God is to be Glorified in Us, Not Useful to Us

So, as I reported awhile back I am going back to blogging.  But, since with the Lord a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day, the time frame on that is, well . . . let’s call it flexible.

But I thought I would share something today that I hope is helpful.  It’s a quote from Larry Crabb, sorry I don’t remember which book – I know it’s got to be from at least 10 years ago -

The goal is that God be glorified in us, not useful to us.

That sums up my life.  I think that sums up much of the Scripture and I think it sums up where we go wrong in so many ways.  I just can’t figure God out.  I can’t figure out why I can have one day that is so good I feel like I must be cured and then go for weeks without wanting to get out of bed.  I can’t understand why I, as His beloved child, am following pretty much the standard path of the cancer sufferer – doing good for awhile, the cancer abates when I’m on chemo and grows when I’m not.  My life pattern is one where, in order to keep the cancer in abeyance, i. e. keep it from killing me soon, I have to live a life of basic illness from chemo.  I can go off chemo and start feeling a little better for a time but then the cancer grows and death looks closer.

A friend told me tonight that someone told him the covenant promises of God stand for the believer – obey and God will bless, He will cause your kids to follow Christ, and will prosper you financially and otherwise.  I’ve heard basically the same thing about health.  My friend is also going through some very difficult long term trials and he didn’t think this person understood the covenant promises of God anymore than I do.

If this is the case, if the O. T. covenant promises stand as literally stated then how do you explain the cross of Christ.  If the cross removed the curse then why do the all time top 12 of the Christian faith not have lives that conformed to the pattern of blessing – why were the most obedient tortured and subject to horrible rejection and death.

For the record I am staking my life on the hope of the covenant promises, but I believe their final fulfillment comes in the age to come.  For now I can only conclude that the life of a faithful believer is one of pain, suffering and confusion.  This doesn’t mean it’s one without joy and contentment, and I don’t mean to say that my life is without joy and contentment.  There are times these days when I know greater joys than I ever did before cancer.  But I’m also far more confused and disoriented than ever.

That’s why I like Larry Crabb’s quote.  I think it conforms to the theology of the cross.   The theology of the cross tells us that God’s ways are hidden to us.  The theology of the cross also conforms to the Holy Spirit.  The fundamental aspect of the Holy Spirit is that we can’t know what He is doing according to John 3:8.

I think much of our confusion and disorientation in life comes from the desire to find God useful to us.  Job’s counselors’ mistakes were in thinking they understood the ways of God with man, and of course the corollary to that is that they then felt compelled to express their (mis)understanding.

God is always glorified, we just can’t see how.  God is not useful to us because our agendas aren’t His.  I really don’t think as a Christian that I’ve been equipped to live in a world where God is not useful to us, and where His ways are incomprehensible.  I think the only people who know this and can pass it along are the old school Presbyterians and Lutherans whom we evangelicals rejected in favor of church growth long ago.  Oh yeah, I think all of those old people we put out to pasture because they stood in the way of our passions, visions and missions probably could tell us a thing or two.  And as always, a good deal of my mud slinging in this paragraph is driven by guilt over my own neglect of the wisdom of old school Presbyterians and Lutherans and little old ladies and men who like hymns whom I discarded in my quest to become the next great “leader.”

We have Jesus in the theology of the cross that is communicated to us in the preaching of the Word and sacraments.  He’s not all that “useful” to great visionary leaders, but He is sufficient and will be glorified, we just won’t necessarily to see it.

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12 Responses to God is to be Glorified in Us, Not Useful to Us

  1. Pingback: God’s Not About Us :: the Requiest

  2. bibchr says:

    Oh, amen. During the worst period of suffering in my life (so far) I was arrested by 1 Peter 1:13 — “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” That “set your hope FULLY,” more literally “perfectly/ultimately/completely hope.” While not saying that we should not have hopes and joys in this life, Peter tells us to put our full weight on that day, the day when we see Christ, when redemption is full and includes spirit, soul and body, and when the flesh no longer harasses and bullies.

    We’re all dying, brother; every one of us. It’s just a matter of how and when. So every one of us Christians, whether young or old (and dying), or healthy or sick (and dying), we need to set our hope fully on that one thing: the blood-bought, Covenant-assured, sola-gratia sola-fide hope of Christ’s coming.

