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We have all heard horror stories of people who hired a Christian contractor to do repairs or remodeling in their homes and who were left in the lurch when the contractor disappeared, down payment in hand, without completing the work. And what about the tales of Christians who break their promises, don't pay their bills and cheat on their taxes? Some believers have become so disillusioned while doing business with Christians that they left their churches or worse still, their faith.
Thankfully, I've never reached that point. But I have been tempted to become embittered when other Christians I was in relationship with failed to "walk their talk." One situation I remember concerned a pastor who approached me to build a church in an African nation. His congregation desired to sow into a foreign mission field, and he asked me to help facilitate their vision.
The pastor agreed to supply funding for the materials, the labor costs and the land if I would use my extensive experience in the nation to make sure his church's donation was used appropriately. He instructed me to go ahead with the project, assuring me that he would be able to raise the funds for the written budget I had sent him.
I was excited because I had worked closely with the African congregation they chose to support and was aware that they had outgrown the wood and iron shanty in which they were meeting. This rapidly growing congregation had already gone from just 25 to more than 250 members, and I knew it wouldn't be long before the almost 1,000 seats in the new building would be filled.
The first agreed-upon payment from the pastor arrived, and he and I were in regular contact about the progress. My calls were returned promptly, and all was going well.
Then I discovered that the second payment he claimed had been transferred into my account was never deposited. Suddenly, all communication ceased. Through a friend I was told that the pastor was too busy to take my calls, though he oversees a church of only 60 people. The real problem was that he was struggling to raise the money, but rather than being honest and dealing with the issue, he simply avoided it.
Under other circumstances, I would have done what I could to bail him out of trouble, but at that point I had taken financial responsibility for numerous other programs that were already under way. This project was his vision, his idea, and he had initiated it. He had approached me to assist him, but instead of accepting full responsibility he tried to put it all on me.
When I finally reached him by phone, he simply abandoned the project and chose to ignore the outstanding balance owed in Africa. He just walked away, knowing that as a Christian I would continue what he had started and that I could do nothing to hold him accountable. There was no apology, no remorse and no attempt to work through the issue; he just moved on.
This man's lack of character cost me about $20,000. But worse than the financial loss was the struggle not to become bitter. I eventually came away from the experience better, not bitter--but also much more cautious about engaging in business transactions with Christians!
This is a sad commentary on the condition of our souls. As Christ's representatives on Earth, we must begin to live what we learn in His Word. All the gifts and anointing in the world won't make up for a lack of character.
What is character? It is perhaps best described as the sum of moral qualities associated with a person, and suggests ethical strength and excellence. Character is about doing what is right, regardless of what is convenient or popular. It comprises the core principles and values of who you really are, both inwardly and outwardly, in your behavior and relationships.
Qualities such as faithfulness, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, loyalty, honor, dependability and even good old-fashioned manners are basic to good character. But because so few Christians exhibit these traits, there is a huge credibility gap between society and the church today. Many unbelievers consider us a bunch of hypocrites, and the sad truth is that in many instances, they are right!
We want to win the lost for the Lord, but they won't listen to us because they see the glaring inconsistency between our message and our lifestyle. Some Christians don't get along even with other believers.
The time for change has come. Our walk must begin to match our talk read more
We are interested in the Bible, but rarely are we inspired by it. Sure, we love the stories of victory, but we do not walk in its promises. If the truth were told, many of us would find out we've been in outright rebellion to God's Word.
We jump and shout in church over themes such as faith, obedience and fellowship, but we're not blessed because the Word has simply become a book of amusing stories instead of life-changing truths. It's like the movies: We cheer our favorite biblical characters on to victory with only a dream that someday that same victory will be ours.
Not only do we mistreat the Word, but we also entertain strongholds in our lives that have developed as a result of immaturity. And even though the Bible tells us to lay aside every sin and weight that easily besets us, we continue to entertain these strongholds.
One of the most common strongholds I see in the body of Christ is unbelief. This sin is detrimental because it keeps us barricaded from the power and blessing of God. The Bible makes it clear that there's not one situation we will go through for which God hasn't already made a way of escape through our belief. But we simply don't have faith in God.
In the book of Joshua, God commanded an uncommon faith in His Word by instructing the priests to take up the ark of the covenant and to walk around the city seven times, blowing their trumpets and shouting so the walls of Jericho would fall down. The people, hungry for the presence and power of God, obeyed and were victorious (see Josh. 6).
Many believers have heard this story and countless others like it, and they still don't believe God for personal victory. Some enter the boxing ring of life with a fight-and-see attitude. But mature Christians go in knowing they will come out champions. This is not a name-it-and-claim-it thing. It's simply trusting God.
The situations in life that seem to knock us out of the ring hold the greatest promise. But we will not enjoy the fulfillment of the promise until we have defeated the problem. Although we have heard this many times, we still don't believe it.
