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Archive for October, 2013


Stop Blaming and Get Busy Healing

 

Refer to Step 3: I accept that the responsibility for getting back on track is mine and no one else’s.

 

Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.

—Sir Winston Churchill

When you’ve experienced abuse, regardless of the type, you inevitably lose your ability to trust. It just goes with the territory. Some people never regain their ability to trust and lead half-lives, ruled by suspicion and distrust—sometimes a great deal of it. If your abuse has come from a trusted spiritual leader, you’ve probably lost your ability to trust God as well.

Although the abuser will have to answer to God for the problems he or she created, you also have substantial accountability. Regardless of where the problem began, it’s still your responsibility to get back to the place where you began—trusting God. It’s easy to blame someone for your situation, but that will not solve the problem, and it doesn’t help you move forward, getting back to a life filled with peace, joy, and fulfillment.

Being in this situation is obviously very difficult, but the alternative is even worse. Once you’ve had a deep experience with the love of God, it’s impossible to settle for anything less. And chafing at the bit does nothing but waste precious years of your life—your years not your abusers.

Why not look at this as a time to return to your first love—to return to the Lord?  You’ve already experienced a measure of recovery, but you know your potential is far greater. It requires a lot of work, but if you put your heart into it, you’ll never regret your decision to move forward. What do you say? Why not let today be the day when you become committed to improving your life?

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (I Corinthians 15:58)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Becoming Vulnerable Once Again

 

Refer to Step 4: I choose to believe what God says about Himself: that He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; rather, people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

 

You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough.

—Frank Crane

There’s nothing more difficult than hearing the voice of God when you’ve been spiritually abused. Most people are not even interested in listening for it.

This is because someone they have trusted has used his or her position of spiritual authority to exploit them. Naturally recoiling at such a destructive breach of trust, their sense of righteous indignation has been offended.

Not only does this make the person angry with their abuser, but it also hampers their ability to trust others. This loss of trust extends to God as well. In their minds, abused people believe God should have intervened to prevent their mistreatment. Because it was unfair and unjustified, they believe God should have done something to stop it, and they are offended with Him that He didn’t. In some ways, they believe He let them down more than their abuser. At least, that’s how they feel about it, which may be illogical, but it is also very important.

Has this been your experience? When you think about it rationally, you probably realize that God wasn’t at fault, but you still feel that He was. Because you do, it’s difficult to trust Him again.

It’s also becomes far more difficult to hear His voice, which is always gentle and never insistent or demanding. Like a wounded animal, you have recoiled and become self-protective; and the thought of ever allowing yourself to become vulnerable again is the farthest thing from your mind. Just the thought of it probably sends a cold chill down your spine.

If you want to heal, however, that’s exactly what you have to do. You have to listen for God’s voice, trust it, and become open to His leading. What that entails is between you and God Almighty. I have no idea what the specifics of it might be, but I do know He will continue to reach out to you until you listen. It’s His nature, and He’s very persistent.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord. (Psalm 13-14)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Father,

For those who wait patiently on You,

For those who come to You for help,

Rather than taking matters into their own hands,

You promise they will mount up with wings like eagles,

Run and not grow weary, walk and never faint.

In the depth of my despair—in my heartache and rejection,

Your promises seemed so remote, obscure, and meaningless.

In my despair, they seemed beyond my reach.

I never considered them to be real or tangible.

To me, they were nothing more than sappy, poetic words.

In my pain and heartache, all I wanted was relief,

Which at times was so intense I thought it would never end.

I begged You to answer my prayerful demands,

Which You never did, adding to my anguish.

I felt to unloved and abandoned—even by You—

That my hurt was magnified tenfold; perhaps twenty,

But You did answer my prayers. You just said, “No.”

You loved me enough to prevent me form outcomes,

Which were clearly not in my best interest to obtain.

In my disquietude and self-serving shortsightedness,

I couldn’t understand or fathom Your will, but now I do.

Because I chose Your way instead of a self-destructive path,

You have brought me to higher plateau—

To a place where I am now capable

Of mounting up with wings like an eagle.

Because You restore the years the locust have eaten away,

I feel invigorated and filled with resolve,

Experiencing more energy than ever before.

As my strength and faith grow daily,

I feel empowered to run and not grow weary—

To walk and never faint.

Now, with my vision and joy restored,

I willingly bow my knee and say,

“Thank You, Father, for being such

A loving, gracious, and compassionate God,

And for saving me from my foolish willfulness.”

Jack Watts

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Father,

Despite my anxiety, You were there with me,

Diligently working in my heart,

Stripping me of all of my pretense,

Scourging me of all of my arrogance,

Revealing each of my self-serving ways,

Which have made my life a wasteland.

