Do we think we have to first get God's attention, then plead our emergency , then hope this busy God of the universe will put us on His list of "Things To Do?"
Meanwhile, we worry and hope we can maintain a sufficient level of faith and good works so as not to lose our place in the blessing line, while we are holding on.
Wouldn't it be a shame, we think, to fail the faith test and have to go back to the end of the line? Remember we have been told over and over again from the pulpit, that if you fail the test you are going to have to take it again, God's answer to us is "Sorry - I was all ready to answer your prayer and meet your need, but your faith slipped a bit. You got weak; you faltered; so it will have to wait. Go on back to the Word now; get it right; practice faith a little while longer; get into more patience and when you have mastered it , I'll be back and We'll see what can be done."
Consider, first of all, that when God tests us, it is not for the purposes of his own knowledge, but for our knowledge and the knowledge of the one whom the Bible refers to as "the Accuser of the Brethren." We see this in the book of Job; Satan accused Job of only serving God because God allowed him to prosper. God removed the hedge of protection He had put around Job to prove his accuser wrong. After the test, not only did Satan know that Job's faith was grounded in more than God's blessing, Job knew it also.
The testing of God became more understandable to me when I realized that one of the synonyms for "to test" is "to prove." God doesn't test us to see if we will fail. He tests us when He knows that we can succeed; He tests us in order to prove us.
Father God, please forgive us for thinking of you as a some distant friend - who comes to our rescue only in dire emergencies or when we are about to give up totally.
What a slap in the Almighty's face to suggest that He works on some kind of merit system, as if only those that are strong in faith, and highly disciplined can get His attention. We cannot earn God's blessings or obtain answers to prayer by claiming a better quality or quantity of faith than our brother or sister.
Are the world's problems so complex and mighty, that He has no time for our problems that seem trifling in comparison? How can we get His attention? How can we be assured that He hears us and see the danger we are in? Doesn't He know that we are hurting and broken? That we are barely hanging on by a thread, that any minute now the bottom is going to fall out of our world?
The truth is none of God's children have to vie for his attention. We do not have to enroll in some kind of 10 steps to faith program to get better results. We don't have to weep, or wail, or fast, or do penance to make Him see our present situation.
He knows our needs, our hurts, our problems, because He has been living through them with us. He has always been there, from the very first minute the trials hit. He has been bottling every tear, deeply touched by the feelings of our infirmities.
Should we wake Him Up? Beg Him for help? Run to Him in panic? Hope He will somehow hear our heart's cry? No! Why shout at a Father who is at my side? Why panic when He is closer than any brother? Why worry about weak or strong faith, when He has already seen and felt my needs?
Did not our Lord say, "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make an abode with him" (John 14:23)? If that isn't enough, He said further, "...he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you..." (John 14:12).
God is not somewhere in the universe, "up there" - but He is dwelling with us and in us. And He is not a casual toward us, who comes and goes according to our moods, doubts, and fears. Too often, we think our Lord is "chased away" by our backslidings into despair and fear. We think He leaves us, offended by a temporary fit of temper, weak faith, or fleeting doubts. We hope when we get it right, He will come back. How immature these thoughts are. He has promised to never leave us and never forsake us - He is with us in every struggle of life, until the very end. He is faithful to us, even when our faith is almost nonexistent. "If we are faithless, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself" (2 Timothy 2:13).
What about all the disappointments and delays - the unanswered prayers - the lingering illnesses - the never-ending problems - the ever-worsening hurts - the feelings of helplessness? Every Christian's faith is now on trial. This is the final test that will separate the over comers from those that abandon the faith.
Jesus wondered if He would find faith on the
earth when He returns. How could that be, when the earth has so many who claim to be His children?
Satan is determined to shipwreck the faith and confidence of all true believers. The Job-like problems that are being experienced by Christians today have caused many to wonder if God is even real. They say they pray and nothing happens. They need a miracle, because things are turning from bad to worse but God seems silent.
