Spiritual Entitlement

Maybe one of the reasons we humans in general and we Christians included have such a hard time dealing with the tragedies of our lives is that we feel like God owes us something.

I reread something recently and did a double take to see if someone had added a phrase to my Bible. It is found at the end of Hebrews 11, the great faith chapter:

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.”
— Hebrews 11:35-39 (NLT)

The emphasis on that last phrase is mine, and that is the part I don’t remember ever having seen before. Can you imagine that? “None of them received all that God had promised.” Really? The heroes of the faith didn’t get what God had promised, even after a lifetime of waiting, hoping and praying? They lived their lives in anticipation of a promise and they died anticipating. A full explanation never came. Having a firm faith in God does not guarantee a happy carefree life. To the contrary, our faith almost guarantees us some form of abuse from the world.

I purposely left out the verse immediately following those I just quoted. It says, “For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” (Hebrews 11:40) Again, Dr. Dobson offers some insight:

My concern is that many believers apparently feel God owes them smooth sailing or at least a full explanation (and perhaps an apology) for the hardships they encounter. We must never forget that He, after all, is God. He is majestic and holy and sovereign. He is accountable to no one. He is not an errand boy who chases the assignments we dole out. He is not a genie who pops out of the bottle to satisfy our whims. He is not our servant – we are His. And our reason for existence is to glorify and honor Him. Even so, sometimes He performs mighty miracles on our behalf. Sometimes He chooses to explain His action in our lives. Sometimes His presence is as real as if we had encountered Him face to face. But at other times when nothing makes sense – when what we are going through is “not fair,” when we feel all alone in God’s waiting room – He simply says, “Trust Me!”

I suspect that you have heard, as I have, a radio or TV preacher promise that if you have a need, it will be met the moment you ask for help from the Lord. That as you pray God will solve the problem, whatever it might be. That if you have faith, there’s no question that God will solve it for you. I don’t question the motives behind this preaching, just the accuracy.

It is just wrong to tell hurting people, or at least imply that they simply lack the faith to be good as new. Heaven is not here, it’s there. If we were given all that we want in the here and now, our hearts would settle for this world rather than long for the hereafter.

I am also convinced that the advocates of universal health and wealth have a little secret down deep in their souls. I suspect that they too have had the experience of praying for a desperately ill family member or a close friend…as I did for Freddy…then have to attend the funeral. It has happened to every pastor in every denomination. It is just not admitted in the glitz and glamour of the miracle healing service. I think it’s just not quite honest to ignore or intentionally hide those times when God responds, “It’s not my will.” Or especially when God doesn’t respond at all?

Those who give empty clichés to the awesome question of human suffering have not spent much time thinking about it. And they have not spent the time that I have in hospital waiting rooms, ICUs, Children’s Hospitals, Funeral Homes, and cemeteries.

Maybe you have noticed that life seems very unfair. It pampers some of us and devastates others. We can only explore the mind of God so far until we run out of brain power. God has no obligation to explain Himself to me or to ask for my approval. God doesn’t owe me anything, but He has chosen to love me when life deals me its dastardly deeds.