Journal: What are the self-serving ways that have caused you trouble. Make a list of them, being thorough and thoughtful.

God is good and can be trusted. An abusive spiritual leader is just a man or woman who arrogates God’s authority to himself or herself inappropriately—nothing more, nothing less. Recognizing the error is essential, but blaming God for it isn’t. He is never abusive. When you begin to recognize the difference between the two, you will have made a significant step in your recovery.

Question: Have you recognized the difference, or do you still believe God is responsible for your abuse? If you still blame Him, be honest about it and tell Him so.

Sadly, those, who have been cheated by a narcissist, blame God for the offense. Being offended, these victims cast aside a life of faith, embracing cynicism instead. More than any other thing, this produces people who have become jaded by serving Christian ministries. It’s wrong at so many levels; it’s difficult to list them all.

Journal: From your perspective, write a list of reasons why abuse makes wounded people so cynical.

After being abused, you become much more circumspect about other abusers—those who have their own agendas, which they insist calling God’s purposes. Because of your experience, you can recognize and understand abusive motivations others can’t; and you can help the naïve discern that God does not condone the methods of those who twist the truth.

 

Question: In your heart, do you know this is true? Do you have better discernment now than you ever have before?

Serve others and, like the Lord, never expect anything in return—not even a “Thank you.” Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Do it because it’s what you are called to do. Do it because—as God continues to heal you from your abusive experience—you are serving others in the process. To live like this is to walk the road less traveled.

Journal: Are you walking the road less traveled, or are you just playing at recovery? Write about where you are in the process.

Jack Watts   Resources

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Serving Others

 

Refer to Step 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with the Lord, asking Him to reveal His will to me and to provide me with the power to carry it out.

 

 

Be alert to give service. What counts a great deal in life is what we do for others.

—Anonymous

Religious abusers expect something in return for their generosity—not sometimes, always. Regardless of how they couch their words, their altruism is feigned and deceptive. They gauge an advantage in everything they do, carefully camouflaging their motives with noble words and lofty thoughts. Underneath, however, they are repeatedly calculating, looking for a way to exploit those they have been called to serve. Because this strategy only works for a while, abusers are constantly seeking new people to manipulate, casting aside those who begin to recognize that they’ve been victimized.

Because wounded people are so vulnerable, it’s easy for someone to take advantage of them. Such behavior is never God’s will, and those who are in recovery must avoid associating with exploitive leaders at all costs.

Regardless of the situation, as a Christian, you must never yield to the temptation to exploit another. Instead, serve others and, like the Lord, never expect anything in return—not even a “Thank you.” Our goal is to:

  • Do it because it’s the right thing to do.
  • Do it because it’s what you are called to do.
  • Do it because—as God continues to heal you from your abusive experience—you are serving others in the process.

To live like this is to walk the road less traveled. It’s also the path to emotional health, stability, and fulfillment. Using others is fruitless, but serving others is the way to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control. The rewards for selflessness are astronomical, but those who abuse others never recognize this. They are too busy plotting their next exploitative scheme.

Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. And just as you want men to treat you, treat them in the same way. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. (Luke 6:30-32)

Jack Watts   Resources

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For Abusers, It’s All about Them

 

Refer to STEP 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with the Lord, asking Him to reveal His will to me and to provide me with the power to carry it out.

 

 

We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.

—Stephen Vincent Benet

For an abuser, it’s all about them. Everything in life is focused on their mission, their calling, and their exalted purpose—not just some of the time, all of the time. It never changes.

That’s why getting in the way of one of them is such a grievous sin. Even if the issue is about something trivial and seemingly unimportant, if it derails the abuser’s purpose in any way, it will never be tolerated—not for a moment. It’s why the perceived affront is met so forcefully. Because such a harsh reaction seems to be unwarranted, it impacts the person about to be abused forcefully.

When stung by abuse coming from the incident, the wounds a person receives are debilitating for a substantial period of time, which is normal. The emotional pain is intense, making the victim focus upon himself or herself.

Such self-protectiveness is appropriate and natural, but it needn’t last for years or even decades. When the pain ceases to be acute, healing can begin if the victim is willing to work the 11 Steps.

Invariably, victims want to know why this unpleasant experience has happened. “Why me?” is the universal question. The answer is this: God knows; I don’t. The experience, however, can make a person more valuable from God’s perspective. This is a truth that every wounded Christian needs to recognize.

