Realistic Expectations

I have a confession to make: I’ve never tithed on a regular basis. Call it laziness, call it apathy, call it forgetfulness, or call it embarrassment because of lack of money to give, whatever you choose; but the point is I haven’t. For the longest time I never let my mind really dive into the nitty gritty of tithing, and I would let my observations and thoughts on the subject stay within the walls of the church more often than not. This is a problem. Why? Because it’s disobedience. After coming to this convicting conclusion I set up automatic online giving through my church, but before I pressed the confirm button I hesitated, because it felt that it was too easy and that maybe God would like it more if I went through the effort of precisely figuring out the 10 percent of my highly inconsistent income and physically putting it in the offering plate every Sunday. I realized this is was stupid because I believe that God cares more about your heart. The woman who gave the little amount to the temple was blessed because she gave what she could. She gave with her heart. Jesus doesn’t care about your bank accounts in heaven, he cares about your heart. So I hit confirm. It felt good.

I remember the first time I heard the Christian catchphrase of “being a spiritual leader”. I was in 6th grade. It was during Sunday School (I still refuse to call it Life Groups or Bible Fellowship class) and my teacher said that we as men are meant to be spiritual leaders. I was intrigued at this, and I should have asked a question, but I am a shy person in a classroom setting most of the time and my teacher moved on with his lesson without ever really going into it. And for years afterwords, I would hear it and never be fully enlightened on what all it means. I kept hearing the phrase all through middle school and high school, and even through college, and I still had a hard time really figuring out what a spiritual leader does. I kept hearing girls say that they “want a guy who is a spiritual leader”, and I would hear about relationships ending because they felt the guy wasn’t leading, and often he had no clue how to lead. I would feel sorry for those guys, cause I’m sure their heart was in the right place. I had vague ideas about what a spiritual leader is, and I thought that my working definition was as good as anyone’s, but then in our Chronological Bible we started reading about David, a “man after God’s own heart” as the Bible says, I had a revelation.

David wasn’t a spiritual leader because he was strong, brave, handsome, a king, or even an awesome song writer, he was a leader because he knew he was flawed. When he sinned with Bathsheba by having an affair, a pregnancy out of wedlock and eventually giving the order to allow her husband to die just so he could have her for himself, he could have easily brushed off Nathan’s word from God for him and made excuses, but he didn’t. He knew he wasn’t above God’s law and he realized in that moment that it was his pride and hubris that led him into sin (I know pride and hubris mean the same thing, but the sentence sounds better with both, so sue me). This spoke volumes to me. It said to me that being leader isn’t following a five step formula, or filling out a checklist every day, it’s knowing your place under God. It’s manning up to your mistakes and realizing that you can’t save yourself. It’s throwing your hands up to God and admitting you were wrong. If I ever want to be a spiritual leader then I have to never let my pride get in the way of acknowledging the fact that I’m a human being who screws up more often than he breathes. Too often we let our selfish desires and pride get in the way of our potential, and we squander it. I read something that an author said that sums this up perfectly: “I will obey God because I love God. But if I cannot accept God’s love, then I cannot love Him in return, and then I cannot obey Him”. David wasn’t a leader because he did the magical checklist, or followed some formula, he was because he acknowledged that he would be hopeless apart from Him and by truly accepting that love then we will obey him because of the love we have for Him in return. I can’t become a leader unless I follow that example, and learning that lesson is a hard and humbling one. We all must learn it. And more often than not, our own personal Nathan will come out of nowhere to call us out on our mistakes. We must never be ignorant to rebuking.

We’re not going to have a mountaintop experience every time we obey or talk to God, much like how our parents didn’t give us a dollar every time we said “Thank you”, washed our hands or went a day without biting and kicking our sister. I’ve discovered that God whispers more than he yells. For a long time I would catch myself expecting the opposite, and when it didn’t happen I would end up disappointed. I’ve figured out that God is more subtle, at least to me. Often when I find myself in a deeply introspective mood, without really intending it, and I catch myself thinking things that I usually wouldn’t, good things, things I’m not smart or wise enough to come up with on my own, and I can tell that it’s from God. I live inside my head a lot, and I think that is one of the big ways that God challenges me. For years I just thought I was figuring things out on my own, and then I would sit around a wait for this heavenly revelation that would never come bursting out of the clouds. I discovered that He was talking to me all along, and I just wasn’t giving Him credit. We have to be realistic in our faith, even if that statement may sound like an oxymoron within itself. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ever pray for miracles or for the hand of God to move in majestic ways. We should pray for that, but what I am saying is that we shouldn’t get caught up in waiting for the skies to open and for God to reveal truths to us in a big way. I don’t think He works like that with a lot of people. If we go around expecting a mountaintop experience every time we do something right we’re going to end up disappointed and falling back into things we don’t need. I tend to think of it this way: God doesn’t pat us on the back very often, he instead gently places his hand on our shoulder as a sign of love, a still and calming reminder of his presence. God doesn’t say “Put your earplugs in, I’m getting ready to yell”. He wasn’t in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire when he talked to Elijah. He was in the still small voice. We just need to pay more attention.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    JT well done i really needed this and as i read i found you anwers alot of qeustions i had myslef as a child

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