You can’t always get what you want,
but if you try sometimes, you might find,
you get what you need.
Faith is one of my favorite subjects.
It’s simple, it’s strong. It’s rudimentary, it’s robust. At one end of the spectrum is faith as small as a mustard seed. On the other end is faith powerful enough to move mountains.
Faith at its basic level was described by King Benjamin:
Believe in God; believe that He is, and that He created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that He has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth…
Most have basic faith that God is all-powerful, all-knowledgeable, and can do all things. We’d agree that God can respond and we can trust His strength. Now, will God do anything we want when we need Him to? That’s a trickier question.
Some Christians have the naive assumption that if something bad happens, all you have to do is pray, have faith, and God will fix it. Some believe that if they have just enough faith then God will grant whatever their hearts’ desire. But then when they don’t get what they want: the job offer doesn’t come, or the life isn’t spared, or the tragedy wasn’t averted – they question. Was my prayer not fervent enough? Was my faith not deep enough? Is God even there?
Maybe the problem was not with the depth of prayer, the level of faith or the absence of God. Maybe the problem was simply a misunderstanding of what true Faith is.
You see, some have the notion that when they join the Church, it suddenly employs God as some cosmic Concierge – catering to every request. Some think that as long as they have taken a room at Hotel Faithful or hold a membership at Club Covenant that God will be at beck and call to deliver everything for which is asked.
Now tell me, is that faith?
I mean, is God nothing more than a Bellhop to carry our baggage, park our vehicles, and open all doors for us while we vacation through life? Does He spend time on the phone saying, “Ok, sir, I’ll have that delivered to your room by 3pm this afternoon.” Is that the kind of God we have?
God is not a grand concierge or a glorified bellhop who jumps when we snap our fingers. He is a loving Heavenly Father who sees you now, knows your potential, and seeks to help you reach your best by orchestrating opportunities for your optimum growth and greatest happiness. Yes, He is all-powerful and all-knowing, but He is also all-seeing. He sees what we can’t.
He Sees What We Cannot
Maybe that’s why King Benjamin added one more line to his verse on faith:
Believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
We’re simply limited in our vision. We can’t see the future. I can’t tell you for certain if I will live through today. Nor can you tell me you’ll live long enough to read this post. Let’s face it – we’re all blind. Blind to the future. It’s one limitation we all share. The educated, unschooled, the wealthy, the poor. No one has vision beyond the present.
But God does.
And if reaching your potential means allowing you to walk through a little darkness in order to build spiritual muscle and emotional stamina, then so be it.
Here is a scripture that is often misinterpreted.
Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.
Some interpret this verse as, “Ask, and if you have enough faith – you’ll get it!” That’s kind of a dangerous assumption. What if what we ask isn’t necessarily for our good? What if we ask for something, in Faith, and He does not grant it?
What if we ask for healing, and He says, “learn from the pain”?
What if we ask for an end to financial struggle, and He says, “learn to cherish what you have”?
What if we ask for the life of a loved one, and He says, “I have greater plans at work”?
What if what we think is good turns out to be inferior to God’s Plan? Then what?
Faith, then, is an admission “that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend,” and then Faith is a choice to believe that the One who made it all hasn’t left it all to chance. He still heals hurts, guides the lost, sends light into darkness, and is actively involved in giving you a life of growth – not always in ways that you expect.
God Will Always Do What is Right
Years ago my daughter bought me a small plaque that says, “Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that He will.” I put the sign on my dresser, and for the longest time I looked at the message and wondered what it really meant. I mean, I knew what the first part was saying, “Faith is not believing that God can…” Of course, I know He can. He is all-knowing and all-powerful.
That faith was established long ago. It’s the next part that baffled me: “Faith is knowing that He will.”
Grant every wish? Hasn’t happened. Guarantee every desire? Not even close. Cater to every whim? Heavens no. Life is supposed to test us. Besides, we aren’t smart enough to comprehend what we need for our optimum growth.
What was the plaque statement supposed to mean, then? Well, the truth I eventually realized was this: God is real, He is Loving, and He is Good. Because God is Loving and Good, He will always do what is right.
So when I don’t get what I want (which is most of the time), and when I can’t see things from His perspective – I trust. Trust His timing, trust His ways, and believe He will come through with a better answer or a miracle (or both) because He is Good and will always do what is best.
Someone once said that when we ask for something, God has three answers:
2. Not yet.
3. I have something better.
True. A good rule of thumb in Faith, then, is to be flexible.
Ask for what you desire. Petition for what you want. Plead, even, for what you need. God loves an honest sincere heart, so tell Him your wishes. Then hope for the best, but brace yourself for the unexpected because His answer may be different from what you request.
If that’s the case, if you don’t get what you want, take heart. It only means that He’s got something better in store. Sometimes the greatest blessings come in the most unexpected ways.
You know what I’m talking about. Some of His blessings you’ve seen. Most of them, though, you haven’t. Only in the next life will you realize how many times He has blessed your life in unexpected ways. Like, the time He:
• Interfered with a job opportunity, protecting you from unethical business
• Gave you a flat tire, distancing you from a tragedy
• Made the tumor linger so you could be a light of hope in the cancer ward.
Only heaven will reveal the times He watched over you by:
• Placing friends and mentors in your path to nurture your life.
• Giving you a partner who loves God just as much as you do.
• Having the right message on the right radio station the moment you needed encouragement.
God knows you and I have limited vision. He knows that living by faith and not by sight does not come naturally. I think that’s one reason He fills scripture with so many faith-promoting stories. To teach us that Heaven is more involved than we think. So, trust.
Faith is not the notion of getting what you want. Faith is believing in what your Heavenly Father wants. Trusting His sovereignty to lead your life in ways that will help you fulfill your life’s mission.
Are you mired in a swamp of hurt? Bogged down with one crisis after another? Have doors been closed and dreams derailed? Don’t lose sight. Don’t give up hope. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t lose faith.
Just because we can’t see the blessing, or hear the immediate answer, or receive the healing does not mean He is not there. Don’t interpret the presence of the trial as the absence of God. There is so much more at work in your life. Have faith He will work it out for your good – because He is Good.
So back to my initial question on this post: Do we believe He will do what we want when we need Him to? Just tell yourself, It all depends.
It depends on if my will aligns with His will.
It depends on if my want is what I need.
It depends on if my desire is what is best.
You see, you may not always get what you want, as Jagger put it. But if you trust God, you will discover that it is exactly what you need.
Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.
There’s no guarantee that He will respond to what we want. We hope He will. All we know for certain is that He is Real and that He is Good. And, because He is Good – He will always do what is right.
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