I kind of touched on this point yesterday in talking about two kinds of strength - the kind that limits and the kind that enlarges - but I want to expand out on that thought a little bit today. Because I think this is something that many Christians, particularly in the time of the prosperity gospel, misunderstand, and I think this is something that an unbelieving world pushes back against.
Being God's - choosing Him, loving Him, even serving Him - does not entitle you to anything.
That's the misconception. We believe that a relationship with God entitles us to immunity. It doesn't mean that things don't go wrong. It doesn't mean that we never fail. It doesn't mean that we never fall. It doesn't mean that life isn't hard, that times aren't tough, that things don't occasionally suck. I think this is the single most frustrating encounter I ever have with someone who misunderstands the faith - because for a seeking Christian who has suddenly encountered trouble, this is the deal-breaker. Life is not perfect with God. And for the cynic on the outside looking in, this is ammunition. God provides no practical benefit.
I cringe because that's never what God promised. His Word repeatedly reminds us of what God means when things happen, not how He steps in to stop them. Build your house on the rock, He tells us, and when the winds blow, you will not be moved. He does not say, Build your house on the rock and the winds will never blow. For crying out loud, the winds blew walls of water against the disciples while Jesus was in the boat with them. God never promised immunity. He promised to be there.
God talks about the way that His people treat their enemies. Even how His people are to treat His enemies. Pray for those who curse you. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. He never said, Now that you are mine, you will have no enemies. For I shall smite them and smite them good. Even His Son had to deal with His enemies. God never promised social security. He promised there was another way.
Even with God, some of the things we do will be fruitless. It wasn't that long ago, I told the story of Moses and how God sent him to Pharaoh, in the same breath telling the prophet it wouldn't do any good. I think about the story of the disciples in the Gospels. They've been out to sea all day and haven't caught a thing. Then God shows up and tells them to cast their net one more time, and suddenly, they haul their biggest catch. It makes you think that when God shows up, things go well, but these were not men without God; they'd been traveling with Him for three years. And still their fishing was fruitless for awhile. God never promised success. He promised provision.
Yet there are still those among us who believe God has entitled them to immunity, to security, to success. To many more things, as each man's heart desires. They live like nothing can touch them because they have God on their side, and inevitably, something breaks through and shatters faith.
Our God is simply not a God of entitlement. He is, however, the God of endowment.
I don't know a lot about the financial aid process. I probably should, since I'm about to be a student again, but I've just never much cared for the world's standard of money. But from what I understand, an endowment is self-sustaining for the most part. I've heard stories of new endowments beginning, and the way it works is that the money is set aside into a high-yield fund where as it is used, it replenishes itself so that a little bit of money goes a long way. A widow's gift today may mean scholarships unto her great-great-great-great-grandchild's generation and beyond. And that is what God has done for us. He has endowed us with certain treasures that enable us to live another way, even when life is hard, times are tough, and things occasionally suck.
He's endowed us with strength. To withstand the storms. And that strength builds on itself. When you find yourself timidly believing in the Lord one day, it's not too far down the road that you don't think twice about trusting in His promises.
He's endowed us with peace. To handle our enemies. And that peace builds on itself. When you choose not to enter into a battle of wills or a petty argument or even all-out war, it's harder to find something worth sacrificing the peace of the Lord for. So you hold onto that peace in the midst of a full assault.
He's endowed us with eternity. I don't know why I was thinking about this one this morning, but I was, from the very moment I started to write this post. God has given us eternity; we no longer have to worry about what we do with our time. We don't have to stress about it. When you have forever, now doesn't seem like so much pressure. (And you can read that the wrong way, as an advocation for procrastination. Please don't.)
I just think about all the things that God has endowed me with, all of the stuff He has invested in me, in each one of us. I think about the way it all builds on itself until even in the face of life, you look up and realize that faith is all you have. And you have all you need. God has invested in you so that you continue to grow and make an investment in Him. In His message. In His mission. In Love.
So to quote a group of men who realized this much before my time, the old statement is true: Man has been endowed by His Creator.
Not entitled.... Endowed.