Don't put God in a box


When writing columns/blogs/whatevers for my website, I tend to steer clear of overtly theological themes.

Rather, I try and let what I believe influence what I write on worldly topics like sport, politics, sport, politics, sport and politics.

However, the time has come for me to break out of my usual mode and venture away from the materiaological (yes, I know, it’s not a real word) and into the theological.

Naturally your first question is, why?  Well, lately I’ve been house-hunting, and last weekend my mate Tim and I stumbled across this sensational apartment in Randwick.

We wanted it.  Badly.

So we applied and, when I got word the real estate agents had been checking my references, I dared to dream.  What happened next?  It turns out we were rejected almost as comprehensively as Kevin Rudd by his Labor colleagues in mid 2010.

This got me thinking though, why was my application rejected?  Now, as a Christian, I have a wonderful tendency to see God’s hands at work in lots of things.  However, as Christian, I also have a stupid tendency to see God’s hands at work in lots of things.

Do you get what I mean?  Basically, if any sort of coincidence happens, instinctively I start ‘filling in the gaps’ and start assuming that I know exactly what God is up to.  So, when I got word the agents were checking my references, I started assuming God was at work and ensuring that my application would be approved.

Faster than I could say “Billy Graham”, I realised how foolish that was.  And this is my criticism: so many Christians have a tendency to put God in a little, neat box and assume they know exactly how He will work in every circumstance.

And this is the problem!  So many of us assume that because we ‘know’ God, we therefore ‘get’ God. 

I don't mean that God is a total mystery. He's clearly revealed some things about Himself to us so we can get an idea of who He is. For example, the Bible clearly states that God is loving, God is true, God is just, etc.

However, there are elements of God that we clearly don't get. God, for instance, is all-knowing (1 John 3:20 says God knows everything) and all powerful (displayed by things such as His creation the universe). No human being knows absolutely everything, but God does.

As such, since we don't know everything, it's quite a mistake to think that we can fully understand God. Isaiah 55:9 says " As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

In other words, while God is not so unfathomable that we can't properly know him period, there are aspects of God that we cannot understand. That doesn't stop people from assuming they do though.

You know who else made this mistake?  Just about everyone in the entire Bible.  If there’s one thing human beings are superb at, it’s assuming we know best.  For example, the biggest criticism many atheists threw around during the recent Queensland floods was, “How could a good God allow something bad to happen?”

The central philosophy behind this question ultimately stems back to the accuser believing they know best, and if they were in control, they wouldn’t have let it happen.

And, frankly, isn’t this where most of the objections to God’s existence stem from?  The fact that people assume they know what is good, and therefore God will and should act precisely how they expect He should act all the time.

What does the Bible have to say on this?  Well, the easy answer would be “lots”, but I’ll throw myself a bone and turn to Job.  Basically, Job was a righteous man who was afflicted with disease, all his family died, he lost all his possessions and, essentially, realised that his life suddenly sucked.  So he asks the obvious question, “Where is God???”

According to Job chapter 38, the Lord finally answers Job’s question.  Although, not in the way Job was hoping or expecting. 

Rather, God proceeds to remind Job that He is God, not Job.  It turns out that Job didn’t need to know why.  Rather, he says in chapter 42 verse 5, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

In other words, “Whoa!  You are awesome!  Who the hell am I to question what you do???”

I find that startling because I have an almost unquenchable thirst to know why things happen. 

Whenever I hear part of a sentence, I’ll almost die unless I hear the rest.  My housemates find me totally annoying because, when they’re about to leave the house, I’ll pester them ceaselessly with questions on where they’re going, who they’re seeing etc.  It’s not because I’m crazy, it’s because I’m just pretty damn curious!

And that is the biggest problem we have today.  When something doesn’t turn out the way we wanted or expected it to, we immediately start to question whether a) God cares, b) Is God punishing me for something? Or c) Does God exist after all?

The ultimate problem with these conclusions is we are starting at the wrong point.  We start with the assumption that we know best, and that God will act according to our plan.

One verse which causes significant controversy on this issue is Psalm 37 verse 4: “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Many Christians take this at face value and think/preach, “Well, if I pray really hard, then whatever I want, God will give me.  Sweet!”

So people read this verse and assume that the car they really want, the spouse they really want, the house they really want etc will be given to them by God, if they’re really good.
In fact, loads of people believe this, irrespective of whether they are a Christian or not.  Isn’t this the entire premise on which karma is based?  If you do something good, something good will happen in return.

A friend of mine from high school once said to me, “Dylan, I haven’t told a single lie this week, so I’m positive that Michelle and I will hook up this weekend.”

Unfortunately for my mate, they didn’t hook up which led to the following remark, “Dylan, I even prayed that God would let Michelle and I hook up, and I was really good.  What happened? Nothing!  Where’s this God of yours, huh?”


Some churches even go so far as to claim, ‘If you give lots of money, then God will give you even more money!’ conveniently ignoring 1 Timothy 6:3-5…

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Psalm 37:4 doesn’t mean that, if you’re good you’ll get whatever you want.  Rather, it says, and this is the important point, if you delight in the Lord, the desires of your heart will be God-focused desires.

In other words, you’ll get what you delight in – God Himself!

Now, to people who don’t believe in God, naturally that doesn’t sound like much of an offer.  Heck, if someone said, delight in unicorns and you’ll get one, I don’t think I’d be that impressed.
But, to a Christian, this is fundamental to what you believe.  The ultimate reward of Christianity isn’t about getting out of hell and into heaven.  Rather, it’s about reconciling with God and ‘knowing’ God Himself.

The best example I can give here is Jesus Himself.  Jesus had his own desires.  He didn’t want to die on the cross!  He pleaded with God that if there was any other way of reconciling humanity to God, he’d gladly do it.  But, he ultimately said, “not my will, but Yours”.  In other words, “I know what You want, and because it’s what You want, it therefore is what I want.”

In fact, in John chapter 17 verse three, Jesus says, " Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." For Jesus, the ultimate desire of his heart was to 'know God'.

So, what’s the main point?  When Psalm 37:4 speaks of the ‘desires of your heart’, it means that those desires will be God-focused desires.  And the ‘God given desires’ of your heart will be to get to know God better.

And guess what, if you truly long to know God, you’ll probably make a bit of an effort to get to know God, and you’ll probably find that getting to know God is actually pretty awesome.  And the next desires of your heart will, most likely, be a desire to be more like Jesus.

So, next time you get an email from that girl you like, or you don’t get the house you’re after, or you don’t win the lottery, don’t assume that God is either rewarding you or punishing you.  Don’t assume anything!  The disciples hung out with Jesus every day for three years and they had no idea what He was going to do next!

Rather, remind yourself that God knows what He’s doing, because He’s God, and we should be focused on getting to know Him better, and there just might be a reason you don’t know about, as to why things turned out the way they did.

So, don’t put God in a box.  He’s too big!

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