I used to attend University Christian Church in Muncie, Indiana. I stopped attending there a while back, about the time I started this blog. Many of my initial postings were the spiritual issues that were happening in my life, and in our dealings with the church there and its leadership. For some reason today, I was drawn to listen to one of the speaker's sermons, to see if there was anything different.
As I listened to the message, I realized that he was preaching through "The Story" by Max Lucado. He was in Exodus 1:6-10 for his text. As I listened, I heard a factual story, I thought for a few moments, was I wrong in choosing to leave? Would time have made a difference? Could I have been fed there? Yet even as I listened to this message, there was that nagging feeling (some would call it the prompting of the Spirit) that something was wrong or missing, there was something about this message that didn't ring true.
As I listened to the message at any single moment, it was difficult to disagree with what was being said. God is mighty and powerful and can deliver us out of any circumstance. But it wasn't until I looked at the message as a whole that I realized what it was that bothered me (again). He spoke of God's power, he spoke of God's deliverance, he spoke of God's plan, he spoke of the trust that we need to put in God. He even spoke of how we can be sure of God's deliverance. But it reminded me of the used car salesman who would tell you how wonderful the car you were looking at was, but didn't want you to get the car fax. Or as Paul Harvey would say, he wasn't telling "the rest of the story."
What does it mean for God to deliver us? What does it mean for God to provide? He gave an illustration of how God provided the right house for him and he even got a generous gift to help him renovate it. Is that what it means to give your life to God? He will provide your needs and wants? Who wouldn't want that? God can get rid of my issues? Who wouldn't want that? God will heal my marriage? Who wouldn't want that? He can fix my finances? Who wouldn't want that? But doesn't this turn my whole relationship with God into what He will do for me? Is that what Christianity is all about?
Or is it about what Christ has done for us (past tense). Nowhere in this message did I hear this. (Well, there was the obligatory invitation at the end that touched on this, connecting it to the message somehow. It reminded me of the closing arguments of the salesman, telling one that this car had been once owned by a little old lady from Pasadena who only used it to drive to church on Sunday.) It was not that God would deliver us from our sinful state, only that He would deliver us from our problems. Surrender meant healing and that all would go well. How did that work out for John the Baptist? Or Jonah? Did Job persevere only because of what would come later? It was not about God's power to defeat the evil that binds us, but His power to give us good things in this world. It was preaching to the choir, it was telling itching ears what they longed to hear.
I pray for this speaker. I pray for those who hear his message and think that is all there is to it. I pray that God would open their eyes. I pray for myself too. I pray that God would continue to convict me of truth. I pray to continue to trust in Him, even when things don't go the way I think they ought. I pray that my contentment would be found in Him, and not what He brings to me. That may not be what a lot of people want, but it is what I want.