I know God is able to do great things for people. He can shatter the chains that bind us to sin. He can hold us steady through every wave of heartache or adversity that comes crashing over our lives. He can empower us to subdue every licentious, legalistic, apathetic, or anxious attitude in our flesh that seeks to handicap our faith and render us useless, fruitless people. God "is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think . . ." (Ephesians 3:20).
Does he actually want to, though?
You see, I don't question God's ability. The immeasurable greatness of his power is a "duh, of course" in my book. But when it comes to his willingness to wield his power for my personal good — well, that's a whole different animal. Just because God can do a certain thing for me doesn't necessarily mean he will do that thing for me. His power isn't bound or dictated by my wants and desires. Prayer isn't some transaction-like system in which I "place an order" and he has to prepare it for me just as I ask. God is a person, not a vending machine. "He does all that he pleases" (Psalm 115:3; emphasis mine).
So, while I believe God has the ability sustain me in or deliver me out of a circumstantial difficulty, battle with temptation, mental anguish, or other undesirable condition, I'm not very encouraged unless I also believe he wants to sustain or deliver me. The question my insecure heart needs re-answered every morning as soon as my eyes pop open is not, "Can he?" but, "Will he?"
Will he keep me trusting in Christ today?
Will he give me strength to resist destructive sins today?
Will he enable me to withstand the attacks of the Evil One today?
Will he strengthen me to exercise control over my anxious thoughts today?
And every morning, after I pour myself cup of thick black coffee, shuffle over to my couch that is covered in dog hair (I have an Aussie/Golden mix #thestruggle), and open the Bible, the Spirit of God whispers the same answer: "YES." Whether I open to the Prophets, the Gospels, the Psalms, the Epistles, the Pentateuch, or to anywhere else in the inspired Scriptures, I always see portrayed an all-powerful God who delights so much in his people that it actually makes him happy to bless them!
"I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. . . I will rejoice in doing them good." (Jeremiah 32:40-41)
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good . . . He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:28, 32)
"The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)
"the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me (Jesus) and have believed that I came from God." (John 16:27)
"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11)
What an awesome God we have! And not merely because of the magnitude of his power, but also because of his tender and generous disposition toward sinners like us! You and I are so unworthy of his love. Our hearts and lives are riddled with sin that dishonors him. We deserve nothing but Hell. And how faithfully my conscience reminds me of this! My inner voice relentlessly points out my sin — with the help of Satan, I'm sure — especially when my heart begins to swell with joy at the thought of God's grace. "Yeah, God is good . . . but you're bad, remember? God has no obligation to be good to guilty people like you."
But praise God for his verdict that silences every accusation (even those we bring against ourselves)! "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." (Romans 8:33-34; emphasis mine). You and I are very sinful people. This is tragic and true. But if we believe the gospel, we are sinful people for whom Jesus died and whom God has justified! And when we trusted in Christ, God gave us the right to become his children (John 1:12) — the right to feel assured that he forgives us completely, loves us immensely, and delights to bless us with every good gift.
I know there are people out there (yes, I'm talking about the likes of you Mr. Osteen, Mr. Copeland, and Mr. Duplantis) who take these biblical truths and prosperity-gospelize them into something they aren't. When the Bible says God wants to bless us and work for our good, it doesn't mean that he builds us big houses or fattens our bank accounts. Nor does it mean he rescues us from every financial woe or health crisis or relational trouble. Sometimes he works for our good by delivering us from a trial, and sometimes he works for our good by sustaining us in a trial. God doesn't always take the pain away — but where he allows pain to persist in our lives, he always gives us power to persevere through it with joy.
In whatever form grace comes to us, it always comes as a gift from a loving Father who enjoys providing for us everything we truly need — namely, himself. And this is what God's people want the most anyway, right? I usually don't lay awake at night feeling afraid of poverty or illness. I usually lay awake at night feeling afraid that God might one day withdraw from me, cease to satisfy me with his love, or quit giving me the strength I need to keep trusting Jesus. It's these kinds of fears that our heavenly Father longs to crush today. He wants me to know, and you to know, that he will always give us everything we need. It really is his pleasure.