Believing and not Believing
The Genie God
April 30, 2017
I’m going to jump right in and get right to it, then take a step back and talk about this series.
I’m going to read something I found on a Christian Internet forum. The title was “I no longer believe in God!” This is part of what was written ~
Now, I can’t say that I’ve deconverted into Atheism, mainly because I find the logic behind Atheism harder to accept, but the God that we worship, love, and pray to, has become completely un-agreeable to me. There have been so many reasons why I just can’t be a Christian anymore, two of them are mainly theological holes, and above all, the failure of prayer that I’ve observed in my life and the life of others.”
The writer spoke of many tragedies in her life and in the world at large which she found reprehensible . . . She continued –
“So this (and many other world reports) lead me to question – how can we believe in a God of prayer? If God won’t answer something as big as that, why would I believe God would answer my prayers? I will admit, it is very depressing for me to write this because I have such a huge attachment to Jesus. In my heart I still love him, but God is just like an absent father to me.”
That’s really powerful and very real! Someone responded with this – – –
“I feel for you. I have lost my faith in God too. I had recently experienced a tragedy. I think I might be an atheist but I still believe in Jesus and sometimes pray to Him. . . . I have numerous health issues and have experienced numerous tragedies and I was not protected from my pain like I needed to be. I feel I am just an atheist but I still consider myself a Christian. It makes me feel better.”
Someone responded to these folks from the Christian side of things – – –
“No offense intended towards you, because I know nothing about you, but I tend to find this type of thinking as selfish. It was never about a relationship with God to you. It was always about you getting what you want. And if you don’t get what you want, then you’re going to act like God doesn’t exist.
The Christian life isn’t about getting what you want and throwing a fit if you have some struggles. Where did God say the Christian life would be easy? Where did He say the answer to every question would be “right away sir!”
Jesus Himself suffered a painful death here on earth. The disciples didn’t have it easy. Name one character in the bible who had it easy? That’s life. It’s difficult, painful, and messy. Yet, we’re the ones who sin and make it more difficult and messy, but we blame God for our doing. We blame God when there are consequences for our actions. We blame God for not having all the stuff we want.”
Finally, another person added – – – – and this will lead us into our series – – – –
“…You do know that God is not an ATM, right? Who told you God would answer your prayers like a genie making wishes come true? I don’t recall reading that anywhere.”
Now, I’m not going to make light of the first 2 comments I read. Those are very real people, with very real struggles. And in many respects, our struggles are not very different than theirs. For many of you, you’ve probably gone through more. We may have questioned, debated, yelled and screamed, cried out and maybe even cursed at God – – – but in the end, we come to the belief that God is real and we believe in Him – – – even in the midst of our unbelief
In many respects, this is the topic of our series for the next 4 weeks! Believing and not believing – – – sometimes all at the same time! We have the expectation that when we pray to God, God should grant our every request! After all, prayers for healing, for jobs, for marriages, for our kids, even for good weather on a vacation are all noble prayers . . . but we’ve learned they don’t all get answered the way we wish they would.
There are a lot of people who say, “God doesn’t exist. That’s crazy ridiculous.” Even those who grew up attending worship, who believed, but had a crisis of faith, something happened, someone did something, they were hurt, they were disappointed, and they say, “I want to believe but I just can’t.”
I would argue that so many people that live in that zone, they are not really rejecting the true God. Instead, they’re rejecting what I would call a distorted view of God. They’re rejecting a distorted view of who they think God should be and who they want God to be.
You see, we have this expectation that whenever we call on God, God should respond. We view God as being just like a big friendly, always generous and giving GENIE! We rub our magic lamp and POOF! God appears and gives us whatever we want! Wouldn’t that be nice!
We want God to be an On-Demand God. We say, “I prayed about it. God didn’t do it. Therefore, I don’t believe in God. God should do exactly what I want.” Again, I’m not making light of this, because I think we’ve all been there – – Maybe this is your story.
You might have been a teenager praying and begged God to save your parents’ marriage and you believed He would and it didn’t happen. “Where are you, God?”
You might be the person that you’re giving to others and you’re doing good works and you’re still struggling financially. You’re like, “What’s up with that, God?”
You might be praying for healing for someone, believing God would heal them and they weren’t healed. “What’s up with that, God?”
You pray for financial freedom, and you lose your job! You pray for someone to spend your life with . . . it doesn’t happen. “What’s up with that, God?”
When God doesn’t do what we believe He could do, we become disappointed and frustrated and we decide God must either not be real, isn’t powerful, isn’t good, or doesn’t care. Where is my Genie God? But, understand, there is no such thing as a Genie God! He does not exist.
Here’s a key point for us to understand, and it’s really what those first 2 people didn’t understand and maybe never will . . .
God doesn’t exist to serve us. We exist to serve Him.
God does not exist to do whatever we want, whenever we want him to do what we want. He may answer prayers, but His highest calling is not to do what we think he should do. God does not exist to serve us. We exist to serve Him. If you’re reading the Bible, and you should, but this may help you when reading the Bible . . . We are not the main character of the Bible. God is the main character!!
God is not our cosmic genie in the sky that you rub on Him just right and you get three wishes. He isn’t the cosmic vending machine where you pray your prayer, you insert your offering, you push the button and out comes your answered prayer.
God is the creator. We are the created. God is the potter. We are the clay who is formed by God. He is Lord – – and we are His servants.
I want to talk about three qualities of the heart of God. If God is not a Geneie God, then who is He?
