Yeah, so .. this gem cropped up on Facebook and I thought I’d share what it brought to mind. The image is of a humorous exchange between, I am guessing, a fictional Sheikh and his son who is studying abroad.
Son: Dear Father, Berlin is wonderful and the people are really nice. Even though, I am little ashamed that I drive to school in an antique Ferrari 599 GTB, when other students and teachers travel to school by train.
Your son, Ahmed.
Father: Dear Son, 20,000,000 $ have been transferred to your account. Stop embarrassing your family. Go and buy yourself a train as well.
Regards, Your Father.
Okay, let’s leave the stereotypes to one side. Even though the joke is about the father’s misunderstanding of what the son is saying, and the implication is that money can fix everything, what struck me was the instant and extravagant gesture by the father to the son to get him out of his predicament.
It’s this idea of extravagant generosity which got me thinking about how God wants to provide for us.
Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
This is the bit of the bible which jumped into mind just after I read the joke. Sure, I have days when I don’t think I rate highly at all in my fathering ability. But even on my worst days, if my kids were hungry and asked for a sandwich, sure I might grumble and snap, but I wouldn’t dream of giving them a buttered rock.
So, if that’s me as a flawed human, what is God going to be like?
There are plenty of stories about missionaries who say grace before breakfast when the table and cupboards are empty, the doorbell rings and on the doorstep is a hamper of food. There is the account of the Israelites trekking through a dessert for 40 years and God fed them Manna for the whole time (even their clothes or shoes didn’t wear out). There was the time when Mother Duck had no cash or cigarettes, and moments after a short and blunt prayer a friend gave her money and cigarettes.
There is then that time, when we are asking God for what we assume are good things, and even for basic things, and nothing seems to be happening. Was it wrong to ask God for the new job? Why, when we pray to be able to make ends meet, does it feel like we still have to scrimp and save to keep our heads above water?
A genie in a spring loaded lamp
This post has been a real struggle to write. I wanted to write that what ever we need, we can ask God for it and we will see it arrive. Every time. But, I couldn’t honestly write that. I want to, but I can’t. For that reason there has been huge amounts of editing with chunks of carefully written text simply thrown away. The reason is this; that I am in a place of tension between really believing what I read in the bible, and still waiting to see that in my life. Just because I don’t see something in my life which is promised in the bible, does not mean the bible in inaccurate or that in which I place my faith is fallible. It just means I am living in the place of “not yet”.
Even if ask to borrow some money from a friend or family member, it might take at least of few days for the money to arrive in my bank account. If Mother Duck asks me for a cup of tea, it still takes time to brew it properly and take it to her. If the one of the ducklings asks for something as birthday present, they still have to wait until their birthday until they receive it. As much as we would like, things rarely arrive in the blink of an eye. No matter hard we want them to or how nicely we ask.
Living in the place of “not yet”, doesn’t mean that my kids won’t get the gift they are asking for, it doesn’t mean that Mother Duck won’t get the cup of tea. I am indeed very willing to make a brew, or find the desired gift, just sometimes .. not yet.
Living in the place of “not yet”, means that when we pray for something and the answer seems slow to arrive, it means that we need to hang on to the words “My grace is all you need.”. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, God is not a genie in a spring loaded lamp.
Living in the place of “not yet”, means I have to think about how God works. Do angels exist? Absolutely. Are they heaven’s postal service? Doubt it. When we pray and ask God for something, many times someone might say, “Hey, I just had the strongest feeling you need this.”. They heard God’s voice and responded.
Have there not been times when we have felt God’s spirit nudging us to give some thing, or to do something? And of those times, have we been slow to act, or even not acted at all? I would suggest that at those times we have put someone else into the place of “not yet”. What if all those following Jesus were more sensitive to His voice, or quicker to act? Would there not be less of us be living the in the place of “not yet”. What if there were more Jesus followers? Kinda makes you think ..
The starting point for this post was an extravagant gift by a father. The Sheikh sent a vast amount of money to his son to get him out his ‘mess’ of having only a Ferrari to get to school in, when others have a train. The ultimate, most extravagant expression of Father God’s love to us, is Jesus.
Because He loves the world so much, God gave his only Son, Jesus. Not to judge the world, but to save it (John 3:16).