If we are walking by sight, then we won't be able to see the victory. But if we are walking in the Spirit, we know that when we get tired, He will help us. All we have to do is show up for the battle, and the Spirit of the Lord will come upon us.
God has anointed believers to accomplish what He has ordained. But many Christians have spent their lives running away from battles, not realizing that it's the enemy who is afraid. God is telling us to take the city, but we are so wrapped up in our religion that we can't hear Him.
There was a time in my church when some religious people were complaining that the congregation was standing up too long during the worship service. Obviously these people didn't understand that spiritually hungry people don't want to sit down. In fact, those religious people didn't come back to church the next Sunday because they decided that "it didn't take all of that" to worship God.
Unfortunately, believers fail to understand that it's going to take that and more to be what God has called us to be. When God wants to move, we need to be willing to follow His lead. We have no authority to tell God no.
His blessings are reserved not for religious folks but for hungry folks--those who hunger and thirst after righteousness (see Matt. 5:6). But people who are caught up in the laziness of religion, performance and protocol will miss the move of God.
Don't be among those who miss God's blessing. You may have heard the promises a hundred times before. It's time to start believing them.
Bishop Eddie L. Long is the pastor of the 18,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church near Atlanta. He is the author of Taking Over (Creation House). read more
Many people who are angry at God won't admit they think He has wronged them. But the bitterness in your heart is a telltale sign that you're blaming Him.
Sometimes they figure they will “get even” with God if they stop putting their faith in Him. As Psalm 1:1 says, they sit “in the seat of the scornful” (NKJV) and are antagonistic toward Him. Whatever their reasons, they are mad at God. Many actually hate Him.
Bitterness toward God can be hard to face and is often overlooked, excused or deeply hidden. It can lie far below the surface, beneath the other “junk in your trunk.” You can unload poisonous unforgiveness, fatal connections to your offenders, unfocused anger, bad habits such as complaining and causing strife, and lots of other junk. But if you keep bitterness toward God deep down in the bottom of your trunk, you will be sidelined in your spiritual race. That burden will keep you from going anywhere.
Admit It and Quit It
I have often given my congregation this counsel: “Admit it and quit it.” You can see why our church has a ministry department staffed with associate pastors who are more adept at patient, tactful counseling than I am! If our people need intensive help with ongoing issues, they know that the senior pastor's office is probably not the best place to start. The first part of my advice, however-“Admit it”-is exactly the place to start if you are mad at God.
So many people who are mad at God will not admit that they believe God has done them wrong. They may be afraid other people will be shocked by such an admission, or they may not want to face someone who will try to “talk them out of it.” But honestly admitting that they think God has done them wrong is the first step in freeing themselves from this destructive burden.
Job was mad at God and declared it in Job 27:2: “'As God lives, who has taken away my justice, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter.'” No two ways about that-Job was mad at God.
Very often blaming our troubles or sorrows on God stems from a misunderstanding, and that was certainly the case with Job. Let's look at a few other statements Job made and uncover the misunderstanding at the root of his bitterness.
“'Therefore I say, “He destroys the blameless and the wicked.” If the scourge slays suddenly, He laughs at the plight of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. He covers the faces of its judges. If it is not He, who else could it be?'” (Job 9:22-24).
In Job's mind at this point, God is the author of every bad thing on Earth. Maybe that is your mind-set, too.
Job was sure God destroyed both the blameless and the wicked. If a scourge came, Job felt God laughed at the suffering. If judges handed down poor decisions, Job said God had covered their faces.
But we know from Scripture that God does not destroy the upright with the wicked. He is not amused at the suffering caused by plagues such as AIDS. Nor is He pleased with the decisions of wicked judges. So if God is not at the bottom of terrible things, then what is the answer to the question everyone who is bitter toward God asks: “Who else could it be?”
We have a little easier time coming up with that answer than Job had. We have an advantage that he did not have; he could not pick up a Bible and read Job 1, 2 and 3. Job is the oldest book in the Bible, and in the first three chapters ever written, we find that God was not making Job's life (and everyone else's) miserable-it was Satan. “Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7). Yet Job was convinced that God was his attacker:
“'I was at ease, but He has shattered me; He also has taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces; He has set me up for His target, His archers surround me. He pierces my heart and does not pity; He pours out my gall on the ground. He breaks me with wound upon wound; He runs at me like a warrior'” (16:12-14).
God is after me, Job thought. He's picking me to pieces. But the devil was after Job, not God. In fact, God said to the devil, “'Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?'” (1:8). God greatly loved His servant Job.
God greatly loves you, even when you are furious with Him. You should be furious with the things that pick your life to pieces, but perhaps your fury is misdirected. Perhaps it results from the same misunderstanding Job had in his mind.
