Six year old Sawyer has already started his Christmas list. I’m not sure what got him thinking about Christmas, except for the fact that THERE ARE ALREADY CHRISTMAS TREES IN THE STORES. (That’s on you, Hobby Lobby.) He has been asking for at least two weeks if we could sit down with the computer, a big pad of paper, and the Toys r Us website to try and come up with a list for Santa.
I have resisted, mainly because I’m still in denial that school is about to start and I really don’t want to start thinking about Christmas yet. But, even without the internet as a reference guide, Sawyer went ahead and made a short list yesterday. He asked if it is okay if some things on the list “can’t be found in stores,” as he has a fairly serious love affair with toys that have infomercials. I said it was fine, and he went away with a permanent marker and a magnetic pad of paper off of the refrigerator.
It was just a few minutes before he was back, asking how to spell “space ship.” When he was done with this preliminary version of his Christmas list, it consisted of five items, including three different toys “as seen on TV,” plus a flying saucer so he can fly around the backyard AND a cleaning robot with 1,000 arms.
At some point before Christmas gets too close, I’m going to have to sit down with him and explain that even Santa won’t bring just anything that we can cook up in our imaginations. (Despite the fact that I could totally go for a cleaning robot with 1,000 arms.)
When I saw his list, I couldn’t help but think of how often we treat God like a jolly elf in a workshop somewhere, just waiting around to start on whatever we can dream up on our endless list of requests. How often do we hear popular preachers and teachers telling us that it is God’s will that we not be sick, that we not be poor, that we not be unsuccessful in our careers? There is no truth to the idea that God has willed us all to be rich and successful and healthy.
After all, if He willed it, it would be so. There wouldn’t be Christians in third world countries whose children are starving to death. There wouldn’t be Christians being executed for their faith. We wouldn’t have friends–so many friends–who are battling life-threatening diseases.
Jesus promises us an abundant life. And, that abundance has nothing at all to do with money. Or power. Or influence. It’s about living with the peace that says in the end everything will be okay. It’s about knowing that we have a God we can trust and rely on, when life is crazy, when we’re sick, when we’re struggling to get by, or even when we’re completely impoverished. It’s about knowing the Creator of the Universe. Life without Him is empty, even if you’ve got more money than you know what to do with.
So, what do we do with this? Does this mean we shouldn’t ask God for things we want and need? Not at all. The Bible tells us to ask persistently. But, Jesus showed us exactly how to ask: If it be your will, let this cup pass from me. Yet, not my will, but Your will be done. (Luke 22:42) When we ask God for the little things or when we cry out from the depths of our soul for the things we are desperate to see happen, we must rely on His wisdom and goodness to will what is the most purposeful, somehow, to His kingdom. Even if we never see or understand what those purposes are.
And, that’s why it’s hard to be a Christian.
But, praying for what we want and need serves another purpose, too. It helps us remember who is in control. And, it reminds us that we need Him desperately. It helps us come to a place where we can say, like Job: Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him. (Job 13:15)
I’m pretty sure that Sawyer won’t see a cleaning robot under the tree on Christmas morning. I’m glad he can dream big. I’m going to teach him to continue to dream big for the rest of his life. But, I’m also going to try to show him that whatever happens, whatever comes, whatever is under the tree and whatever isn’t, God is good, and He blesses in ways that we can’t even see.
For a great eight minutes worth of thoughts of the subject of biblical prosperity, watch this.