I know God can do it, but will he? This is often where faith often comes to roost for me. I’ve read about God parting the Red Sea, about how he fed Elijah by ravens, about how he shut the lions’ mouths and how he opened the prison doors for Peter. I believe these stories. So whatever trouble I am going through, I know he can fix it, but will he? Will he do it for me? And what if he doesn’t do it the way I want or expect him to?
Will he? What are we asking when we ask this question? I’ve come to realize that I am often asking God not to rock my boat. I feel my business is going to fail, Lord; deliver me, so that I will not have to change my lifestyle! Heal my child’s illness, Lord, because taking care of him is really digging into my free time! We can’t pray for anything without some mix of pure and impure motivations.
But Jesus could. And while he was on earth he prayed: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me (Matthew 26:39).” So it must be possible to ask for things with pure motives, and yet be just as pleased when God doesn’t deliver. For Jesus did still go to the cross, and the Father still poured out the punishment we deserve on him. And then Jesus was delivered from death, just three days later. And then God exalted him to the highest place, where one day every knee will bow before him.
What joys await you if God doesn’t deliver as you expect? And what kind of delivery are you expecting, exactly? Are you expecting a comfortable life? A good reputation? Good health? A growing church? God may not deliver the way you have in mind. Our reactions to how God delivers will show whether we value our own plans more, or his.
God wants to give us great things. Look at the hope of Psalm 20:4: “May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!” Our expectations are actually limited by our puny desires. May God expand our desires so they are as big as his!
When we read stories of God’s past deliverances, we learn about his power and character. We learn he is able to deliver, and that he desires to. It’s so important that we also remember God’s promises when we want to apply his power to our life. And when we pray those promises back to God, we can know we are in line with his will. So I can ask him to be with me always, to give me wisdom, to forgive my sins, to meet all my needs and indeed, to deliver me from all my troubles (Matthew 28:20, James 1:5, I John 1:9, Philippians 4:19, Psalm 34:17). I know he will do these things, because he said he would.
Will God save my business? Will you keep your job? Will the surgery be successful? Maybe.
But will God keep his promises? YES! Do the other things matter? Not as much as we now imagine. And looking back, we will one day marvel at how this promise keeping God delivered us in ways we could not have imagined.