When we first got married and moved to Texas (MANY years ago!), I was shocked to discover that there were drive-through insurance companies and drive-through liquor stores, in addition to the usual drive-through doughnut shops and drive-through hamburger joints. Clearly, that town in West Texas was on the cutting edge of the future wave of convenience marketing. Most businesses now must consider customer convenience in their marketing and sales if they wish to survive. As customers, we EXPECT every aspect of retail sales to cater to our convenience. Sometimes I have even found myself complaining that some minute aspect of my purchase did not meet my specifications. Somewhere in the course of the past thirty years, we have become a nation driven by an entitlement mentality that requires all aspects of life to proceed in accordance with our personal requirements and in compliance with our standards.
Unfortunately, this mentality has carried over to the Church. All over America, we have become spiritual consumers who expect churches to meet our personal needs. IF the pastor feeds us our favorite foods the way we like them best (fried, half-baked, or watered down, as the case may be), IF the worship team sings our favorite songs in the style we prefer, IF the kids’ ministry entertains our children sufficiently, and IF the lattes at the church coffee bar are up to our standard, we MIGHT grace that congregation with a membership commitment.
Even God is not exempt from our convenient-for-me mentality. If He does what He says in the Bible He will do and does it my way, in my timing, I will honor Him. If He allows me to minister to Him my way, on my schedule, at my convenience, I will serve Him. If not, I will sulk and withdraw from Him and punish Him by giving Him the silent treatment for a set period of time, until I feel like talking to Him again.
Yes, the Bible does say that God knows our needs before we ask. It says that He has prepared good works for us to walk in, and that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. He will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory. He has given us every good and perfect gift. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. It IS His good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.
However, contrary to the voices rampant in our culture, the Kingdom is NOT about ME, and the Kingdom is NOT designed for my convenience. Consider Jesus, who inconvenienced Himself profoundly to take on the form of humanity, to be touched by the feelings of our infirmities, to reduce Himself to living a life as one of us. Consider the fact that, to do so, He had to leave His Father’s side and all the praise and glory of heaven to dwell among sinners in a world perverted by evil. This calling was certainly not convenient or comfortable. He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf for our redemption. He was willing to be tempted, tested, mocked, and tormented in order to buy us back from the clutches of the devil. His suffering is beyond what we can conceive or process; at the last moment, He asked the Father if there might be another way, but He was willing to drink the cup set before Him, if that was His Father’s will.
God grossly inconvenienced Himself on our behalf, for our sake. How dare I evaluate what I will and won’t do based on convenience! I am embarrassed and ashamed to think of how many times I have shirked Kingdom opportunities because I didn’t feel like it, or because the timing was inconvenient. Jesus said that we would have tribulation in this world; He did not say everything would be convenient (John 16:33). The good news is that He also says we will have peace, for He has overcome the world! Praise God for deliverance from the lies of this world: the lies of convenience, the lies of false comfort, the lies of entitlement, the lies of my own selfishness. Nothing is beyond His ability to deliver! Nothing is too difficult for Him (Jeremiah 32:17)! “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14) Father, let the fragrance of Jesus be released in me, and make me willing to be crushed for You, that Your Presence might be made known in my life!