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Good, Better, More: How God transcends our expectations

Good, Better, More: How God transcends our expectations

I often wonder if Jesus’s teaching is lost on us today. Most days, I approach God looking for a better quality of life. Naturally, I want to live the best life possible. Better, of course means a life full of happiness and devoid of suffering. But when I read Jesus’s teaching, I find something quite different. We are promised suffering in this life. We are asked to take up our crosses and follow Him. The modern church has tried to dull the promise of suffering in an attempt to sweeten the message, but I think Jesus had something else in mind.

More than seven times throughout the four gospels, we find a promise similar to the following: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24, Luke 11:9, John 14:13-14, John 15:7, John 15:16, John 16:23). If we believe God is merely offering us a better life, we are likely expect that God will give us everything we ask for whether it is for our benefit or not. But someone who gives into every one of their child’s tantrums is, frankly, a bad parent. God won’t leave us in our immaturity for long because He isn’t promising us a better life. He is promising more. He wants to transform me so He can better bless me in the end.

Embracing the mindset of Christ

It takes no genius to see how selfishness powers our world’s economy. “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” is the founding principle of modern society. We make friends who can benefit us, whether emotionally, financially, or otherwise. In romantic relationships, give so we may receive a return. If my employer didn’t give me my money at the end of the month, I wouldn’t stick around for long. Even our charity can become about something other than the needs of individuals around us. We are unable to live for more than ourselves without help.

When Jesus went willingly to the cross, He did something no one else had done before. He sacrificed Himself entirely selfishlessly. The Bible assures me that I am incapable of becoming good on my own and invites me to look to Him for help as the author and perfecter of my faith. (Hebrews 12:2) I need His power in my life if I am ever going to become like Him. Through Christ, I have everything to gain, nothing to lose, and every resource at my disposal! Charity becomes not only logical, but easy. Every debt I have to God has been lavishly repaid, so how can I hold a debt over my neighbor? All the wealth of the Kingdom of Heaven is promised to me, so how can I keep my earthly treasure to myself?

The foundation of contentment

This is the great reversal of Grace. Christ already paid my debt in full, and He is preparing infinite joy for me even now as I sit here and write. If I think about these two things and keep my mind firmly fixed on these promises, I will begin to “store up treasures in Heaven” (Matthew 6:19) by living a life of charity and grace here. Instead of living for my own earthly well-being, I am free to live the life Christ prescribed for me here, for every good deed I do will be justly rewarded in due time (Luke 18:29-30). When Christ died on the Cross, He enabled every one of us to care for others with no thought of a return. For the first time in history, we were truly able to pay it forward.

This is the foundation we must lay before we can talk of asking for things from God. As Christians, we should be seeking the well-being of others above our own. Once we have begun to live that life, we will come to find, as Paul did, the “secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phillipians 4:12) With this secret comes the keys to the Kingdom. Jesus described the life of a generous Christian in the following way:

God’s cycle of trust and giving

First, we give our earthly possessions to those in need (Luke 12:33) and share the good news of Christ’s victory with our neighbors (Matthew 28:18-20). As we prove ourselves worthy, we are given more and more to manage (Matthew 25:29). God promises to pour the blessings we give back onto our own heads (Luke 6:38). These blessings are not strictly “ours,” though. I am a steward for the coming Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 16:10-12). Jesus gave a strict warning to every would-be prodigal. (Matthew 21:43)

There is only one word for those of us who squander God’s eternal wealth on our earthly pursuit of fleeting pleasures: Embezzler. God knows our hearts even before He sees our actions, and He will have a tight fist towards anyone who will have a tight fist. (Matthew 18:21-34, Proverbs 11:24) To those who will freely distribute their inheritance to the world around them, the storeroom of Heaven is wide open. All of the Earth’s wealth is dust to God. Just remember that your primary job is to bless others, not to bless yourself.

The Storeroom of Heaven

Perhaps everything I have learned while writing this can be summarized by a quote from C.S. Lewis: “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. (Lewis, Mere Christianity).” God cannot be bought. There are no tricks or schemes we can pull to “get rich quick” from His Grace. But if we are willing to die to ourselves, to give everything we have to Him and for Him, then we will find eternal riches at our right hand (Proverbs 3:16, Psalm 16:11).

I don’t expect my personal income to double. Jessica and I can tell you our recent story about God’s material blessings, but we fully expect to experience our fair share of loss as well. I am thankful for the things God has entrusted to me, but I am a thousand times more thankful for the friends and family I get to share my mere wealth with. In the end, we will take people, not possessions, with us into God’s eternal kingdom.

Life as a pursuit of more

I’m not naive enough to think that my salary gives me an advantage in the Kingdom of Heaven. I know I am less in the Kingdom of Heaven than the widow who gave both of her pennies in the temple treasury. (Who can give more than their everything, and I have yet to give a quarter of that!) I want to invite my friends to consider their priorities as well. Knowing an account will be made for every penny that passes through your hands, do you trust yourself enough to ask God for these things in prayer? “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)

The risks are great. So are the sacrifices. But I can say this much from experience: There is no greater joy than following God’s will for your life. The pursuit of more is a thrilling, addicting, and ultimately rewarding pursuit. If you feel empty, pursue more. If you’re missing love, ask for more. Lacking a purpose? Strive for more. If you need hope, peace, joy, or goodness, seek more. And if you want more, then seek nothing less than Jesus Christ Himself.

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