I’ve been reading over my own posts for the last little while in an attempt to encourage myself. If there is something that I’ve struggled with over the past few years, it’s discouragement. And I’m learning that sometimes, like David, you have to encourage yourself in the Lord.
Now I love you all, my dear readers, and I am ever so thankful that you would take time out of your busy schedule to read my posts. I’m glad they have blessed you. It’s all well and good if you read this post, get your blessing, and keep it moving.
But, truth be told, the more I write (or preach or whatever) the more I realize that it’s not so much about me writing for you, but it’s oftentimes about me writing for me. It doesn’t bother me if not one person reads this because it wouldn’t have written this in vain; I’m writing for myself.
This message is one that I know will minister to me for years to come.
One of our greatest misconceptions about God is that God is stingy, when in fact God is the ultimate Giver.
I mean, think about it. How many times have you prayed for things and it feels as though you are prying your blessings out of God’s hands? Sometimes I’m don’t feel like praying because I end up begging. It’s like, why won’t God just give me a break through already? Why do I have to take the scenic route? Why can’t I just lose the weight? Why can’t I just get my career started? Why can’t I just sleep? Why can’t we just find a house to buy? Why can’t I just get married? Why can’t I just get healed? Why can’t we just get pregnant? Why can I just get out of debt? Why won’t God just save my marriage already? Why won’t God bring my child back? Why? Why? Why? WHY?!
What’s really good Jesus? How long do we have to keep doing this?!
To quote C.S. Lewis, talking to God sometimes feels like “…a door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”
I am learning though that it is more helpful, more hopeful and more accurate to look at my situation, not in terms of God withholding something, but instead in terms of God giving something. I’m now trying to think of the vicissitudes of life as God bestowing something to me.
“But what is God bestowing unto me? What is He gifting me?” you ask. Gosh, I wish I could tell you for certain, because the answer isn’t always clear or obvious. But I can hazard at a few guesses.
Maybe He is strengthening your body, or giving you more time, or refining your character and the desires of your heart. Maybe He is making you more sensitive to the needs of others, helping you to be more sympathetic and empathetic. Maybe he is allowing you to get other stuff done in the meanwhile. Maybe the misery will result in ministry. Maybe the test will be a testimony. Maybe the trials will one day transform into triumph. Maybe He is allowing you to share in His sufferings so that you can develop a more intimate relationship with Him. Maybe He is giving you more of Himself.
I believe that one of the greatest lies we can believe about God is that He is tight-fisted or miserly – that God is somehow holding out. If we believe this lie, we misunderstand the benevolent character of God. We play into the enemy’s ploy. I’ve come to learn that Satan tries in many different ways to assassinate God’s character so that we do not love Him…so that we turn away from Him.
It really is the oldest trick in the book, or Book — literally. Ellen White, the most translated non-fiction American author, describes how our first parents fell. They had everything their little hearts could desire – free food, pulchritudinous flora and dazzling fauna (imagine how the world looked before sin?). God gave them the world – literally – but they decided to focus on the one little tree that God hadn’t given them.
Oh goodness, we are so much like our first parents. God gives us food and shelter, a car, nice clothes, friends, family and education, and we’re still gripping about some minor thing which He has chosen not to give. We’re like the Israelites in the wilderness. God led us out of Egypt, far from our slave masters after hundreds of years of praying, He allowed us to walk on dry land across the Red sea, He is a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and He supplies manna from heaven everyday (except Sabbath), but then we have the nerve to say “We want meat” and “We gon’ die!” Lord have mercy.
Ellen White writes (see here and here) that Eve sinned because the serpent led her to believe that God was withholding wisdom from her by forbidding her to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam sinned because He willing chose to participate in Eve’s sin in order to stay with her, instead of trusting that God could give him another helpmate.
Satan would convey the idea that by eating of the forbidden tree, they would receive a new and more noble kind of knowledge than they had hitherto attained. This has been his special work with great success ever since his fall, to lead men to pry into the secrets of the Almighty, and not to be satisfied with what God has revealed, and not careful to obey that which was commanded. He would lead them to disobey God’s commands, and then make them believe that they are entering a wonderful field of knowledge. This is a miserable deception. They fail to understand what God has revealed, they disregard his explicit commandments, aspire after wisdom, independent of God, and seek to understand that which he has been pleased to withhold from mortals […]
He had freely given them the good, but withheld the evil […]
The tempter stated that by eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree he had attained the power of speech. He intimated that God would not carry out his word. It was merely a threat to intimidate them and keep them from great good. He further told them that they could not die. Had they not eaten of the tree of life which perpetuates immortality? He said that God was deceiving them to keep them from a higher state of felicity and more exalted happiness. ST January 16, 1879, par. 28
Satan plucked the fruit and passed it to Eve. […] She ate, and was delighted with the fruit. It seemed delicious to her taste, and she imagined that she realized in herself the wonderful effects of the fruit. […]
A sadness came over the countenance of Adam. He appeared afraid and astonished. A struggle seemed to be going on in his mind. He told Eve that he was quite certain that this was the foe whom they had been warned against; and if so, she must die. She assured him she felt no ill effects, but rather a very pleasant influence, and entreated him to eat.