It is in this hour of confusion that an awful terror, deep in the soul, begins to surface. An inner haunting grips the mind. "Maybe God expects me to work this problem out all by myself. Maybe God offers us only eternal salvation, but not daily help. Perhaps I've been expecting too much from God. Maybe I am destined to go on hurting, lonely, just getting by. God must be mad at me, because He doesn't seem to see my tears or hear my crying."
Satan has the upper hand the very moment he can make a child of God think his Lord has turned a deaf ear to his need.
All around us are signs of God seemingly not at work. Doubt assails us from every side. And all we have to combat all this are words pronounced in a book. But those are the words of a God who rules by voice. He speaks and it happens.
The nearness of God needs to become natural to us. It is not enough to know the truth; we must let that truth become natural to us - a part of us. That comes through meditation. You never forget what your mind dwells on constantly. God's presence, His nearness, can become instinctive to us - so that His closeness is engraved in our minds. The heart can become so full of His presence it takes over the mouth.
Job discovered God's faithfulness on an ash heap, and there he learned to worship. He discovered the nearness of God, the personal concern of God, in the crucible of his affliction. There are many things that only suffering can teach us. All through the Bible, we see sorrow as the great teacher. There is not much depth to those who go through life without suffering and trial. It is the trial, not the reward of faith, which produces fruit.
Suffering and trials brings man face to face with God, with reality. It strips away all false pretentiousness; it makes a man seek after truth. It was the suffering of Christ that took away the veil that separated God and man.
And it is human suffering that still removes the scales from eyes blinded to the promises. It is when the soul is raw and wounded that it yearns the most for a healing balm.
Praying through is not praying until one gets his wish granted; rather, it is praying until we are willing to do His will. The holiest prayers are not of petition - but of praise. When petition passes into thanksgiving, Christ is being revealed.
Jesus prayed to fellowship. He prayed for submission to the Father's will. He prayed that all His wishes would be moderated to the will of His Father, until obedience was more important than receiving the promise.
How sad we have so few today really interested in pure and simple communion with God. Instead, we come to Him to do battle, to wrestle like Jacob, to demand our rights, to extract blessings, to claim birthrights. "In that day, ye shall ask nothing..."
I heard a preacher say "We want to force our hearing on the Lord. We pump up our faith like some kind of spiritual adrenalin, and come bloated with it into His presence to exchange it for a shopping cart full of blessings."
How far short we come in pleasing the heart of our Lord. Demanding faith is not the faith that pleases Him. It is Trusting faith, He so desires. Some would rebuke Job if he lived today and said, "Though He slays me, yet will I trust Him." They would ask him, "Don't you know who your Father is? You have rights!!! What do you mean "Though He slays me?" He came to give us life and that more abundantly!" Some, whose theology is all victory and no suffering, would stand in front of the fiery furnace and say to the Hebrew boys, "Where is your faith brothers? You don't have to go through that fire. Are you crazy? That fire is of the devil; claim your rights as a child of God. Why be roasted to death?"
Is prayer only for achieving our goal? Or is prayer meant to make us forget our own wishes and yearn only for Him? Is prayer meant to give us a way out of trouble or to give us the victory in the trouble? "A way of escape that ye may be able to bear it (not escape it)." Prayer is not to keep evil away but to empower us over evil.
Let us enter into the rest of faith, having confidence that when the time is fully come, He will do right by us. The unhurried Christian is the believing one. Not a single prayer is blocked out; not once will He fail in our hour of need.
The words of the familiar hymn "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" were written by a woman named Louisa Stead. Stead and her four-year old daughter lost their husband and father when he drowned off Long Island trying to rescue a little boy. Years after this severe trial, Louisa Stead recognized that God was the one who had repeatedly passed the test by being faithful to her; she was able to write, "Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him/ How I've proved him o'er and o'er."
If, when we are tested, we respond by testing and proving the faithfulness of God, taking Him at his word, we will be able to say confidently with Job, "When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold."
Candace House is the founder of Ruach Chayah (Breath of Life) Global Ministries. www.ruachchayah.org. She is also the host of a Christian TV Talk Show "The Breathing Room", which airs in 3 states.