    You remain in my prayers.

  3. Ellery says:

    So this moring I heard a relatively famous Word of Faith teacher say we (as Christians – or ‘believers’) ‘miss it’ when we get sick.
    The idea was if you got sick you’ve ‘missed it’ because it’s not God’s will for you to be sick.
    Referring to the matter if Christians who are believing God for their healing should take medicine, he (thankfully) said they should.
    Here is a word for word transcript of that portion of the broadcast:
    “But If I need it [medicine] I’ll take it. But Somebody said ‘Oh, I don’t want to miss it!’ Hey, if you got sick you’ve already missed it! Isn’t that right? I mean it’s not God’s will for us to be sick. If I got sick I’ve already missed it! If I come down with some incurable disease I’ve already missed it. Now, somebody said ‘Yeah, but I’m trying to find out where I missed it’. That’s good and that’s well. You ought to and then correct it.”
    There it was. He said sickness was our fault because we somehow failed in some area of faith, confession or something.
    Yet Jesus had a somewhat different answer about the man born blind in the account found in John 9:1-3.
    “Rabbi,” his disciples asked, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
    To which Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

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  5. Richard says:

    The day I brought my wife home from a week of cancer surgery, we sat in front of the TV and turned on Joel Osteen for what I thought would be some comic relief. Joel told the story of a friend who had been diagnosed with cancer who “thought away” his cancer cells through positive thoughts and positive confession. I felt like kicking the TV set in. How different–and comforting-is the theology of the Cross. Thank you, Pastor Wayne, for reminding us of this again. We see a “theology of Glory” always around us which we need to fight against.

  6. Dan Phillips says:

    Seriously, Richard? Goodness that angers me.

    It would be wrong, it would be immoral, nobody should do this – but if Osteen actually says manure like that, in public, I’m surprised some cancer-sufferer’s husband hasn’t pummeled him yet.

  7. Richard says:

    Dan,

    Seriously. It was unbelievable. I thank God that some good theology and teachers innoculated me against this “manure” a while ago. Anger, yes, and sadness for people who get sucked into this thinking. When Osteen was interviewed for “Sixty Minutes” several years ago, the one person they interviewed who contradicted him was Dr. Michael Horton. I thank God for people such as Horton. His book, “Too Good to be True,” was an immense comfort to our family as God walked us through cancer.

  8. Dad says:

    Dave, I was just thinking about you when I remembered the blog name! Great to see you up and online. Your remarks as well as the others who have chimed in serve as a reminder and encouragement to me and many others. These recent exchanges posted have been very timely for me personally.
    Thank you for your ongoing ministry and know that you continue to be on the Inverness prayer concerns listing page and have been consistently prayed for. May the Lord bless you in His firm grip! Bob

  9. Bobby Grow says:

    David,

    I am still praying for you, brother! I am reading a really good book that gets deep into Luther’s “Theology of the Cross”. It’s called The Assurance Of Faith: Conscience in the Theology of Martin Luther and John Calvin by Randall C. Zachman. If you have the strength you should give it a read; I think you would really like it, and be encouraged by it! Praying for you brother!!

  10. Kim says:

    I’ve been going through an extremely difficult and on-going trial. Joel Osteen isn’t the only one who preaches how to “think away” your troubles. I’ve heard from Reformed folk (and a nouthetic counselor) that if I’m discouraged or depressed or doubtful, if I’m not content and joyful, I am in sin. So confess my sin, read some Bible verses, perhaps even meditate on the cross and bingo! I will no longer struggle. I have days of hope and clarity and joy, but I also have those days of pain and suffering and confusion.

    My Dad has been of great encouragement to me – honest, practical, hopeful – he is one of the older men forced out to pasture by the church growth folks. He has experienced loneliness and depression as his offers to organize prayer groups, teach Bible Study, visit the sick in his church have been ignored by the young guys who are having “their best life now”.

  11. Leeza says:

    Thank you so much for this…as someone battling breast cancer I get tired of hearing that if my faith was “bigger, better, truer” blah, blah, blah…I would be healed. HOGWASH!! If I wasn’t as comforted by the Lord through the day to day dealings of cancer, I would walk away listening to that garbage. ***thank you Richard for voicing your indignation.

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