God has placed many people in my life who are looking for Him. This week, however, it seems that many who came to me sought to challenge God, not consult Him. Although professing belief, many wonder where God has gone. They wonder why He has left their side in trouble; why He is punishing them; why they do not feel His presence; why He does not comfort them. They wonder why they cannot ascertain His guidance or wisdom. This morning, as I lay in bed, I felt the words come to me.
“Everyone is looking for the “then”, without performing the “if”.
Read Psalm 91.”
Psalm 91 is one of my favorite scriptures. I have it committed to memory, and I reference it often when people are seeking help. It is perhaps one of the most comforting pieces of prose in the known universe. God promises refuge, shelter, protection. He assures us of His constant care and provision and vigilance. In fact, I am so familiar with the psalm, that I was a bit surprised that God prompted me to go study it again.
I am currently struggling through a very different piece of scripture, the story of Noah. I have been challenged with presenting the stark reality of a choice made to ignore God. While many decry a God who would wipe out all of humanity – only saving 9 people – they forget the part that the world had made a conscious decision to live without God. If people had listened to the Word of God through Noah, then they would have been saved and been a part of the covenant. And then it hit me…
The “if”. And the “then”.
“If you dwell in the shelter of the most High, then you will find rest”
“If you make the Lord your refuge, (then) no evil will conquer you, no plague will come near your home, angels will protect you”.
“If you love Me, then I will rescue you.”
“If you trust in My name, then I will protect you. ”
“ If you call on Me, then I will answer”.
We want the “then”, without the “if”. We want God’s gifts, His promises, His care – without doing our part. It is at the very core of our lack of faith. We simply have not done the seeking. We have not put in the time. We meander through our lives saying grace before dinner, and showing up at church on Sunday, but we have not persistently trusted, sought, consulted, or honored God every day. The “if”s are severely lacking.
It is manifested in the believer’s accusation of God’s ambivalence; or the world’s condemnation when a tragedy occurs. But without an “if” , there can be no “then”. You may find it interesting to note that nothing that God asks of us in Psalm 91 is actually works-based. He doesn’t say “If you give someone $5” , or “If you go to church on Sunday” . No, all of God’s “ifs” are in response to Him, and are primarily passive.
Dwell. Love. Trust. Call On.
Jesus brings the point home when He speaks of what is necessary when petitioning God.
” If you abide in Me and My words remain in you, then ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7.
So many people tell me that they pray and it “doesn’t work”. The answer to that complaint is in the above scripture. If you abide in God and His words,you begin to transform, to think like Him. Your will lines up with His. When your will is aligned with God’s, then whatever you ask is granted. We need to abide, to remain in Him. It is not a 10 minute exercise, and it does not mean that if we profess to love Jesus, that we can ask for a Mercedes and He will provide it.
The “if” is a critical part of our relationship with the Lord. There are things He expects us to do in order to remain in fellowship.
God’s promises will only begin to bear fruit in our lives when we do.