There are many so-called formulas out there that can make us wealthy, successful, thinner, prettier, popular. Yet the one thing we seem to want most is the formula to God’s favor.
There seems to be a great need for a formula to God. If it weren’t so, Christians wouldn’t be writing blogs on “steps to growing closer to God,” or books on how to “activate the power of the Holy Spirit.” We are desperately seeking ways to find God or build a deeper relationship with him. But there’s a problem with all of that.
We could easily find thousands of those formulas by listening to Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Joseph Prince, or Dr. Charles Stanley. But have you ever followed those formulas only to come up empty handed; maybe even feeling a bit betrayed by God and His Word?
A few years ago, when my husband and I were going through a very difficult financial situation, I would confide in people I considered to be godly advisors. Every time they suggested their formula, I would respond, “We did that…we did that…we did that.” We did it all. We spoke scriptures over our situation. We fasted. We leaned in deeper to God. We studied the Word. We gave our time. We tithed. We prayed. We cried out to God. We helped people. We loved others. We “did” a lot.
And when we—Christians—find ourselves lost in our circumstances, it’s easy to look to Christian leaders who claim to have all the answers and solutions to our everyday problems. But how many people who follow those formulas actually find the answers? Sure, we hear a story here and there, but if those formulas worked for everyone, then we wouldn’t need the constant sermons on what to “do” to earn God’s favor and blessings.
I could quote about a hundred scriptures right here, right now, that seem like formulas to earning God’s love. Preachers love those scriptures, and Christians devour them in hopes of finding “life abundantly.”
However, it’s those very formulas that end up creating tainted Christians. The ones who—like me—end up saying, “We did that…we did that…we did that! We did it all! We are good people who give love freely, who give our money to those in need, who sacrifice our time and resources for others, who pray and fast, who cry out to God. We ARE those Christians. Yet we don’t see the blessings in our own lives. Why?”
Many would claim we have sin in our life, or that we just aren’t spending enough “quality” time with God. Others would insist it’s because we no longer tithe—because we can’t afford to, but we do “give” our money to various charities and people in need. I don’t get up early enough, or I don’t spend hours reading the Bible. I don’t know who I am in Christ. I don’t know God. I have no faith. I don’t believe. I don’t know my own authority. Oh, I could go on and on with all the things I do wrong that’s keeping me from God. But the truth is…I’m much like Job. I don’t know why God has chosen me to suffer the way I have/am. I don’t know why God seems so distant and silent all the time. I just…don’t know.
I’ve tried all the formulas. I’ve spoken God’s Word over my life and over my circumstances. Nothing changes. I’m not saying that we should stop doing that, but I’m just saying, it’s not a formula for absolute success. If God has a plan for us in poverty, then nothing—and I mean, NOTHING—will change God’s plan. If this is the life God has intended for me, I can’t change that with special formulas or scriptures. I just have to learn how to accept it…to be content with the life I’ve been given, good or bad.
“Be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
If the formulas worked for you, CONGRATULATIONS! But please—PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE—don’t insist that it can work for others, too, because it may not. It just might not work for someone else, and then all you’ve done is piled more pain and suffering on someone who is already hurting. And worse yet, we may end up making that person feel resentful and bitter towards God. I know I felt that way—and still do sometimes. I hear what people have done and try it myself with no success, and then I begin to doubt God’s love for me. I automatically think God is favoring them over me and I feel worthless and unloved. And it really turns into an ugly scene between me and God that is often very hard for me to escape.
There are no formulas to God. There is only a plan and purpose to every minute detail of our lives. Your life may be blessed beyond anything anyone could ever imagine, but someone else’s life—like mine—may never experience those kinds of blessings in their entire lifetime. And I guess the reality of that situation is that it’s between them and God, and no formula in the world will ever change it.
NOTE TO SELF: There are no formulas to God, so stop looking for one. God’s grace is sufficient.