After being abused, you become much more circumspect about other abusers—those who have their own agendas, which they insist calling God’s purpose. Because of your experience, you can recognize and understand abusive motivations others can’t; and you can help the naïve discern that God does not condone the methods of those who twist the truth. So, be mindful that your experience makes you more valuable than you ever thought possible.

For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we shall live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you. (II Corinthians 13:4)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Refer to Step 6: I refuse to become like those who have abused me and abandon my desire to spread malice because of my pain and my anger.

Many a man’s reputation would not know his character if they met on the street.

— Elbert Hubbard

One of the origins of spiritual abuse comes from the narcissistic men and women who lead Christian ministries. The problem, which happens quite often, stems from a mind-set that equates the minister’s viewpoint with God’s viewpoint. In a de facto sense, they become one in the same. Consequently, these leaders come to believe that the ends—their ends—justify the means because they are certain these ends are God’s purposes as well. As these Christian leaders view it, because they are doing God’s work, whatever they do is sanctioned, authorized, and justifiable.

For example, leaders like these have a cavalier attitude about financial compensation for outsourced work. In an effort to be wise and frugal with “God’s money,” they contract work they never pay for—not completely. Reasoning that the ministry goals supersede the need to be fundamentally fair with those who labor for them, they frequently cheat people out of what they are owed and believe they are being obedient to the Lord by their behavior. When asked about a legitimate bill by a cheated vendor, they become offended.

This is how they view it: because they are pursuing God’s goals, their calling is higher than those who work for them. In this arrogant perspective, the religious leaders don’t believe treating their vendors ethically is required, and they don’t. This attitude, which is deeply resented by those who work for them in good faith, is never God’s will.

In my three decades of working with ministries, I have seen dozens of examples of this type of abuse. Ministries all over America do it routinely, creating emotional carnage in their wake. Sadly, those, who have been cheated by a narcissist, blame God for the offense. Being offended, these victims cast aside a life of faith, embracing cynicism instead. More than any other thing, this produces people who have become jaded by serving Christian ministries. It’s wrong at so many levels; it’s difficult to list them all.

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart. I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

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Jack Watts

This is one of my most uplifting prayers. Just click here:

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Abusers Believe They Are Superior

 

Refer to Step 4: I recognize that God is not the abuser; rather, people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

The kind of violence (abuse) one should fear is always quiet and comes all wrapped up in words like Love until you live with it daily and you value only that which is valuable to the violator.

—Shauna Singh Baldwin

 

There are many causes for religious abuse, but the primary source is arrogance. Abusers believe they are better than the people they are called to serve. It’s as simple as that.

Because they are convinced of this, their misuse of power becomes inevitable, and they abuse their authority, destroying peoples lives in the process. Nothing compares to it. Never admitting when they are wrong, which constitutes de facto infallibility; religious abusers consider themselves accountable to God only—not to other human beings. In their mind, this means it’s acceptable to treat others disrespectfully.

With this kind of attitude, lesser human beings become expendable. Using their position of superiority, abusers “strut their stuff” arrogantly, expecting their followers to be obsequious when they do. They believe their exalted religious position gives them the right to do so. They expect others to recognize their superiority, accept it, and act deferentially. In the Scriptures, however, being a spiritual leader does not equate to being spiritually superior—quite the contrary.

In recovery, because we have felt the sting of religious superiority so acutely, we know how abusive it can be. That’s why so many react negatively, blaming God for the abusiveness of those who claim to speak for Him.

The key is to recognize the difference. God is good and can be trusted. An abusive spiritual leader is just a man or woman who arrogates God’s authority to himself or herself inappropriately—nothing more, nothing less.

Recognizing the error is essential, but blaming God for it isn’t. He is never abusive. When you begin to recognize the difference between the two, you will have made a significant step in your recovery.

The Scribes and Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. (Matthew 23:2-3)

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Changing Your Perspective

 

Refer to Step 1: I acknowledge that my life is shipwrecked and not where I want it to be.

 

 

To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.

—Goethe

On the surface, Step 1 may appear to be the simplest step to recovery. All you have to do is recognize your situation accurately and acknowledge it. That’s simple, right?

In one sense, it is the easiest step, but for more people than not, it’s by far the most difficult. This is because you have to “admit” you’re not okay the way you are; you need help. For nearly everybody, acknowledging this can be the most difficult thing in the world to do. Facing reality always is.

For nearly everybody, it takes substantial time and enormous heartache to be willing to seek help. It’s just part of human nature. But that’s what is required—seeking and accepting help. You have to admit you are not all right the way you are, and you will never be all right without getting the help you need.

