that would descend upon whoever was unfortunate enough to make that purchase. About this time, I figured I needed a break, and maybe a beer. I came back, a calmer, and rejuvenated person; I was ready to make this shelf! In about a minute, maybe less I saw it. Instead of constructing the entire outer frame first, I should make this tier by tier, one shelf at a time; it went together flawlessly.
At first I was angry because it went together, I had been proven wrong! I was making the shelf wrong at first and it must be….my fault. Then I was humbled and went about the day, happy.
Happy is how we want to live of course, but often times we are simply too frustrated to be happy. We desire and do not have, we covet and cannot obtain, we do not have because we do not ask, and when we ask, we ask wrongly. We are certain that we are doing everything right, but God simply will not hold up His end of the bargain! I would like to introduce a wild idea.
What if God is always right and many times we….are not? Well that leaves us in quite a pickle! Because we are not talking about a simple shelf, we are talking about an entire life! We can’t just have a beer and start afresh! So we go on with our lives, hating them. Well maybe not hate, but we are usually unhappy, unhappy enough to drink too much, eat too much, and generally be the south end of a northern bound horse to all those whom we love. We turn ourselves into walking menaces, full of questions and anger, knowing that God is having a good laugh at our expense.
But lets back up a paragraph, what if God is always right? Why can’t we just have a beer and start life over? Well of course I don’t have a time machine, you will have to remain the same age as you currently are, but you can start over. God never intended us to be rich, and there is no word in the Bible that translates to “retire”; and I am not sure what good retirement is if I am so strung out over life!
If God is far off, be assured it is because you strayed. What will it take to get back to God’s Side? That is for each of us individually to answer. For me it meant quit my job, leave my entire career of twenty years and go to the Catholic Church. I will tell you, since the day I quit, I have seen miracles happen in my life. No, it was not easy to quit, and no there has yet to be a suitcase of $100.00 bills on my doorstep, but I have had God close! Stephanie and I have found a new love, going to church together! We go to catechism class together, and she nudges me when I answer too many questions. We go to church together, and hold hands at the Lord’s prayer. This time of “interim” has really given us a boost spiritually!
We sold our house in Wichita Falls, a city that is shrinking. The city has an average time of 6 months to sell a house, we sold in three weeks, for above asking! This of course means when we follow God we will find all our dreams come true! Not so much. We will find the greater good, it’s just strange how what we might think is horrible is really for our greater good. We may be humbled by God, but trust me it is for the best; our best. Walk with God and miracles happen.
Does my analogy mean you should all join the Roman Catholic Church? I would love to say yes, and really you all should, but we all have our own walk, and God will lead us. The catechism says:
Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church: “For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.”(CCC 1271)
Salvation can be found outside the Catholic Church, so this is not a turn or burn article. But we do need to examine our lives and see where it is that we are in err, have we read the instructions wrong? Where did we take the wrong turn? I was born into the Episcopal Church, it was my parents “turn” that turned out to be wrong! I was simply the first in the family to investigate that issue and correct it. Now mind you this does not reflect ill upon my folks, but it does point out that the changes we need to make may be issues that we have taken for granted our whole lives.
To my friend that thought God was distant; have you looked deeply into your own life? Something must be wrong because God is always right. He is even now trying to help you out of your self made exile. You remember the joke about the flood victim sitting on his roof, praying for God to save him. A row boat came by and offered the man a ride, the man thanked the row boat but stated he was waiting for God to save him. Next a motor boat came, and the man answered the same, “I am waiting for God to save me”. Lastly a helicopter came by, and the man turned him away the same way. Finally the man drowned, and went to heaven. Immediately he asked God incredulously, why didn’t you save me??!! God answered, I sent you two boats and a helicopter!
God is trying to save you even now, you may just have to take a step out in faith.