You should not be mad at God; you should be mad at the devil and mad at the sin in the world that allows him in. When you have cleared up that misunderstanding, you are ready to follow the second part of my standard counseling advice: “Quit it.” Quit targeting God with your anger and get mad at the right target-Satan-the author of every bad thing on Earth!
Theology Made Simple
Though the Bible is true and the statements I quoted from Job are contained in it, to avoid any confusion, remember that the Bible also states that Job's theology was wrong. The first thing God said when He showed up to talk with Job was, loosely paraphrased, “Job, you don't know what you're talking about.” Job 38 tells us the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, “'Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?'” (vv. 1-2).
Put another way, if we listen to Job's dark counsel and foolish words, we will walk in darkness as he did and perhaps counsel others to do the same. It amazes me that most of the church does this very thing, picking up its doctrine of why bad things happen on Earth straight from the faulty theology of Job.
Many Christians have told me, “God gave me this cancer [or MS or other disease] because I needed to draw closer to Him” or “God let this awful situation happen to teach me a lesson.” ?Though we do often draw closer to Him through sickness or trials, and though He is in the business of turning terrible situations around to our benefit, God does not cause bad things to happen to us so that He can try to get a good result out of them. It is Satan, “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), who is responsible for evil.
We need to remember that not everything that happens on Earth is the will of God. If it were, there would be no need for us to pray the prayer Jesus taught us, which says in part, “'Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven'” (Matt. 6:10). Jesus Himself demonstrated what God wills on Earth. Anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power, Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). Who oppressed everyone Jesus came to heal? Right-the devil.
God did not bring sickness, disease, oppression and bondage into the world. The devil did-the thief who comes only “to steal and to kill and to destroy” (John 10:10). If anything steals from you, kills you or destroys your life, it did not come from God.
John 10:10 is really the great divide that shows us what comes from God and what comes from the devil. It also says Jesus came “that [we] may have life, and that [we] may have it more abundantly.”
You can tell from this verse what comes into your life from God and what does not. All that steals, kills and destroys comes from the devil, and all that gives life abundantly comes from God.
Other verses confirm this great divide, and many verses warn us not to be deceived about its truth. Interestingly, every time the Bible says “do not be deceived,” it refers to an area where most of the church is deceived. If you can grasp the truth in these next verses, you will be a step ahead of 90 percent of theologians:
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:16-17).
What comes down from God? Every good and perfect gift. With Him there is no variation or shadow of turning. God does not have bad days or moods. God is the same every day, the same yesterday, today and forever. He is a good God-all the time.
Good God-Bad Devil
If terrible things have happened to you and you have reacted by overloading your trunk with bitterness toward God, you have probably asked yourself the unbearable question: If God is bad, life is truly hopeless-what's the use of even carrying on? Bitterness toward God is always an unbearable burden-but it is also an unnecessary one. God is not the author of anything bad; He authors only the good gifts that make your life abundant.
If you have had a loved one die, realize that God is not the author of death. He calls death an enemy. Death showed up when the devil did.
If you want to know what God is like, look at the Garden of Eden before the fall. No sickness, no death. And after the fall, God sent His Son “to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve)” the works of the devil (1 John 3:8, The Amplified Bible). When Jesus comes again, the devil will get his due and be gone. And sin, death, sickness, disease, war, pestilence-all that steals, kills and destroys-will be gone, too. When God is in charge again, He will “wipe away every tear” from our eyes and “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4, NKJV).
Good God-bad devil. That is all the theology you will ever need. God is not your enemy; God is your answer. You are right to get mad about the destructive things that happen in life, but you need to get mad at the devil, not God.
You have probably heard the warning, Do not “give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:27), but there is one place you do need to give him: a place in your theology. You must realize that he is your personal enemy and that he hates you. He has an army of demonic spirits who also hate you, and they all are out to steal, kill and destroy so that you will live the worst life imaginable.
If that realization does not have a place in your theology, you will think God is attacking you when your attacker is actually the devil. You will blame God for everything that happens.
The entire book of Job was about how he experienced a number of tragedies and blamed God. Job accused God of setting him up as a target and piercing his heart (see Job 16:12-13), but the Bible clearly states that it was Satan who attacked Job.
Job finally realized his mistake and stopped accusing God. He confessed: “'I have uttered what I did not understand … but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes'” (Job 42:3,5-6). Paraphrased, that means: “Now that I've seen You for who You are, Lord, I know I was wrong about You. I am turning around and going in a different direction.”
Then Job prayed for his friends, whose theology had also been dead wrong, and God “restored [his] losses. ... Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). God completely turned Job's life around when Job got his theology straight and then prayed for his friends. Job was twice as blessed as before.
Good God-bad devil. Theology is that simple. Show that you believe it by repenting of your bitterness toward God and redirecting your anger toward the devil today.
Duane Vander Klok is pastor, with his wife, Jean, of the 8,000-member Resurrection Life Church in Grandville, Michigan. read more