Tag Archive for belief

Whatever We Ask: Part 4–(Un)answered Prayers

All prayers are answered.  Sometimes the answer is, “No.”—Bono

 

 

One of the pitfalls of the Christian life is how easy it is to backslide from “highly favored child of God” to “spoiled brat.”

 

We have seasons of life where everything seems to be going our way, and we give God the glory for that.  But then life throws us a curveball, and the whining starts.

 

“Why isn’t God answering my prayer?  He said He’d give me anything I ask for.  Haven’t I been ‘doing it right’?”

 

The truth is that God does answer prayer, but not always in the way that we expect.

 

Sometimes we get excited and run up ahead when He needs us to hold back and notice something He wants to show us.  Sometimes selfishness creeps in and the “desires of our hearts” become more like the cravings of our appetites.  And sometimes, we simply don’t recognize the answer for what it is when it comes.

 

God is not a vending machine or an ATM.  We exist to serve Him, not the other way around.  For this reason, the point of prayer isn’t primarily to address our own needs.  Jesus explained it this way:

 Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them.  Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants.  Then all your other needs will be met as well.  (Matthew 6:31-33 NCV)

Prayer is your Out box.  When you put something in your Out box at work, do you pull it back and put it in your In box again?  No, you put it in the Out box because you are finished with it.

 

Whatever it is that you are praying for, God has a plan for it.  It may not be the plan you would have scripted for yourself, but think for a minute.  Who’s smarter, you or God?  Don’t you think it might be possible that Father knows best?

 

There’s more to it than that though.  Logic alone will tell you that God is bigger, more powerful and more able to meet your needs.  The question is, “Do you TRUST Him to do that?”  Do you believe that He not only knows what’s best for you, but that He WANTS what’s best for you?

 

How you answer that question will determine how you respond to His answers.  If you really believe that God’s way will lead to a better result than anything you could have come up with, then it becomes a lot easier to roll with the changes when they do come.

 

(But what happens if we don’t?  Come back for Part 5—Unstable)

 

DN=: Part 10–Affirmation

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit,  for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  (Luke 6:43-45 ESV)

 

If a person’s words are to be trusted, that person will have an established record of trustworthiness.  You are not going to be led down a successful path by someone who has never succeeded.

 

Likewise, a person who is known for encouraging and lifting others up is not likely to tell you something that will be a stumbling block to you, even if it’s something you didn’t expect, or didn’t WANT, to hear.

 

I think we all come to a day of reckoning in our lives where we realize that the direction we’re going isn’t the one in which we ought to be.  I can’t imagine anyone going through his or her entire lives without making at last one major course correction.  (If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet, don’t worry, you will.)

 

No matter who you are and what your situation is, that situation, and your destiny, will never change without you making some conscious decision to change your way of thinking and go a way you haven’t gone before, whether that means a slight change in direction, or a complete 180.

 

The churchy word for a change of mind, accompanied by a change of direction, is “repentance.”

 

The important thing to understand is that repentance cannot occur without new information entering the cranium.  You can’t change your mind or choose your direction without knowing that you have a choice to make.

 

The trouble is that the right choice is not always the easy one.  In fact, it usually isn’t.  The right choice usually results from your having received information that you needed, but not necessarily that you wanted.

 

Anybody can tell you what you want to hear.  If you want your current belief system to be affirmed, the internet is more than happy to oblige.  All you have to do is type what you already believe into your favorite search engine, and you will find thousands, maybe even millions of people, to affirm your point of view.

 

There’s just one problem with this.  Belief DN= Truth.  As such, a quest for affirmation will never lead to intellectual or spiritual growth.

 

AFFIRMATION DN= INFORMATION

 

 

Now don’t get me wrong; I am speaking of affirmation in the sense of affirming a point of view, not one’s own self-worth.  The latter is healthy affirmation, and I will tell you plainly that I crave that kind of affirmation nearly as much as I crave oxygen.

 

However, a quick perusal of the Truthseeker Manifesto will illuminate everything that is detrimental about a quest for affirmation of one’s worldview.

 

You can’t end an argument by attempting to bolster your own position.  You can’t establish common ground without leaving your own ground.  Seeking to affirm your beliefs does not afford you the opportunity to test them.  Also, it is very difficult to explain your own reasoning when all it consists of is quote mining from other people’s reasoning.

