“Okay, I’m gonna let you use my bike, and you’re gonna let me use your skateboard—right?”
“And then in five minutes we’ll trade, right?”
Sitting on a nearby bench, I smiled as the two little boys rode off, each on his respective “vehicle.” Their conversation reminded me of all the deals I’d made with my brother and sister as a young child. Sometimes we’d swap chores or bargain about who’d play the new computer game first. Bargains were a big part of life—and they still are. As adults we might not be making contracts about Legos, Barbies, or scooters, but we’re definitely still using our bargaining skills. Isn’t that true for us all?
Just the other day, my friend shared some details about her terms of employment at a new job. Another friend discussed his negotiations with a Navy recruiter. We all make deals in our lives. Many occupations revolve solely around negotiations—from sports agents to government officials. Bargaining is woven into the fabric of our society—it’s part of who we are. And, unknowingly, we apply it our relationship with God.
“Okay, God,” we think, “I’m giving you this many hours this week, so you’ll help me do well on my project, right?”
Or, “Okay, God, I’m serving the homeless this week even though I have a cold, so you’re going to heal me quicker, right?”
Or even, “Okay, God, I’m being obedient to you, so you’re going to bless my life, right?”
I know those thoughts often go through my head. But they’re all wrong! God doesn’t make deals. He isn’t our boss or our friend. He’s GOD! Not only is He the creator of the universe, He sent his only begotten Son to die a gruesome death in our place so that, if we believe in Him, we could have eternal life (John 3:16).
God didn’t have to send His son, but He did. God owes us nothing. We owe Him everything.
So our obedience to God shouldn’t be based on what He’s going to do for us.
Of all the people in history, the apostle Paul would probably be considered worthy of making a deal with God. Paul performed signs and miracles, he took the gospel to the nations, and he obeyed God in every way. Not only that, he endured terrible things for Christ. Paul declares:
Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger form bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches… (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Phew! Paul’s list is a bit overwhelming. Imagine if that happened to you? If I were in his shoes I’d be thinking: “What, God? I did all these wonderful things in Your name, and you still let me get stuck in jail! Come on now, why do I keep getting beat up and shipwrecked? Isn’t there someone else you could bestow these ‘privileges’ on and give me a break?”
But Paul didn’t base his obedience on the fact that God was going to do something great for him—or that God was going to make his life easy. He knew that living a righteous life didn’t guarantee that he would be healthy, wealthy, and wise.
He didn’t say, “God, if you do x, y, and z in my life, I’ll obey.”
Instead he said, “I will obey.” Period!
Wow. Isn’t that amazing? Paul’s obedience was his response to salvation. He had a right standing before God, and nothing else mattered. Whether good things or bad things happened to him, his faith was immovable. He believed God when He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
This is the attitude we need to have. After all, God rescued us and made us holy. He saved us from eternity in hell. We should follow Paul’s example and obey the Lord because we love Him, not because we expect worldly blessings in return.
Faith based on our actions, on what God “owes” us, is very shaky. So, while we can make deals with our co-workers and siblings, we’re better off to leave our bargaining skills out of our prayers. I constantly have to remind myself: Stop making silent deals with God. Obey the Lord because He is God.
Felicia Alvarez, a graduate of Liberty University, lives in Southern California and loves avocados, sunshine, and serving her Savior. Currently, she teaches dance to over one hundred students and is working on her second book. Connect with Felicia on her blog or on Facebook, she would love to hear from you!
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