Thursday, October 23, 2014
A while back, I posted something on Facebook about prayer, just a quote I read that made sense. Several people, including some of you, posted kind and helpful comments. Then one of my Facebook friends posted this: “Prayer is worthless.” I tried to engage him, asked him to tell me what had happened that made him feel this way, but I got no further response. I cannot tell you this man’s story. But I have seen this many times; people who have tried to seek after God, and have concluded, “God either doesn’t care about me, can’t help me, or doesn’t exist. I give up.” On the other hand, I know many more people who have found in Christ the joy they've been looking for all their lives. What is the difference between these two groups? I don’t think the second group of people is more sincere than the first, or more deserving. So what is it?
I'm preaching a series of sermons right now about God's grace. Last week, I talked about aspects of grace that some of us have a hard time with intellectually. This Sunday, I'll talk about another reason people miss grace. I call it the "if only" syndrome. People say, “I could be happy if only…if only I could get that job; if only my boss treated me differently; if only my sick loved one got better; if only my child could be happy, well-adjusted and successful; if only I had friends; if only I could get that person to love me; if only the person I love would stop playing golf every time he has a day off, or stop drinking so much, or start loving me for who I am instead of expecting me to change.” We all have an “if only.” We bring our “if only”s to God, but sometimes God doesn’t deliver what we ask. And we conclude that prayer is worthless. God is no good to us, if He’s even there at all.
Here’s the main problem with the “if only” syndrome: What it really says is, “God, I know what I need, and I’ve managed to build the life I want just fine on my own. Now, if you will just give me that last little boost over this one final barrier, I will be there.” The if only syndrome makes God into our concierge in obtaining the life we want. That’s not grace. This Sunday, we'll look at a man who met with Jesus and found out the difference between his “if only” and what God really wanted for his life (John 3).