What Beats Parallel Parking in the Pew?
A few friends in the past few years have told me they promised God they would go to church if He answered their emergency prayers. 911 prayers. Fox-hole prayers. Family crises. Loved ones in dire straits. Time to put the pedal to the metal. “God, if you save this person’s live, I promise. Really. Seriously. I’ll go to church.” I’m positive they are not alone. We’ve all said our fox-hole prayers of one sort or another, haven’t we? But that’s not the point. The point is that I’m convinced God wants our hearts and lives far more than He wants our big (or little) old butts parked in the pews. I’m not belittling His desire to see us worshiping Him in church (He’s altogether clear in the Bible about wanting us to assemble ourselves with other Christ believers), but I truly believe where we parallel park our rear ends is not as important as His number one desire – that we give Him our lives through faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and through a life committed to forsaking our own ways and yielded to learning to live according to His Bible-given instructions. So much for fox-hole prayers, right? Not so fast.
I’m not so convinced God has a problem with fox-hole prayers. After all, how many of us came high-tailing it (okay, realistically, some of us came crawling) to the feet of Jesus in utter despair and total desperation? Lots and lots of us, if you ask me. But nobody asked me. Ask yourself, then. How did you land at the feet of Jesus, or are you still standing at a distance, your arms and elbows in that “I’ve-got-my-life-together-buddy” stance that pride and self-righteousness demand of us? I can’t answer that question for you, but you can. Can’t you? Or can you? Maybe you haven’t even given it a thought. Or, maybe like loads of others of us, perhaps you’ve gone running to the mercy seat of God – only to go on a high-speed chase not-so-long afterward when temptation looked too-darn-delicious to stick around God. If only we would stick around when it comes to God, huh? Yeah, that would be ideal. Wise. Smart. But we’re not all that together, are we? I confess I’ve done a dance through the years – a back and forth, closer and farther away from God. Until – until? Yes, until I realized a good thing – a God thing – when I found it. God. Yup. God. The best of the best.
If I say any fox-hole prayers these days, it’s not because I’m millions of miles away from God. I try to stay close to Him. Sometimes I slip and slide a little ways away, but not too far at all. I just love Him too darned much to keep my distance.
So back to fox-hole prayers about parking-in-the-pews promises. What does God have to say about all of this? I can’t speak for Him. I can only surmise.
Judging by everything I’ve studied in the Bible thus far – and that’s a whole lot of study, but clearly never enough because there’s always more to be had – God wants a relationship with me (and with YOU!) above all else.
He wants my love, my attention, my affection, my devotion, my praise, my worship, my surrender, my submission, obedience, my – oh my. That’s lots of stuff, isn’t it? What a tall order! Well, He’s a big God. He’s God!!!!!! Actually, if the truth be known, above all else, God wants my LIFE. HE wants me.
Is that too much for Him to ask of me after Jesus gave up His life for the world? Nope. Not only that, He doesn’t want my life so He can punish me, hurt me, harm me, steal from me, etc. That’s the devil’s job. He wants my life because He loves me endlessly; He wants to offer me all that He is, and all that He does, and all that He has. He offers me – and YOU, yes YOU! – the abundant life Jesus Christ died and rose again for ALL of us to have if we place our faith in Him and choose to live His way and not our own.
Promising God to go to church if HE answers my prayers just won’t cut it. Why not? First and foremost, I can’t manipulate God like that. Have I tried? YES! Do I want to? Sometimes. But increasingly, I understand and know, and I trust more and more, that HE KNOWS WHAT IS BEST FOR ME AND FOR THE WORLD. I don’t need to tell Him what to do, how to behave, how to answer my prayers, and the whole nine yards. I’ve spent years trying – to no avail, mind you. He still knows what’s best; He always did, and always will. Wow. Imagine. God knowing what’s best. And not me? You got that right, sister. And brother.
But this is really – well, sort of – besides the point. And the point is – if you think I talk lots, you guessed it. I write lots too. And sometimes I lose my point. But not all the time, and sometimes a good nugget gets tossed out amid my meanderings, musings, and wanderings. Fancy that.
And, in this case, I truly haven’t lost my point. I believe God would be more than happy to accommodate finding me a seat in a church pew. I even believe He would be happy to see me – and more and more of us – there (assuming it’s a strong Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Holy Spirit-led and filled church). And I would imagine He would prefer that I land there not through any manipulation on my part – though that may be in fact what lands me there in the first place.
But wouldn’t God above all else be happiest if I toss the bribes aside, shove the promises to the side, and take a good long look at myself in the mirror. Yeah, let me take a good look at myself.
Do I have a personal, intimate, one-on-one relationship with the Lord through faith in Jesus Christ and a life surrendered to the Lord?
Am I a follower, and not merely a believer, of Jesus Christ?
Have I laid down my own life, and do I live my life for the Lord by studying and applying the Bible to my life?
Do I seek the Lord, do I seek His face, do I seek His will, do I seek Him to live in and through me?
Do I understand that my life belongs to Him?
Oh, so many questions. Hard questions; good questions. Real questions.
Funny how we focus so much on our relationships with our spouses, our children, our employers, our co-workers, our friends.
And where does that leave us with God?
Do we have a RELATIONSHIP with Him? What does that mean?
Instead of promising God to go to church if He answers your prayers, why not get down on your knees and give Him your life?