Have you ever done a deal with God? I spent a worryingly large amount of my childhood making deals with God. You know the sort… ‘Hey, God, if you do this, I promise I’ll be good for ever and ever’, or ‘God, I’d really appreciate it if you would sort out this little mess I’ve got myself into – if you do that I promise I won’t get myself into such a pickle ever again’.
I wish I could tell you that I grew out of this habit at the same time that I grew out of my children’s illustrated bible. Sadly, this is not the case. Even now, aged 20, I still occasionally find myself slipping back into that old habit of bartering with God. Though now, my promises are now slightly more realistic: ‘God, I’ve messed up. It’d be great if you could help me fix this one – and if you do, I’ll try to work on my bible reading habits’ or ‘God, I know I didn’t start this essay until a few hours before the deadline, but if you help me finish it on time then I promise that the next time I pray I won’t be asking you for anything… really.’
I know this isn’t the best way of going about things, and not really the most respectful way of dealing with God, and yet to my mind it often makes the most sense.
But then what happens when God doesn’t answer my prayer? What do I do then? What about when He doesn’t do what I expected Him to do, and I’m left feeling as if I’m floundering, lost and alone? Is it because my offer wasn’t good enough, or because God just didn’t bother listening in the first place? What should my response be?
Slowly I’m beginning to realise it’s not about my offer not being good enough. It’s not about God not being bothered to respond. It’s about the fact that I even tried to make a deal in the first place.
The thing is, God doesn’t work in human based deals or lawyer-approved contracts. God doesn’t work in terms of tit for tat, equal exchange, or bargaining. The exchange in which Jesus took part was completely and utterly unfair. ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow’ (Isaiah 1:18). ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us’ (Galatians 3:13).
It’s not about God not being bothered to respond. It’s about the fact that I even tried to make a deal in the first place.
And then there’s more. God has not only given us true, eternal life through Christ’s atoning death on the cross, but He promises to provide for all that we need. It seems baffling, when we look to the persecuted church, to our brothers and sisters suffering acutely for their faith, that they could be content in what God has given them. They suffer daily threats, beatings and even torture just for following Jesus and proclaiming Him as Lord. And yet they are content because, ultimately, they are seeking first his Kingdom and his righteousness: ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:33)
It seems, ultimately, that I don’t need to make deals with God. He’s already given me everything I could possibly need – Himself. ‘And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:19).
And so next time I find myself in ‘a bit of a pickle’, I’m not going to look to my own strength, or to what I have to offer God, to get me through. I’m going to look to the cross, and I’m going to trust that the God who supplies all my needs, and who has provided for the greatest need of all – redemption and forgiveness in Christ Jesus – will get me through all that I find myself in. For my life is now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3) and, when push comes to shove, that’s all I really need.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.