“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” ~James 4:3
I’ve been noticing a heavy sense of entitlement in the Church. It’s no secret that we work hard to become closer to God. We fast, we pray, we meditate, we worship, we fellowship, we go to church, we sacrifice things we know we shouldn’t be doing.
Then, at the end of it, we say “God! Look! I’ve fasted! I’ve humbled myself! You can reward me now!!”
Yes, God rewards us. Yes He blesses us. He loves us and desires to bless us. However, we need to check our priorities here. Why are you fasting? Are you fasting and sacrificing so that if you ‘prove’ yourself to God, He’ll reward you in kind? If you act kingdom-minded enough, He’ll give you the worldly things you want too?
If that’s the case, you’re already living the reward. You got the greatest reward you ever could – eternity life with the Holy Spirit. If we were truly kingdom-minded, as kingdom-minded as we’re called to be, we would be rejoicing in the sacrifice itself. The more of the world and our human, fleshly desires that we shed, the more room there is in us for the Holy Spirit to manifest itself. The bright His light shines through us as we move through the world, that the space may be brighter for us having passed through. That’s a reward in and of itself. That’s the ULTIMATE reward.
Has God not already rewarded us in advance, by the stripes and cross of Jesus Christ? No act in our lifetime will ever be great enough to deserve that; yet it was given to us in advance. Does God not promise us that He finds the best pathway for us to be on as we navigate the world? No act in our lifetime will ever be great enough to deserve that; yet it was promised to us already.
Yet here we are. “God I fasted; show me the fruit of my labor.” “God I prayed; send me a boyfriend.” “God I sacrificed ____ because I know it’s not right in your eyes; so reward me.” If we were truly kingdom-minded, those statements would look more like “God I prayed; deepen my prayer and multiply my time so I have more time to rejoice in You”. Or “God I fasted; my physical hunger left room for spiritual nourishment, and I’m more full of you than ever.” I’m not saying God’s never going to bless you; of course He is, and He’ll bless you with earthly things.
But for our part, when we go around sacrificing and doing these things so that we can be blessed and rewarded, we are putting God’s promises above God Himself. The action may be Godly, yes….but in our hearts, if we’re doing it for the blessing that comes later, are we not still just doing it for our own gain? Is that being truly kingdom-minded?
And what about those times that we do godly things, go on fasts and prayer journeys, and really dig deep into God, and then look around for our reward and get disappointed when we don’t see it? Are we perhaps looking for rewards with worldly eyes? We’re told we’re storing up treasures in Heaven, not here on earth. Do you think treasure looks the same up there? Maybe when we don’t see a tangible reward, we just aren’t looking for it with kingdom-minded eyes; our worldly eyes are looking for tangible things. God does reward, but He sees things differently than we do. If we were truly kingdom-minded, we wouldn’t measure God’s rewards with worldly eyes. We’d be looking with His eyes. That changes the value of all treasure here on earth. Just like a flawed mirror of ourselves, the world gives us flawed glasses. Treasure here, and tangible things here pales in comparison to the treasure God can truly give us. A glorious ministry, a clear path, a husband….these are all good things and God can and will bless us with them. But nonetheless, they are things of this world. If we’re looking around for tangible rewards right where we stand, aren’t we putting God in a box? When He does reward, let’s let Him do so in His own way. Who knows, maybe He did reward you and you were so busy looking for some worldly thing that you missed it?
Also, I feel a sense of condemnation in this sacrifice – I’ve been feeling it in myself, and God’s been doing a lot this week to relieve me of it. “Lord I don’t know you enough; I don’t have enough of you in me; I’m bad at being Your daughter; I need to sacrifice and stop doing ___ and see if I can find more of you somewhere.” We condemn ourselves to it; God loves us to it. We put up blocks sometimes, thinking we aren’t good enough yet or worthy yet to fully let God in. We try to do more and more, thinking “at the end of this sacrifice, I’ll be worthy to feel God more fully.” It’s a constant feeling of striving.
Striving for more of God is great. But the thing is, God is already in relationship with each one of us. In active relationship. Some of us know Him intimately, and some are mere acquaintances, and some are strangers. Either way, it’s a relationship. I don’t think it’s possible to have full revelation of God here on earth. Our human minds are so small compared to Him, and He even tells us we should always desire more of the Spirit. That hunger, that desire, is always going to be in us, because as Rebekah M said, we aren’t home yet. We’re here for a short time, and this isn’t our true home. While we walk here in this foreign land, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us in the way we’re supposed to go and show us how to think and act. But the Holy Spirit is not something we need to go on a quest to find; it’s already inside us. We just need to look inside ourselves and let it love us. We get so caught up in changing ourselves that sometimes we get ahead of God, or sometimes we forget to stop and check in with the Holy Spirit inside us and let it show us what it’s done in us already.
Sometimes there are things that need change. The difference is we see ourselves as “bad Christians” when it comes to certain things. God doesn’t see us as bad; He just sees that He isn’t done molding us yet. So He brings us through tests and trials, He trains us…sometimes we don’t need to anything at all, we just need to sit there and let Him come over us and love us, and let the presence of His light cast out our darkness. Sometimes we are called to fast and sacrifice.
But either way, God is always there. Always. And we were created to serve, worship, and love Him. So, if we feel called to make certain changes or sacrifices, and we do, and we don’t see the fruit of it right away, check your heart. Are you doing this for God, or for God’s promised reward? Are you looking for a reward from God through the flawed glasses of the world?
If you feel like you’ve been fighting an uphill battle, take the time today to just spend time with God. Just let Him love you. Let yourself feel Him. It’s enough to just dine with Him at His table. We don’t need to be questioning Him and putting demands on Him; just sit there and belong to Him. Check your motives with Him, and give Him your heart. Just bask in His presence; meditate on His kingdom. Because at the end of the day, there’s your reward. It’s there, right next to you, waiting for you to truly embrace it, without veiling it with the expectations of the world.
I pray for all who read this blog that this revelation of God’s rewards may touch them. And I’d love to pray for you individually! So write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.