Step 1 is about denial—about telling yourself a lie, believing it, and insisting it is true. Denial is the false belief—maintained steadfastly—that you have everything under control when you clearly do not. It is an inability to look at life and say, “How have I allowed myself to become like this?” Those in denial insist that:

  • I’m fine.
  • I’m okay the way I am.
  • There’s nothing wrong with me.
  • I don’t need help.
  • Leave me alone!

Denial can be more pervasive for those who have been religiously abused than for alcoholics or drug addicts. The reason is simple: you are never put in jail for driving under the influence of religious abuse. The devastation is primarily internal—in your heart and in your soul—where the destruction manifests itself in negative emotions and attitudes. Shame, bitterness, hatred, and revenge are its fruits. Unlike the effects of alcoholism, you will not develop cirrhosis of the liver—just hardheartedness, which can be equally devastating.

This is why it’s so difficult for many to admit their lives are shipwrecked. They can’t see the destruction from the outside, but it’s there just below the surface, poised to wreak havoc in their lives.

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25a)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Achieving Fulfillment

Father,

For those who wait patiently on You,

For those who come to You for help,

Rather than taking matters into their own hands,

You promise they will mount up with wings like eagles,

That they will run and not grow weary, walk and never faint.

In the depth of my despair—in my heartache and rejection—

Your promises seemed so remote, obscure, and meaningless.

In my despair, they appeared so far beyond my reach.

I’ll admit I never considered them to be real or tangible.

To me, they were nothing more than sentimental words.

In my pain and in my heartache, all I wanted was relief,

Which at times was so intense I thought it would never end.

I begged You to answer my prayerful demands,

But You never did, which added to my anguish.

I felt to unloved and abandoned—even by You.

My hurt felt magnified tenfold; perhaps twenty.

Finally, You did answer my prayer. You just said, “No.”

You loved me enough to prevent me form an outcome

That was clearly not in my best interest to receive.

In my disquietude and self-serving shortsightedness,

I couldn’t understand or fathom Your will, but now I do.

Because I chose Your way instead of a self-destructive path,

You have brought me to higher place—to a plateau.

Now, I am capable of mounting up with wings like an eagle.

Because You restore the years the locust have eaten away,

I feel invigorated and filled with resolve.

I am experiencing more energy than ever before,

As my strength and faith grow daily, moment-by-moment.

I feel empowered to run, and never to grow weary—

To climb mountains and never faint from fatigue.

Now, with my vision and joy restored,

I willingly bow my knee and say,

“Thank You, Father, for being such

A loving, gracious, and compassionate God,

And for saving me from my willful foolishness.”

Jack Watts   Real Prayers

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Father,

I acknowledge Your sovereignty because

I want “things” from You.

I want You to bless me—

To make my life easier,

To make my will Your own.

I know my prayers focus upon

What You can do for me,

Because I’m interested in Your blessing—

Not in getting to know You better.

 

Question: Think about your prayers. What percent of the time do you spend asking for things for yourself? When you come up with a number, write it down and look at it each day for the next week.

After the pain of our abuse begins to subside, after we realize our life is going to take a very different direction than we wanted or expected, we start asking ourselves what lessons we need to learn from our painful experience. Although this may sound like a healthy place to start, it’s not. There’s one step before this, which needs to be addressed. We need to ask ourselves, “What do I need to unlearn from my experience?”

Journal: Write down the things you need to “unlearn.” For example, what negative attitudes have you acquired since your abusive experience? Take as much time as you need, this is an important part of your recovery.

In spite of what anyone might tell you, God is not a blessing machine, ready to dispense material favors for all who ask without qualification. When you review the “Fruits of the Spirit,” conspicuous consumption is never mentioned. What are mentioned are estimable character qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness.

Question: In your life, what are the five most conspicuous character qualities? Name them. How many are positive, and how many are negative?

The self-righteous lift up a version of Christ that is not in the New Testament—not even close, and yet these are the people most feared in churches. These are the people who are eager to share their exacting, unyielding opinions, which they expect everyone to accept. Their bitter sting keeps many from embracing God’s love, acceptance, and mercy.

Question: Take a moment and think of someone you know who resembles this. Is that person attractive to you or repulsive? Is that person someone you want to be like? Remember your answer.

 

As a child of God, He expects us to lift Him up. That’s all. That’s our entire responsibility in witnessing—nothing else. Isn’t it freeing just to read this and take it in?

Journal:  What would “lifting up” the Lord look like for you? Take a few minutes and write down your answer.

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 Lifting Up the Lord

 

Refer to Step 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with the Lord, asking Him to reveal His will to me and to provide me with the power to carry it out.

 

Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.

