Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the LORD your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6
Yesterday, the confirmands at Dutch Neck learned about discipleship, and putting God first in the various aspects of their lives; for very logical and understandable reasons, this was a particularly challenging lesson for these incredible and brilliantly faithful youth. When one was asked whether he could insert God into his tennis matches, he said absolutely not, because that would mean giving up control, and that wasn’t something he could see himself doing.
Another youth, a high level cheerleader, said that her travel cheer team frequently gathers right before competitions to stop and say the Lord’s Prayer. Even though they are of different faith traditions, or of no faith tradition at all, the Lord’s Prayer is a reminder of protection and security for the team, and an assurance that they aren’t alone during their competition. When they don’t pray the Lord’s Prayer, they don’t feel as good about their performance, and their communication isn’t as good.
Interesting perspectives indeed from two strong faithful youth athletes, both faithful in their own way. One holding on to the perspective that athletics are his sphere of control, and not God’s, and the other, very much understanding God to have an eye out for each and every aspect of life.
Deuteronomy 31:6 encourages the Israelites that they are not alone in every aspect of their being, but that it is the Lord their God who goes with them in everything that they do; this is a God who cares, but also won’t fail nor will this God forsake them.
Don’t mistake God’s patience for His absence. This perfect and awesome God is not a vending machine God who is awaiting us to feed in a dollar and has a selection of candy bars, potato chips and granola bars for us to choose from. God’s timing is absolutely perfect, and His presence is constant, no matter the circumstance, and no matter our prayers. The thing is, this is where our strength and boldness comes in; our prayers don’t work like this vending machine, where we can get whatever candy bar selection we desire from God simply because we pray for it. Our call in life is God-driven, not human-desired, and sometimes it takes a few tries, a few flops, and a few nights spent in prayer to figure out exactly where God is leading. But GOD IS LEADING, and never has God departed from His people at any time. He expects us to be passionate about the various things that pass through our lives, and to get disappointed when they don’t work out, when we fail, or when we find out that we didn’t get a job.
But God is the source of strength, promise and courage, and is always present with and for us. A vending machine god, who could give us what we want in response to our prayers, not what we need and what is truly best for us, might not be the god we want. But with God as the source of our strength, everything is possible.
“But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God, all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26
With the one and true God, we can do all things, for He does not leave, nor does He abandon His creation. Scripture proves this – He didn’t abandon Abraham, Noah, Moses, the Israelites, despite their ignorance, their struggles, their inability to just follow the rules. No matter our ignorance, our stubbornness, our stupidity, our enthusiasm, our love for ourselves, our ignorance for others, our hatred, our bigotry, our just plain whatever, God continues to love us and Deuteronomy 31:6 puts it perfectly, God simply refuses to leave and forsake us.
When we pray for something and it isn’t answered the way we would like it, that doesn’t mean that God is ignoring it, it means that God has something else even better in store. The way faith works is this: We have to play by God’s rules, not by our own, and that means giving up control to God. Like the two confirmands who talked about their own faith and sports, giving up ultimate control to God is extremely difficult, and for some it is an easier thing than for others. Sometimes, it takes time – even a lifetime. Control is a difficult thing to give up, a natural human quality beloved and cherished by some, like the one confirmand. But to truly enjoy this life in God, to truly understand and cherish the path and walk, control must be yielded. Vending machine faith, while somewhat enjoyable, can be disappointing and frustrating, even narcissistic. And ultimately, it isn’t God, it is human-centric, human-initiated, and human-concluded.
Control can be anxiety reducing in a life otherwise out of control, but a life lived in faith can actually completely reduce anxiety; God never leaves our side, and has the whole world in His sight. Nothing goes unseen, and nothing is out of His control. God doesn’t call without giving the tools to do the call, nor does God call without providing the resources to make it happen.
But during the process, God is there, working in and through you. Still not leaving nor forsaking you.
So give up the vending machine deity, give up the control, God is waiting, working through you and in you, and have courage and be strong, the Lord your God will never leave nor forsake you. This fact, you can be certain of – that is, if you have faith.
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