Adam quite well understood that his companion had transgressed the only prohibition laid upon them as a test of their fidelity and love. Eve reasoned that the serpent said they should not surely die, and his words must be true, for she felt no signs of God’s displeasure, but a pleasant influence, as she imagined the angels felt. Adam regretted that Eve had left his side; but now the deed was done. He must be separated from her whose society he had loved so well. How could he have it thus? His love for Eve was strong, and in utter discouragement he resolved to share her fate. He reasoned that Eve was a part of himself; and if she must die, he would die with her; for he could not bear the thought of separation from her. He did not think that God, who had created him a living, beautiful form out of the dust of the ground, and had given him Eve to be his companion, could supply her place. After all, might not the words of this wise serpent be correct? Eve was before him, just as lovely and beautiful, and apparently as innocent, as before this act of disobedience. She expressed greater, higher love for him than before her disobedience, as the effect of the fruit she had eaten. He saw in her no signs of death. She had told him of the happy influence of the fruit, of her ardent love for him, and he decided to brave the consequences. He seized the fruit and quickly ate it, and, like Eve, felt not immediately its ill effects. […]
Our first parents chose to believe the words, as they thought, of a serpent; yet he had given them no tokens of his love. He had done nothing for their happiness and benefit; while God had given them everything that was good for food, and pleasant to the sight. Everywhere the eye might rest was abundance and beauty; yet Eve was deceived by the serpent, to think that there was something withheld which would make them wise, even as God. Instead of believing and confiding in their Creator, she basely distrusted his goodness, and cherished the words of Satan.
There was nothing poisonous in the fruit itself, and the sin was not merely in yielding to appetite. It was distrust of God’s goodness, disbelief of His word, and rejection of His authority, that made our first parents transgressors, and that brought into the world a knowledge of evil. It was this that opened the door to every species of falsehood and error.
Satan wants us to believe that God is trying to withhold something from us, when in fact, the Word shows us that this is the furthest from the truth. Over and over and over again, the Bible tells us that God is a Giver (emphasis added below):
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
“Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
1 Corinthians 3:21
So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours…
2 Corinthians 6:10
“…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
You descendants of Jacob, should it be said, “Does the LORD become impatient? Does he do such things?” “Do not my words do good to the one whose ways are upright?
for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food.
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
And my favourite:
“For God so loves that He gave His only begotten Son…”
When his dear wife was dying, the fact that God was/is a Giver gave George Mueller much comfort:
The last portion of scripture which I read to my precious wife was this: “The Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord will give grace and glory, no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Now, if we have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have received grace, we are partakers of grace, and to all such he will give glory also. I said to myself, with regard to the latter part, “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly”—I am in myself a poor worthless sinner, but I have been saved by the blood of Christ; and I do not live in sin, I walk uprightly before God. Therefore, if it is really good for me, my darling wife will be raised up again; sick as she is. God will restore her again. But if she is not restored again, then it would not be a good thing for me. And so my heart was at rest. I was satisfied with God. And all this springs, as I have often said before, from taking God at his word, believing what he says.
I heard a pastor say one time that God is always trying to do the most loving thing for us. God, in His very nature, is a giver. Like the song says, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
“But Simone,” I can hear you say, “doesn’t the Bible say that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh?” Yes. But when the Lord takest, dost He not also give? Are not all of the Lord’s takings, givings? Or, as one writer once wrote, are not all of the Lord’s curses, blessings?
Knowing what the Bible says about this Great Giver helps ward off bitterness and resentment. It is a constant reminder that He is good – that His very nature is goodness and giving and generosity. He is not mean; He’s just being merciful. He is not malicious or malevolent. He has no ill-will. He is just being good. He is just trying to be God. He wants to be Lord. And He will be Lord of your life, so long as you let Him.
Instead of asking ourselves “Why God is holding out?” or “Why God is taking so long?” let’s ask ourselves “What is God giving me?” and see if that does not help us, again to quote C.S. Lewis, “…misunderstand a little less completely.”