WHATEVER IT TAKES
by Jason Barnett
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In my lifetime, which is only 26 years, I have seen too many tragedies; shootings, bombings, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Events that have brought death, pain, and devastation that not only shake those directly effected, but all of society.
Immediately after these events, for a short time people spend time crying out to God. For some Christians this strikes a nerve with them. Some will try to picket funerals of those who died, pushing their skewed views of belief. Others don't like to see sinner, who usually ignore God, cry out to him in their time of need. They didn't like seeing people use God like a vending machine who accepts payment in the form of prayer.
At the same time, these same Christians are praying for friends and family members who are lost. They plead with God to do whatever it takes to bring them to him. Do you see something wrong with this picture? Check out Psalms 78:34-35:
Whenever God slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again. They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. (NIV, all other verse will be the same unless specified)
God loves you, he loves me...he loves everyone. But God hates sin because it separates us from him. He desperately wants us to choose to come back to him, if not then we could spend an eternity in Hell. God knows how much we need him, but he is a gentleman that let's us make our decisions.
As humans, we build relationships with people that come through the doors of our lives. Some of those bonds grow strong enough to where we want to spend forever with them. But again, sin will separate those bonds. Like God, not wanting to be separated from our loved ones, we pray and ask God to bring that person back to him, by whatever means necessary. This is a dangerous prayer.
God knows our sins will lead to consequences so he opens doors along the way for us to turn from our path. Some of us, we recognize quickly our need for God, and it doesn't take long for us to change our ways. Others are stubborn, ignoring all of God's efforts. Then God allows disaster or tragedy to happen. God doesn't cause it. He knows we live in a broken world, and all he has to do is allow stuff to happen.
The other problem with sin is the consequences that it bring. Meaning, the sins you commit do not effect only you. Ask a husband or wife who has had a cheating spouse, or a family who has lost someone to a drunk driver. All of creation is still dealing with the side effects of Adam and Eve's sin. That is why during tragedy and disaster people of God are some times hurt, injured, or killed.
Events happen as yet another attention grabber for the lost sinner. God loves this person so much he allows bad to happen. And just like it says in Psalms, it works.
Luke 15:11-32 is a good story to see what we are discussing in motion.
There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, "father, give me my share of the estate." So he divided his property between them.
Not long after that, the younger son go together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
When he came to his senses, he said, "how many of my fathers hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him, "father, I have sinned against heaven and you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men." So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
The son said to him, "father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son."
But the father said to his servants, "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is a live again; he was lost and is found." So they began to celebrate.
Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. "Your brother has come," he replied, "and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound."
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, "Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!"
"My son," the father said, "you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."
There are three characters in Jesus's story, the wayward son, the father, and the older son. Each of them demonstrates the point trying to be made.
First, there is the Father. Obviously this represents God. We are each a child in his family. But the sin of this world separates us from him, like we talked about earlier. God does not force us to love him because he does not want robots.
God watches, knowing the outcomes of our choices, and he hopes that we turn to him. And when we do turn to God, he throws a huge shindig in heaven. Ezekiel 18:23 says, "Do you think that I like to see wicked people die?...Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live." (NLT)
Next there is the older son, who represents Christians. We have been following God, doing all the things we are suppose to do. At the same time, we see all the bad things going on in the world. How at every turn it seems people find a new way to disrespect God.
But then something happens. An event so powerful it shakes our society to its core. People who wanted nothing to do with God are now pleading with Him. Then we, being Christians, open our mouths. Like the older brother, we get upset. We lose sight on the fact people are seeking out God, and we miss opportunities to do our mission.
Check out these verses that tell us what our mission is:
Proverbs 24:11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.
That is some pretty heavy stuff. I love the verse from Proverbs. And not only are our lost loved ones headed toward death, but eternal destruction. That doesn't sound like a good time.
Instead of griping about people calling to God, how about we pray. In that prayer not only do we pray for the victims, but also we ask God to make it a defining moment where someone is radically transformed through the power of His grace. We pray that God make himself known in a way that leaves people awestruck with his love. Then we praise Him for the lives that are changed! We pray for the believers to rally around them and do what was commanded in Matthew.
The last character from the story is the lost son. This might represent some of you who are reading this. God wants me to tell you He loves you. There are people who are praying for you, and in some cases have been for a long time. Some may even be asking God to do whatever it takes. I plead with you to let this little piece of writing to be all it takes. Give your heart to God, all you have to do is admit that you are a sinner and turn from your wicked ways. You don't have to be in a church or where anything special clothes. Ask God right where you are; he wants you the way you are.
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