Friday, May 2, 2008

Executive or Assistant?

I just recently finished reading John Eldredge's newest book "Walking with God." It's a really good read in which John chronicles a year of his life intentionally walking with God daily. I won't go into a detailed book review here but I will recommend it to you if you are interested in "conversational intimacy" with God.

There is a part in the book where John talks about people's view of God in their lives. He pointed out what turns out to be something I've done way to often in my life. He says that our view is flawed when we try to set up our lives to be the way we want it and then treat God as kind of an executive assistant.
We really believe that God's primary reason for being is to provide us with happiness, give us a good life... In Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote that to enjoy our work and our food each day is a gift from God (2:24). We are created to enjoy life.But we end up worshiping the gift instead of the Giver. We seek for life and look to God as our assistant in the endeavor.

This parallels what Donald Miller said in his book "Blue Like Jazz":
For me... (God was not) a person, an actual being with thoughts and feelings and that sort of thing. To me, God was more of an idea. It was something like a slot machine, a set of spinning images that dolled out rewards based on behavior and, perhaps, chance... If something nice happened to me, I thought it was God, and if something nice didn't, I went back to the slot machine, knelt down in prayer, and pulled the lever a few times.

How many times are my prayers worded like "God please help me do this thing that I have decided I must do" and "Lord, please give me the strength to do this thing that I want to do..."

For me it is a control thing. I have this need to have some say in what happens. Some how my worth/value is tied to it. If I can only get this thing to happen in a particular way, it will be considered successful. If I have a string of successful things, then I will be considered successful. If I am considered successful, then I will be worth more, or be more valuable or more desirable, in the eyes of.... who?

I mean, I'm blessed to have parents who have always been there for me and love me very much. I have an incredible wife who doesn't care if I build a $100 piece of software or a $100 million dollar company as long as I'm happy doing it. I have children that see me as being "priceless" as a Dad (ah, the innocence of youth!). So who am I trying to impress? Who is it that needs to see my worth?

It must be me, huh? But isn't it always about me? Or you? Or us?

What about our "assistant"?

What about God?

I find at least 11 places in the Old Testament where loving, serving, or obeying God "with all your heart" appears (NIV): 7 in Deuteronomy (6:5, 10:12, 11:13, 13:3, 3-:2, 30:6, 30:10), 1 in Joshua (22:5), 2 in 1 Samuel (12:20, 12:24), and 1 in Proverbs (3:5). All of them pertain to either loving or serving God with all your heart and all your soul.

The phrase shows up 5 times in the New Testament: Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30 and 12:33, Luke 10:27, and Colossians 3:23. In the Gospels, the phrase is either spoken by Jesus or affirmed by Jesus as the greatest commandment to mankind. In Colossians, the Apostle Paul tells the "holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse" to work "with all your heart" as if working for the Lord.

Needless to say, putting God first is so important that it shows up in this exact form so often.

Since Eldredge is the much better writer of the two of us, I'll let him summarize:
It's not that God does't want us to be happy. He does. It's just that he knows that until we are holy, we cannot really be happy. Until God has become our all, and we are fully His, we will continue to make idols of the good things He gives us.

I highly recommend both of the books quoted here (well, actually all three of them. The Bible isn't a best seller for no reason...). If you want to look behind the scenes at two people discovering and learning about relationship with God, these are good choices.

Peace and blessings.