1. We need to recognize God’s heart is always loving. God is always loving.
John tells us in John 3:16 – –
16 For God so LOVED the world!
We also read ~ 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. – 1 John 4:7-11
We need to start with that as our premise! God is a God of love. Just like a parent, you always love your kids, you may not always like what they do, you may not always like them for their actions, but you always love them.
there are also times when we do not do what they want you to do even though you have the power to do it. Right? Yet, you always love them.
You know, you tell them, “Don’t forget your lunch.” They forget their lunch. The third time, “Will you bring my lunch to school?” “Nope, sorry. No lunch today!”
Why? It’s not because you want to punish them. It’s because you’re doing something in them. It’s not because I don’t have the power. It’s not because I don’t love you. It’s actually because I love you that I’m not always going to do exactly what you want. Sometimes I’m trying to develop something in you rather than do something for you. You always love them but you don’t always do what they want.
We need to understand that when God doesn’t do exactly what we want, even if we believe He could and believe He should, it doesn’t mean He doesn’t love us. God is always loving!!! He always has our best interest at heart. Even when I don’t understand it!
Romans 8 is one of the most powerful chapters in the Bible! There is so much power and it’s really all about God’s love for us!
In verse 35, Paul asked ~
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
We can also say it in this way . . . since most of us are not going to be faced with a sword or famine or nakedness. . .
What shall separate you from the love of Christ? Shall financial trouble? Shall relational breakdowns? Shall unemployment? Shall sickness? Shall depression? Shall death? REMEMBER the question Paul is asking . . . Who or what will separate us from the love of Christ?!
What in this world can separate us from the love of God? Can anything?
Paul doesn’t wait too long to give us his answer!! Can anything separate us?
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Through what? Through our own power? No. Through him who – – – LOVED US!!
After all Paul went through in his life, he had supreme confidence that God would see him through all things, because he knew he could do all things through Christ, because he had to rely on the strength and power of the risen Christ!
Paul then went on to say – – 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:31-39
God’s heart is always loving. We need to understand God doesn’t prove His love when He answers our prayers as we wish. God proved His love when He sent His Son. Look at 1 John 4:10 again – – – 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Literally, John is telling us, God loves us so much that He sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice, so that we might find forgiveness from an angry God. Because the word PROPITIATION, not only means atoning sacrifice, but it means “to appease an angry, offended party! God was the One who was angry, yet, He loved us so much, that he made a way for us to experience a relationship with Him.
God proves His love for us as Paul said in Romans 5:8, While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There’s never at time God doesn’t love you. But He will not always do what you want Him to do. Nothing could ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Let me tell you there have been many times in my life where I have not understood the plans God had for me and my family. I’ve been asked by many of you “why did this happen? What was God thinking? What did He have in mind?”
More times than not, that’s a question which goes over my head. I can’t answer for God. In fact, I won’t answer for God. Why did someone good, die young? I don’t know. Why was there a natural disaster? I don’t know. Why did someone become sick or terminally injured? I don’t know. Why? Why? Why? I don’t know! I wish I had the answers for my own life, let alone yours.
In Isaiah 55, God tells us ~
8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-11
I take comfort in this passage, recognizing and believing God is wiser than I am, that He is already in tomorrow. Time doesn’t hold Him. He is a sovereign good God working in all things to bring about good. God has the end in mind and He’s using the things I don’t even want to conform to, to help me become more like Him.
His knowledge, His power goes well beyond the limited understanding our finite minds could grasp. I don’t have to understand everything God does, instead I need to believe in who God is and trust in all that God does. I will trust god’s heart, His character, His nature, His goodness, His mercy, his grace, His power, His love . . . God’s ways are always higher and better, even when they are totally different than my ideas and plans. God has the end in sight. I don’t. God knows how this will work out 20 years from now, I don’t know how this will work out 1 day from now.
I’m going to come to the end for today, but I still have more, and the joy is we get to continue this next week!
Here’s the thing. Some of you are going through something right now and you hate it, you absolutely hate what’s happening in your life. You don’t get it, you don’t understand it. We’ve all been there, some of you are there right now!
God’s ways are higher than your ways. His thoughts are higher than your thoughts. God loves you. You don’t doubt that. The greatest theologian of the 20th century was Karl Barth. He wrote volume after volume of theology books. His greatest writing was something called Church Dogmatics.
It’s a 14 volume theology. He was considered brilliant. When he was giving a lecture at the University of Chicago, during the Q & A time, a student asked Barth if he could summarize his whole life’s work in theology in a sentence. Barth said, “Yes, I can. In the words of a song I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
Friends, we cannot explain away the workings of God. We will never be on the same level, no matter how hard we try. We will never be able to express all the knowledge about God, even in a 14 volume theology.
In the end, when we struggle with believing and not believing all at the same time . . . it’s to use God’s words to help us move through the dark times, those times when life makes no sense, when our prayers, our requests, our pleadings are not being answered as we wish . . . those are the times when we accept . . . God is God and we are not.
It’s when we look to our brothers and sisters in this fellowship who have endured, tragedy, sickness, death, job loss, divorce, and you name it . . . and they are here today. You are the saints of the church. You continue to believe and trust. You are part of the hall of fame of believers.
This is part of the beauty of the church. Brothers and sisters in Christ, who come together, worshiping, celebrating, laughing, crying . . . doing it together, as we share life together!
Hold onto one another, hold onto the promises of God . . . He loves you! He loves you! So much so . . . that He sent His only Son, not to condemn you, but to give you life, abundant, abundant life!!