—Unknown

As a child of God, Christ expects us to lift Him up. That’s all. That’s our entire responsibility in witnessing—nothing else.

Isn’t it freeing just to read this and take it in? I can’t save anyone any more than I can damn them. Neither can you. We don’t have anything to do with Salvation. We don’t get a vote—never have, never will. That’s left up the Godhead—Father, Son, and Spirit—where it should be.

Then, what is our part in the process?

Our part is to lift up Christ, which we do every time we act out of the nature He has imparted to us, rather than out of our own, self-serving natures. If I act out of my own best interest and nothing more, I miss an opportunity to lift Him up. When I am Christ-like, I display love, joy, peace, and all the fruit of the Spirit of God. When I suffer for the Lord, I’m also lifting Him up. When I choose His way over materialism, I’m lifting Him up. When I’m kind, expecting nothing in return, I’m lifting Him up.

When I seek my own way, I’m not. The greatest problems come when we fool ourselves into believing our will is God’s will, and we press for it at the expense of another. It doesn’t work, and it manifests a poor witness for Christ.

Being Christ-like works; nothing else does. It draws people to the Lord much more effectively than a three-minute testimony forced upon a stranger. The former is genuine, while the latter is little more than an infomercial—something contrived, manipulative, and disingenuous. It’s something that never delivers as much as it promises.

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (John 12:32; Colossians 3:17)

Jack Watts   Resources

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God’s Touch Changes Everything

Refer to Step 10: I choose to believe God still has a purpose for my life—a purpose for good and not evil.

 

Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.

—George Sand

Salvation is easy. It doesn’t require a thing from either you or from me—other than the acceptance of a free gift. Providing the gift is God’s part. He did it all, which is what love, mercy, and grace, are all about. That He loved you at your most unlovely moment is the essence of Christianity. It’s what makes Christianity truly unique and special.

That God was willing to reach down, touch you in your vulnerability, and lift you up is what makes having a relationship with Him so desirable. Once that happens, regardless of what anyone might tell you differently, you are a child of God’s and always will be.

Unfortunately, people tend to forget the tenderness of their own experience, choosing instead to regiment a dynamic relationship, which can never be accomplished successfully. Through their efforts, they make Christianity hard, rigid, unyielding, and unforgiving. They try and make a deeply personal experience into something cold, austere, and systematic.

If a Christian is smug and self-righteous, legalistic and condemning, haughty and judgmental, then how attractive can that be? Not very! Most people run from anything that is so unappealing. Who can blame them?

Most of you recognize the kind of people I’m describing, don’t you—the heartlessly religious—those who are never wrong about anything? Sadly, Christianity has far too many people like these.

The self-righteous lift up a version of Christ that is not in the New Testament—not even close, and yet these are the people most feared in churches. These are the people who are eager to share their exacting, unyielding opinions, which they expect everyone to accept. Their bitter sting keeps many from embracing God’s love, acceptance, and mercy.

That’s why being in recovery has such value. You’ve had to lean on God more completely than most. If you display love, joy, long suffering, and a genuine concern for those in need, then you are lifting up Christ the way you’re meant to. That’s very attractive to hurting, desperate people, searching for answers. If you’re smug and self-righteous, however, you will also have a great impact for God—a negative impact. Like many things, the choice is yours, as are the consequences.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that o one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Jack Watts   Resources

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God’s Blessing Isn’t Materialistic

 

Refer to Step 4: I chose to accept as true what God has said about Himself. He is good and can be trusted.

 

 

Sometimes God doesn’t change your situation because He is trying to change your heart.

—Larry Rust

In spite of what anyone might tell you, God is not a blessing machine, ready to dispense material favors for all who ask, without hesitation or qualification. When you review the “Fruits of the Spirit,” material acquisition is not mentioned. What is mentioned are estimable character qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. Each of these character qualities is highly valued by God, and if you want to be a person after “God’s own heart,” you will seek them above all else.

Too often, most of us whine and complain to God because we want material blessings without the slightest consideration of whether or not receiving them is actually good for us or not. What we want is for God to spare us from the natural consequences of our actions. We’ve come to learn that government bailouts are counter-productive, but we never seem to understand that asking God to bail us out may also be counter-productive. We are like children who demand candy from a reluctant parent, never considering what harm it might do.

Because we don’t recognize or understand the bigger picture, we insist that God make our will be His will. Then, we become critical of His treatment toward us when He doesn’t comply. Consequently, to us, it seems like our prayers have gone unanswered. When we don’t get what we want, it’s usually because God is working on other, more important parts of your life.

You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:2b-3)

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