Faith or Presumption?

Faith Foolishness or Presumption

Thirty-three years ago my wife and I were expecting our first child. We heard a teaching that reasoned as Christians we were new creations in Christ and we were not subject to any of the curses that Adam and Eve suffered, especially the one Eve knew all too well, “In pain you shall bring forth children.” My wife “believed” for a painless delivery. Such was not the case. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t painless. God’s failure to meet her expectations damaged her faith and trust for several years. Not long after, I heard several teachings on believers being “King’s Kids.” It all made sense to me, so I “believed” for a new car. I kept my request modest and instead of “believing” for a new Mercedes, I settled for a new Dodge minivan. I didn’t wait for God to provide the funds for the new van, I just “believed.” When I say “believed” I mean “financed” a new minivan. I struggled to make the payments on that van. I had to sell it at a substantial loss and I bought a beat-up minivan to replace it. I was extremely disappointed. Why didn’t God provide the money to make my car payments? After all, I am a “King’s Kid,” am I not?  That incident rattled my faith.

Have you had an experience where your prayer was not answered in the way you expected, or not at all? Has God disappointed you? Have you felt faith-shaking disillusionment? Many people have left the Christian faith altogether because they feel God has let them down.

I’ve slowly learned there is a huge difference between faith and presumption (even though they appear very similar to the hopeful soul). When we want something bad enough, we can easily pull a scripture out of context, and then expect God to back up it up. Many of our presumptions are based on faulty teachings from bible teachers who twist the scriptures for their own gain by tickling the ears of their audiences and telling them what they want to hear, and frankly some are just figments of our imaginations.  We exclaim, “But He promised!” Did He? Is that what the Bible actually says? Are you reading that verse in the context of what the rest of the Bible says, and in the light of God’s character? For example, the Bible never once called us “Kings Kids.” We are God’s children, and joint heirs with Jesus the king. But we are not “King’s Kids.” Actually, we have been declared kings (see Rev. 1:6 & 5:10).

God’s ways are much higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). We often don’t understand His ways. We struggle with questions like, “Why hasn’t God answered my prayer? Why didn’t He fulfill His promise to me? Why did He let this happen to me? Why is God silent when I need Him the most?” We can’t see the whole picture like God can. I’ll never forget watching Corrie Ten Boom on the 700 Club in the early 70’s. She was doing needlepoint while Pat Robertson was interviewing her. She was getting up in years and I thought maybe she was starting to show signs of dementia. Then she showed the viewing audience the underside of her work. It was nothing but messy strands of yarn tied in knots. She said, “That’s how your life may look to you.  Maybe you can’t understand how anything good could come out of the mess you’re in. Nothing seems to make sense. ” She slowly flipped the needlepoint over to reveal a beautiful, colorful picture. She explained, “That’s how God sees our life, from a different perspective.  Those same messy yarns have been used to create a design of beauty.  By faith we can believe that our momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that will surpass them all.    We usually can’t see the purpose in our trials at the time, but just knowing there’s a flip-side can give us hope enough to carry on.  It has for me many times.”

We can’t see the whole picture like God can. If you’ve never experienced God not meeting all your expectations, you will. How you react is your choice. You can choose to take offence, or you can “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding” (Proverb 3:5). Unanswered prayed could be the result of presumption and not having a clear understanding of the promises of God we find in scripture. In any case, the Christian life boils down to trusting the Lord, even when we don’t understand all the “whys” and “why not’s.”

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I Have My Rights!

I have my rights baby

On July 4, 1776 our founding fathers declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We have been crying, “I have my rights!” ever since.

Several years ago I needed to purchase a washing machine. I previously bought a few items from a local store that sells reconditioned appliances. It’s owned and operated by a lovely Christian couple. The wife negotiates all the sales. She always gave me a nice discount if I paid for the appliance with cash. For some reason, this time she refused to give me the discount. At first I politely tried to persuade her to give me the discount. She refused. I quickly escalated to demanding my right to a discount. She still refused. Finally I told her I would take my business elsewhere without my discount. She said, “Go ahead.” I couldn’t believe she denied my right to a cash discount! Out of spite, I purchased a washing machine at a retail store and paid more than I would have paid at the other store, even without the discount! After a period of time I realized what a jerk I had been. I called the lady and asked for her forgiveness. She graciously forgave me.

I love espresso! I’m always excited to try a new coffee house’s espresso. One opened up in a shopping plaza and I was delighted with the quality of their espresso. The baristas charged $1.75 for a double. A good price as far as I was concerned. One day I placed my order and the young girl charged $2.35 for my double espresso. I told her that I had only been paying $1.75. She informed me that the correct price for a double is $2.35. I insisted that she was wrong. She rolled her eyes and rang up $1.75. I felt victorious until she handed a single shot of espresso to me.  You should know that I take my espresso very seriously. I got down right mean with the girl. I read her the “Riot Act” until she conceded and poured a double shot of espresso for me. I stormed out and gulped down my coffee in a huff. A few days later I returned and seen the same girl working. I felt bad that I had treated her so poorly over 60 cents. I ordered a double and compliantly paid $2.35. As she handed the drink to me I sincerely apologized for being mean. She graciously accepted my apology. My mistake was thinking it was my right to pay the lower price, when it was just a temporary privilege.

Most people think that driving a car is their right. It’s not. It’s a privilege and can be revoked at any time. We feel that most things we desire fall under our right to “pursue happiness.” We may have certain rights as an American citizen, but some of those may not transfer well into the kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church that he had the same rights as all the other apostles, but for the kingdom’s sake he said “…But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12b NIV). I’m not saying that we shouldn’t use our civil rights. Even the Apostle Paul used his right as a Roman citizen to avoid unlawful punishment. “As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, ‘Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”’ (Acts 22:25 NIV). Jesus laid down his rights as the Son of God when he came to earth and became a man. “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).

My “Rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” do not give me the rights to be selfish, mean, unforgiving, or do or say anything contrary to what the Word of God tells me to do. To paraphrase what the Apostle Paul said, “The Gospel of Christ trumps all my personal rights.”