Summary: Part 3 in the series Faith Basics. This message looks at four specific times when God’s presence will make us uncomfortable, and a choice we’re presented with in each circumstance.
When God Makes You Uncomfortable
Faith Basics, part 3
Wildwind Community Church
David K. Flowers
Sept. 9, 2007
Human beings have a funny way of thinking about things a lot of the time. We always wonder if our experiences are “normal,” that is to say “like the experiences of other people.” We all wonder sometimes, “Am I crazy?” We freak out at the possibility that our experience might be different from the experiences of others. We want to stay within the norms, firmly inside the mainstream. On the other hand, people often get offended when you suggest to them that they are mainstream and predictable and like everyone else. What is this strange need we have to feel unique, combined with an equally strong need to fit in and be like others? On the one hand we want to control our own lives and be independent and we feel like our style is cramped when a church or a religion tells us what to do. On the other hand, we drive ourselves nuts trying to figure out what to do, and even get critical at times of the churches and religions that don’t have the answers we are looking for, right when we want them. And when it comes to God, people often have one of two images. One is that God is a sweet, harmless cosmic Santa Claus who will just smile and pat you on the head no matter what you do – he just wants you to be happy, because like many of us, he thinks that individual happiness is the most important thing on earth and as long as you’re happy, he’s happy. The other is that God is a vengeful, hateful, angry, cosmic bean-counter, sitting in heaven somewhere making marks on a blackboard every time you screw up and barely able to wait for the moment when he can gleefully send you to hell.
Let me ask you something. Is it possible the truth about these things is somewhere in the middle? Do you think maybe people have a need to both be unique and to fit in? Of course. Is it possible that we want a sense of control over our lives, but we also want/need to know what the limits are sometimes? Absolutely, I believe that’s true. And is it equally possible that God cannot be actually understood either as the cosmic feel-good guy who exists for our pleasure, nor the hateful hell-sender who takes pleasure in our misery? I believe that is not only possible, but likely. Any time we give in to all-or-nothing thinking, we are oversimplifying and likely to miss the nuanced truth.
So last week’s message was not meant to leave the impression that God is a full-time dispenser of warm fuzzies. Last week we looked at a God who gently, calmly, and quietly calls us to himself – a God who does not use things like jealousy, false guilt, and fear to manipulate us into doing what he wants us to do. But this is not to say that being or getting close to God will always make us comfortable. Much to the contrary, in fact.
I am convinced that there is no person in this world more comfortable than the person who has made peace with the idea that there is no God. That person never has to worry excessively about meeting any standard other than the relatively low one most of us hold ourselves to. He never has to really exert himself to achieve disciplined control over his thoughts and his actions. He never even has to struggle with the idea that he hasn’t yet become something he was “meant” to be, for we cannot be meant to become something if there is no one to “mean” it. Now THAT is comfort. That is peace.
Following God will bring peace to your life, but not this kind of peace. To believe in God, and to commit to serving him, is to acknowledge a standard for living life that is far above our own, and even far above our ability to meet. It is a lifestyle of effort to achieve disciplined control over our thoughts and actions. It is to frequently wonder if we are becoming who God meant us to be. That’s part of the deal. There are all kinds of little discomforts we will endure just by virtue of accepting that there is a God who created us intentionally and wants to know us. But this is to be expected. After all, men, you could avoid ever being wrong about anything if you simply avoided women, right? Women, if there were no men, you could surround yourself with other women and just live all your life in a sensitive universe, right? By virtue of being in a relationship with someone, we encounter dozens of little discomforts, and it’s some of the discomforts that come from a relationship with God that I want to talk to you about this morning.