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28 February 2012

When God Says, "Gotcha!"

You may be familiar with the true story from 2005 about a radio show listener who thought she'd won $100,000 in a radio contest. She called in at the correct time and was told she'd won "100 grand." After she exploded with joy and eventually calmed down enough from her excitement to listen, the DJ informed her that she had, indeed, won the prize -- a "100 Grand candy bar." Gotcha!

The DJ was sued.

Then there's the similarly-zany account of the Hummer that a listener won in another contest. When the caller gave the correct answer in the contest and went to pick up her brand-new Hummer H2, she unpleasantly found that it was a toy. Gotcha!

She sued the radio station.

How many times have you heard it said, "You'd better not ask God for patience because He might just give you what you ask for"? The implication is that we'll be thrown into trials during which God will prolong difficult situations, cause our children to go astray, make it impossible for us to pay our bills, or any of a number of circumstances which will teach us to be patient.
In this scenario I can imagine God sitting there on a cloud, looking down at me, just waiting for that opportune time when I dim-wittedly ask for patience, of all things. He slyly whispers, "Gotcha!" and gives a good-natured elbow in the ribs to Gabriel. Then He chuckles and says, "Check this out, Gabriel... Dean just prayed for patience. Now I'm really going to put him through the ringer. Heh heh heh..." It's as if we think our prayer for patience is some kind of incantation that finally gives God the freedom to rain extreme circumstances down upon us. It's a concept that's very foreign to the character of the God of the Bible.

I'd like to let you know that God doesn't do that. We misunderstand God when we think like this, and not only can it undermine our relationship with Him, but it presents Him to non-believers in a way that's damaging, unrealistic, and potentially obscures their path toward repentance and salvation.

Were you aware that trials often come as the result of our own stupidity and poor choices? As I've noted before, I'm a living case study of this. I'm betting many of you are, too.

To be clear, Scripture does, indeed, tell us that God can bring calamity on His children if He chooses. But we also see throughout the Word that this is the exception. The overriding theme of Scripture concerning difficult times is that God uses the trials of a believer.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. (Romans 5:3-4, NLT)

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