It frustrates me to no end when I hear people talk about miracles in the Bible and then say something like, “So if you want your miracle, just . . .” That sort of thinking may be enticing, but it is miles away from the gospel. Those who know the gospel know that God cannot be reduced to a formula, as if he were a high-powered vending machine. We cannot manipulate God, but we can trust him, and that is far better.
Just look at the rich woman in 2 Kings 4:8–37. After God miraculously blesses her with a son, the son suddenly dies. But the ensuing miracle is less than flattering for Elisha, God’s appointed prophet. He tries in a few different ways to raise the child from the dead, to no avail. He eventually succeeds, but not because he figured out the right pattern. He simply knew to approach a God that he knew to be merciful.
Religion is always teaching us to approach God based on formulas: “If you do this, God will do this.” It is mechanical and guaranteed. I’ve followed God’s rules, so he owes me a happy marriage (or a healthy family, or a prospering business, etc.). But that sort of “faith” is faith in a formula, not a person. Gospel faith is faith in a person—an almighty, all-knowing, infinitely caring person. When you trust a person, that can never be reduced to a mechanical formula.
Read the rest.It would be terrible if God operated on formulas anyway. How many times have you asked God for something that you later realized was absolutely foolish? If any of you are like me, there are probably dozens of girls that you desperately pleaded with God to make fall in love with you. We’re sinners, which means that a lot of what we ask for is garbage. What we need is not a genie in a bottle, but a loving father who sometimes overrules us.
A “no” answer to prayer is not necessarily “no answer to prayer.” Sometimes God answers our prayers by giving us what we would have asked for had we known what he knows. But the woman in 2 Kings 4 also shows us that trusting in God doesn’t mean we stop pursuing him for grace.
Books by J.D. Greear: