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Why Silence from Heaven

posted May 20, 2016, 1:43 PM by Kelly Griffin   [ updated May 20, 2016, 1:44 PM ]
With apologies to my politician friends (!), someone once wrote: Just remember when a man runs for Congress, you’re a friend; when he’s elected, you’re his constituent; but when he’s in office you’re just a taxpayer! 

I suppose we relate to that because we’ve all had the feeling of being “used” at times. And we don’t like it. We want to be appreciated for who we are, not for what we can do for someone. But while we hate the idea that someone is “using” us, isn’t it amazing how often we treat God that way? 

One of the most prominent misconceptions about God is the idea that He’s just there for our convenience. This is not so much a conscious decision as it is a thoughtless reaction to circumstances on the part of those who give little place to God. While we do not like being “used” ourselves, it is easy for us to fall prey to treating God in the same way.

We have a natural predisposition toward self-sufficiency. Thus God is often an afterthought in the first place – placed in the background and brought out when trouble arises. A flurry of prayers ensues, only to be abandoned as soon as normality is restored. 

Most people in Jesus’ time had this same reaction to God. We see this most in John 6 where John records in the
early verses how a multitude numbering 5,000 men plus women and children were miraculously fed by the Lord at the end of a long day of ministry. 

That night, Jesus left the crowd to return to Capernaum on the other side of the lake. Meanwhile, next morning, the people determined to make Jesus King. They loved the benefits they hoped to reap. What could be better
than free food? But in the morning He was gone, so they rushed around the lake, found Him and more or less accused Him of deserting them.

Of course, Jesus saw right through their intentions. He advised them that while He did not propose to provide them with continuous physical bread, He would provide something much better if they’d accept it. He says in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

The physical feeding was only ever intended to symbolize their greater need for spiritual bread – the bread of forgiveness and cleansing that comes only through a relationship with Him. But they weren’t interested in that commitment, and so we find in John 6:66, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”

Of course, the message in all of that is that God will not be “used.” He will graciously forgive all who come to Him in faith, but He will not be anyone’s lackey. Why would we expect Him to countenance in us what we hate in others?

John Paul Sartre wrote a book called Devil and the Good Lord in which the protagonist in a moment of personal anguish cries out: "I sent messages to heaven, no reply. . . . God does not see me, God does not hear me, God does not know me. You see this emptiness over our heads? That is God? You see that hole in the ground? That is God again. Silence is God. Absence is God. God is the loneliness of man."

Sartre willfully overlooked the fact that God gave all the answer anyone could ask 2,000 years ago when He sent His own Son to take our guilt and pay our penalty. God hears every honest, heartfelt petition based on His grace. He will not be used; but He will be ours – if we ask in humility and faith.

Dave McNeff is Pastor of Eaton Congregational Church, a member of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference,

Published in The Tribune on April 16, 2016.