Ken Stalls, BCM/D President and Pastor of South End Baptist Church, Frederick, Md.
When we want something and look for a way to get it, we instinctively think of God.
This way of thinking needs God only when we have a need that we are unable to handle. I am sick. I want to get well. I pray to God. I even promise God that I will be good or better or some such nonsense that we really do not intend to follow up.
I laugh whenever I think about the movie “The End.” As I remember it, Burt Reynolds has incurable cancer and wants to commit suicide by drowning himself in the ocean. He is in a psychiatric hospital because people have learned about this and put him there to protect him from himself.
Another patient is portrayed by Dom DeLuise. Reynolds makes a pact with his buddy that if he chickens out, his buddy will kill him. None of that is the part to laugh about. But when Burt Reynolds gets way out deep in the water, planning to swim until he is worn out and cannot make it back, he thinks of his daughter and changes his mind and wants to live for her. He prays to God and promises that he will give him some exorbitant percentage of his assets if He helps him get back to shore. I believe it was something like 50 percent of his wealth.
As he gets closer to shore and his feet touch the bottom for the first time, he cuts it to 40 percent. Closer in, it gets to 30, 20, 10 percent. As he stumbles out onto the shore, he promises God that he will have to “drop in to see Him sometime.”
Then, DeLuise jumps out from behind a rock with a big butcher knife and chases Reynolds down the shore, with Reynolds yelling: “80 percent, or whatever You want.”
How foolish we are to think we can barter with God or to think that the Lord of the universe is only worth talking to when we want something.
He who did not spare His own Son to die in our stead is not into bartering. He looks for us to worship Him with all of our heart and soul and mind. He works on our new heart to gather us together with other Christians. He seeks to spoil our foolish ideas that we are doing just fine on our own.
I am in trouble if I think I am doing OK. I am in trouble when I find myself defending my actions as a good person, someone who deserves help from the “man upstairs.”
Not the “man upstairs” but the “Word Who became flesh” died so that we could live forever. Our prayers and praise are offered so that we may see our lives lived within the framework of the new life He has given.
Our new nature looks for ways to serve Him. If we are not much interested, He calls us back. If we are interested in serving and worshipping and being in fellowship with others, He reminds us that He is moving our hearts to act.
What has God done lately for you? What He always does. He blesses, heals, shepherds and directs us to Him and His Will and Way. He cures us of bartering for more or thinking we can make it on our own. He gives us the chance to celebrate so that the love in our hearts does not flicker out.
May we all be eager to be with other Christians in worship and fellowship. May our gratitude for what He has done for us motivate us to reach out in His love to others. Our lives must be focused on what we can do for Him and this world of people that He loves, rather than what we can “con” Him to do for us. Let’s commit together to be all we can be for our Lord and His Kingdom.