As I was praying for my children this morning, I was reminded that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 10:6), and no one comes to Jesus unless he or she is drawn by the Father (John 6:44). As I prayed for my children who have not acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Savior and have not professed faith in Jesus, I am also reminded that God gives us free will.
God won’t violate the free will He has given us. How, then, should I pray?
I wish there was another way! I wish that God could just make them believe! If I only I were a Calvinist!
I am only half joking. Maybe not even half joking!
I had a conversation with my youngest about a year and half ago in which she told me that she thought she was an atheist. She said all of her friends are atheists. (I doubt that is true, but whatever.) She told me that she asked God for something (I don’t remember what), and He didn’t respond.
That conversation has stuck with me ever since. I was taken aback. She was only about 16 or 17 at the time. I was painfully aware as we spoke, as I am now, that I can’t make her believe. I was thankful that she felt comfortable enough with me to be open and honest, and I told her so. But that doesn’t make the pain of it any less.
I don’t remember exactly what she said she asked God, but she seemed convinced, at least as we talked at that point, that God must not be real if he didn’t respond to her. I didn’t want to preach. I wanted her to know that she always has an open door to talk to me so I didn’t press the issue with her.
I also know that God is faithful. God drew me out of my darkness, and I believe He can draw her too. After all, no one can come to Jesus except the Father draws her. But will He? Can He?
As for her observation that she asked God for something, and He didn’t respond, I’m reminded of the things Jesus said of his generation: that they were looking for a sign, but he wouldn’t give them a sign other than the sign of Jonah. (Matt. 12:39 & 16:4). I would like to take some time to delve into the “sign of Jonah”, but that really isn’t the point of this blog.
It’s funny though, that Jesus performed signs literally everywhere he went! John even ended his Gospel with these words (John 20:30-31):
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Maybe the issue is that we want God on our own terms. Jesus observed (Luke 7:31-35):
“To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”
We want God to respond to us on our terms, but it doesn’t work that way. No one comes to Jesus except that he is drawn by the father.
Again, though, why doesn’t God draw everybody? Or does He?
Those who know God, who have been drawn to Jesus by the Father, know the heart of God. God desires that none would perish (2 Peter 3:9) and all would have eternal life. (John 3:16) The heart of Jesus is to leave the 99 sheep to go find the 1 lost sheep. (Luke 15:1-7)
So it seems clear that, if no one can come to the Jesus unless the Father draws him or her, and if God desires that none would perish, then God draws all people.
It isn’t a matter of God responding to us. It’s a matter of us responding to God.
God is pure gentleman. He gave us a free will because he made us in His image. And, He made us with the capacity to love. Love requires a willing heart.
Jesus stands at the door knocking! We just need to open the door. (Revelation 3:20) We have to desire God and open our hearts to Him before He will come in to us.
In fact, we need to desire him above all other things, in order for us to find him.
But if from there you will seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
God draws us, all of us. That isn’t the issue. The issue is: how do we respond?
I look back on my life and I can see God showing up in a myriad of ways. Some of the very most significant points in my life, looking back, are those times that I recognized his prompting and responded in my heart. These were not big events as we might characterize them, but they were big in my journey to faith.
In fact, the “events” that I am recalling are only significant and meaningful in direct correlation to how seemingly insignificant the moments were at the time. In these moments, the significance was not in the import of the event, but of my acknowledgment of God and inner response (yielding) to His prompting.
I believe God is always reaching out to us. He is always knocking at the door, but we are often not looking for him and not listening. When He gets our attention, we are too busy to acknowledge Him, too distracted or too attracted to our own momentary desire and caught up in our own way to give God nod. The moments pass us by.
And when we do reach out to God, either in a moment of need or desire or even in desperation, we try to manipulate God to meet us on our own terms. We won’t have Him that way.
I think of Elijah when he sought God in the strong wind and an earthquake and in a fire, only to find God in a whisper. (1 Kings 19:12) This is how God speaks to us – in the quiet and stillness of our hearts.
This means that we need to be still in order to see him and hear. We need to wait out the noise around us and seek Him in the quiet and stillness of our hearts.
God is not going to overwhelm us. That isn’t God style. He won’t violate the free will that He gave us. He desires us to come to him because we want to come to Him and to love Him because He loves us.
I realize as I pray for my children that I can’t make them love God, and God won’t make them love Him. I can only love them as God loves them and loves me and hope that they will desire Him enough to seek Him I can only hope that they will acknowledge Him in their hearts in those moments when they become aware of His transcendent presence and not let them pass unnoticed and unacknowledged.
And when they hear God knocking, I hope and I pray that they will open the doors of their hearts to Him, as I have, and experience all the peace and joy that God offers freely to those who are willing to receive Him on His terms.