 

Essentially, the quest for affirmation is a rejection of Truthseeking.  The desire for affirmation is a symptom of insecurity.  Specifically, it is the fear of losing everything that is familiar to you on the off chance that whatever, or whoever, is challenging your belief pattern might have some information that you would have to accept.

 

The only way to overcome this fear is to have a burning desire to be informed, not just to believe, but to KNOW!  But knowledge only comes when you take the lid off the glass.

 

In a culture that values affirmation, however, this is easier said than done.  If we are serious about obtaining information that is worth knowing and passing on, we may have to look to history.

 

(For a different kind of history lesson, come back for Part 11—Backwards)

 

The Nature of Truth–Part 4: Offense

 

TRUTH IS NOT CONCERNED WITH WHOM IT OFFENDS

In our politically correct society, people are growing increasingly leery of saying what’s on their mind for fear of offending someone.

But every now and then, a person encounters the truth in some fashion that fundamentally alters their belief system.  There is a part of them that feels compelled to share the truth they have found.  After all, if truth is universal, then it would apply to all of one’s friends as well, right?

However, what we all too frequently do instead is to take the path of least resistance and keep the truth to ourselves rather than rock anybody’s world by challenging their belief patterns and thereby offending them.

But still, the truth remains.  Because it is eternal, it will not change.  Because it is universal, it will apply equally to anyone with whom you share it.  Because it is indisputable, it could not possibly offend anyone who receives it with an open mind and heart.

Ah, but there we have hit upon the problem, haven’t we?  Receiving.

We would rather hear 100 lies that back up what we have already chosen to believe than to receive a single word of truth that could permanently change our lives for the better.

What is it that blocks us from receiving the truth?  Pride.

Pride is the mother of offense.  Pride is what makes us think we are better, smarter, more worthy than everyone else.  Pride is what makes us not want to associate with people who don’t live up to our standards.  Pride is what makes us not hear what we need to hear, because we have already made a judgment about the person bearing the message.

The most important thing that I can possibly tell you about pride is this: you will NEVER find the truth until you lay your pride aside.

The minute you believe that you have a right to be offended by a person or situation, you have slammed the door in the face of truth, becuase you have lost sight of the reality that how you live and what you believe is just as offensive to someone else’s sensibilities.

So it is not the truth itself that is offensive.  Rather, the offense comes from our own pride preventing us from challenging our own beliefs, perceptions and attitudes.

Again, the truth is what’s left at the end of the argument.  It’s also what’s left when you get over yourself and begin receiving.

Two plus two equals four, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so you might as well accept it.

The Nature of Truth–Part 3: Indisputable

 

TRUTH IS INDISPUTABLE

 

All of us spend our lives accumulating facts, having experiences, hearing other people’s opinions, analyzing our own perceptions, and we weave the sum total of it all into what we call “belief.”  Our beliefs are what define us as human beings, and we cling to them for dear life.

But not everybody believes the same thing, obviously.  Some would argue that because there are so many different societal belief systems and so many more individual belief patterns in the world, how could we possibly think that there is any such thing as absolute truth?

Well, simply put, belief is not truth.

Belief is individual; truth is universal.  Belief dies with the person or culture that holds onto it; truth is eternal.

And here’s the biggie: belief causes arguments; truth ends them.

One problem with belief is that it is colored by our perception, the narrow tunnel through which we view the world.  As such, it seems we are always ready to question others’ beliefs, but rarely do we question our own.

WHY do we believe what we believe?  How many of us can truly answer that?  How many of us have ever even thought about it?

If someone says or does something that is contrary to our beliefs, the adrenalin kicks in, and we are ready to go to the dirt for what we believe in.

But truth is another matter entirely.  Truth is what’s left over at the end of the argument.

Take the two most disagreeable people on earth, lock them in a room and give them a topic (and an occasional bathroom break), and they will argue for hours and hours.  Each believes that he is right and the other is wrong.  But given enough time, they will eventually run out of things to disagree about, and hit upon the one thing that they must agree on, because they have no choice.

This is truth.

We know that we have transcended mere belief and found the truth when there is nothing left to argue about.  Whatever started the argument, truth is what ends it.

Two plus two equals four, because it simply can not equal anything else.

 

(to be concluded in Part 4: Offense)