I have been thinking about this topic for a very long time, but I cannot seem to put my finger on exactly what my confusion here is. This may sound really heretical and it may be really unfair to God, but I am going to blog it anyway because I am frustrated and guess I am crying out to be honest about that.
The main issue is that I really don't get where my responsibility ends and God's starts, (or vice versa). Basically, there have been many times recently where I have said things like I don't get why…(I will give some examples later) and the answer people give me always seems to be, 'its because of us'. Meaning that the responsibility lies with us rather than with God.
I get frustrated about the lack of blame we put on God for some things. I know that is unfair, I am not a dense Christian – I know many things, one of which is that God can do no wrong, therefore God can not be to 'blame' for anything. It just seems to be that we so easily heap tons of condemnation on ourselves for being rubbish Christians because God hasn't done certain things. I think the reason I get frustrated is because God knows how rubbish we are, he knows we are selfish, he knows we are lazy or confused or control freaks, so if we have to be certain people before he will 'act' then he is never going to act because we will never meet the mark or the grade.
I know this is confusing without examples. I hesitate because when you give examples its really easy for people to read it and know how to answer the specific example, but ignore the principle as a whole (does that make sense?). I will give examples because I think it will help, but please be aware that this concept is way beyond these few examples for me – it is the whole concept of whose responsibility it is – ours or God's – to make changes to things.
Example 1 – Revivals / Massive movements of the Spirit
I know I keep beating down the same bush, but that is because in spite of all your help with this one, I am still so frustrated and I can't get away from it. In the past the Spirit of God has moved massively in order for loads and loads of people to turn to him in some sort of revival. When I look at my church, I can see loads of good stuff happening, but it is all small things which any non-Christian could say was not from God. In my eyes, the ways in which our church is 'spiritually growing' are:
- New people are coming – not in their droves, but slowly and surely, we do see people coming into our church, liking the fellowship, and getting involved
- People are going to cell groups and getting to discuss really important Christian stuff there – and therefore growing spiritually themselves. I can see the difference in many people at my church – they have clearly grown as disciples.
- People (not all, but more and more these days), are more aware of the need to make church more than just a place to go on a Sunday.
I am sure there is more, but let's start there. The way I see it, all of these things are happening because of the hard work and passion of many members of our church who are leading things really well. For example, Richard and Ann led the Church in following the five purposes structure which has led to the development of the five cluster groups. The fellowship cluster are working really hard to make sure that people feel welcomes and belong. The discipleship cluster try to make sure things are in place for people to grow spiritually, maintaining the cell groups, etc. And so on. But any non-Christian hearing that will say that that is all man-driven, not God driven. If our church is doing well, or growing, it is not because of God, it is because of the leadership and the members – they have done the work and had the passion. I know that the leadership team at our Church would say that anything they do is inspired by God, and that without God they wouldn't have been able to do it, but what does that mean and is that really true? Maybe they are not giving themselves enough credit there. When is God going to do something massive? When is He going to take some responsibility and say, 'ok I can see they're struggling, I am going to help them out here'?
Example 2 – Prayer
Ok, so I know I have just blogged massively about this one, but this follows on so well so I have to include it. Often people say that if we are praying for something, we have to be prepared to be part of the answer. So when we say we are giving something totally over to God, when we are 'leaving it with Him' what we are actually doing is saying, 'here you go God. I have a situation, please deal with it.' Surely if we are part of the answer to that prayer then we can't 'leave it with God, we have to pick it back up again. But isn't that wrong too?!? Also, when we feel that an answer to prayer has not come, what are the reasons we give?
- Wrong motive
- Not part of the plan
- Wrong timing
- Lack of persistence
- Lack of faith
With the exception of 'lack of persistence' all of the rest of the 'reasons' require that we are the ones needing to change. Wrong motive – we need to change what is driving us, not part of the plan – we need to learn to live with the fact that we wont get what we want, disobedience – we need to start obeying, wrong timing – we need to be more patient, lack of faith – we need to build and strengthen our faith.
Maybe this is right. Maybe what God does not do is all because He is trying to help us grow, trying to help us bet better disciples and if that is the case then I suppose it is a good thing. I just get confused because so often I am told to relax more in my faith and stop trying so hard, and yet if all of the above is true, then in fact my only response can be to try harder. I think I am just tired, tired of the fact that when I feel frustrated at God's apparent quietness on some topics the only answer is that I need to change. When is God going to start doing stuff in spite of who I am, in spite of who we are?
If we ask God for things and He says no because first we have to change then the responsibility is ours first, and God's responsibility only starts when ours has finished, (or at least begun). Maybe that is how it should be. I know what I am really saying at the end of the day is, why can't God just give it all to us on a plate, why does He make us work for it, and I know that is a wrong attitude and that it is not in our own best interests for God to do that, but I guess sometimes I simply do want that. I want God to do something incredible, something massive, to be less 'invisible'. Its great that God chooses to work through us, but just sometimes, it would be nice if He did something that we could see, no doubt, was clearly and only attributable to Him.