I’ll confess that sometimes, when no one is around, I watch televangelists. Last night, during a quiet moment during an otherwise loud holiday season, I flipped the TV over to Joel Osteen. I turned the sound down a little, as not to give me away. Give Joel credit, he can make a room of people feel pretty good about themselves. He has a big enough room too. Actually, it is not even a room but a stadium. He preaches from a platform where the Houston Rockets used to shoot free throws.
It's obvious from the start that he has a firm belief, which he is right to some extent, that God has some promises for us and wants what is best for us. Yet what bothers me about J-Ol, is that as wildly successful as his books are, they are typically found in the “Self-Help” section of bookstores. This should be ironic for a preacher. The Gospel has nothing to do with self-help.
Last night was a typical “rub your Bible and God will grant you a wish” type pitch. He was using David and Goliath as an illustration for dealing with disappointment and difficult times. He said one phrase repeatedly, “the bigger your problem, the bigger your promotion.” If God has a giant in your way; that means that he is going to give you a big blessing once you kill it. True for David, I thought, but Moses died in the desert.
Joel is right when he says that we are all going to have our share of difficulties in life. There will be moments when our plans don’t necessarily line up with what comes our way. These are thoughts that often surface as we look back on one year or toward another. The question then becomes, “how do we deal with disappointment?” What happens to us when we don’t get what we want or need?
I’m reminded of just last month while I was hooking up my mother-in-law’s digital converter box on her TV. Somehow, she thought she was getting a bunch of new channels. I gently told her that the little box I was connecting to her rabbit ears was going to allow her to get the same channels she has always gotten, 2, 6, 8, and sometimes 11, when they make the switch to digital in February. “But they’ll be HD?” she asked.
I’m reminded of my 10th birthday, when all I really wanted was an art set. At that point in my life, I was quite the artist. My subjects typically consisted of Transformers and Ninja Turtles but you get the idea. I was aspiring. I was counting on my parents to further that God-given gift through the perfectly timed birthday present. They got me the dog I wanted the year before. Surely they would come through again. Yet to my disappointment, no art set came that year. In its place, a contraption designed to pick up canine fecal matter in the backyard.
Maybe it is because I am a programmer, or maybe I do it for physiological purposes but I always try to verbalize overarching themes in periods of my life. I think this is why I love New Year’s resolutions. They give me a motto for the year. While I scramble to come up with a theme for 2009, my personal theme for 2008 has been God’s faithfulness. I don’t know what he is doing all of the time, but I know that he is faithful. I heard someone say one time that “God is sovereign but he is also good.” Or maybe it was “he isn’t safe but he is good.” No wait. Maybe that was a lion or something. Oh well. You get the point.
I don’t know your circumstance right now either. But I do know that things can seem little more stressful around the holiday season. Perhaps it is because expectations are too high. Whatever the case as you head into 2009, could I remind you of a very familiar text in Matthew 6?
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6.25-34
Torrie and I have some good friends who recently had a cute little girl. They named her Lily and though it is a cute name, I can’t help but think of God’s faithfulness and the ways he provides every time we mention her name. Call it cute if you’d like but it helps. And some days I need all the help I can get.