A Lifetime of Growth
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
When British Parliament member John Ward died, a prayer was found among his papers; it was rather embarrassing to those inheriting his estate:
O Lord, Thou knowest that I have mine estates in the City of London, and likewise that I have lately purchased an estate in the county of Essex. I beseech Thee to preserve the two counties from fire and earthquake; and as I have a mortgage in Hertfordshire, I beg of Thee likewise to have an eye of compassion on that county; as for the rest of the counties, Thou mayest deal with them as Thou art pleased.
This type of prayer is so common in our churches today. We ask God for temporal pleasures the way a toddler asks for a popsicle. And when He doesn’t give it to us—and in the flavor we want—we’re likely to throw a spiritual fit.
If we want to live truly satisfied lives, James tells us that we’ll have to get rid of our self-seeking, self-indulgent attitude. To live according to the will of God will require daily surrender of our own will. And the key word here is daily.
Just keep in mind that daily transformation isn’t finished in a day . . . it’ll take a lifetime of surrender and growth.
The day my twin sons turned four years old, I went upstairs to their room when I came home from work. One of my sons had tears in his eyes. This surprised me, so I said, “Hey, buddy, what’s the problem?”
He wiped his eyes and responded, “Today’s my birthday.” I thought to myself, You oughta save those tears for when you hit 40! Instead I said, “Well, I know it’s your birthday . . . so why aren’t you happy about turning four?” With childlike sincerity, he looked up at me and replied, “Because I thought when I turned four, I’d be big.”
My brokenhearted son had the false idea that he was going to grow up overnight. He was so disappointed to discover he wasn’t any larger today than he was the day before.
Some of the greatest saints I’ve ever met—men and women in their 70s and 80s—never talk to me about reaching some point in their lives where they felt they’d made it to spiritual maturity. Instead they speak about the growing pains and the constant struggle to be satisfied in Christ.
This was true of the Puritans as well. One of them made this honest confession before God:
When thou wouldst guide me, I control myself.
When thou wouldst be sovereign, I rule myself.
When I should depend on Thy provision, I supply myself.
When I should submit to Thy providence, I follow my own will.
When I should honor and trust Thee, I serve myself.
Don’t wait until tomorrow to make things right with God. Submit your will to Him now . . . you’ll be able to see growth later on. In fact, the Lord is committed to growing you up and completing His work in you on the day He calls you home.
He just so happens to be stretching your growth process over the course of your entire life . . . so be patient.
Prayer Point: Pray through the lines of that poetic confession and consider how each applies to you specifically. How do you rule yourself and supply yourself and serve yourself? Confess these things to Christ and pray for humility to let them go.
Read Nehemiah 1:1-31
and compare Nehemiah’s prayer to John Ward’s prayer at the beginning of this devotional.
I Pledge Allegiance
As citizens of two kingdoms, Christians face the unique challenge of determining where their allegiance should lie. Do believers pledge allegiance to one nation or to one God above all nations? The Church finds itself in a similar crisis: Is its mission to reform politics or to redeem people?
In this exposition of Romans 13:1-7, Stephen clarifies the believer’s responsibility as a dual citizen of heaven and earth. He also examines the difficult relationship between Church and State, encouraging the Church to focus more on saving Americans than saving America.
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