Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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God is no Pushover

hand of God

By Dennis Pollock

I have lost track of how many sermons, messages, and articles I have preached, taught, and written about the Bible and the ways of our great triune God, but it surely must number in the thousands. Of all those articles and teachings there are a select few that I consider the best of the best.

There is one particular message I have written, recorded, and preached which, in my mind, reaches the level of outstanding. I’m not referring to how well I preach it or what eloquence or breathtaking prose it contains. What I am speaking of is the basic truth itself contained within my less-than-perfect words and expressions. One reason I am so impressed with this truth and message is that I have seen the powerful effect it has upon the Africans to whom I have preached it. But it’s not just Africans. The truth is that this message seems to resonate with almost everybody who has an open mind and heart toward God.

I have titled the sermon “Jesus Reveals the Father,” and in it I share a number of the statements Jesus made in the gospels about our Heavenly Father. Even Muslims seem to be impacted when they hear about the Father Jesus presents: loving and kind, generous and willing to answer our prayers. And I love to quote Jesus’ statement about our value in the eyes of our wonderful Heavenly Father:

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? (Luke 12:24)

According to Jesus (who ought to know, since He is God manifest in human flesh) we are not just another species of the animals. We are made in God’s image and are valuable to Him. Who would not be encouraged by such a thought!

Comforting Thought

This message and this truth of our loving, generous, kind, all-powerful Father in heaven has been an incredible comfort to me over the years. I guess you could say that I have benefitted greatly by my own preaching. My life, my experiences, and even my struggles are not a series of random, unconnected, unrelated events, as a result of bad or good luck. My life always has been and always will be directed and controlled by my wise and loving Heavenly Father who wants nothing but good for me. He loves me, values me, and providentially directs me from day to day and decade to decade. What a blessing, what a comfort, what a tremendous source of peace!

And of course this is not just true for me but for every Christian who walks on this planet. To receive Jesus is to be immediately and permanently connected to this great cosmic Father who made everything, controls everything and everyone, and loves His children intensely. When we put our trust in Jesus, we are both adopted and born into the family of God. And what a privilege that is! The Bible says:

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1).

And in Romans we read:

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

Adopted and Born of God

But being called a child of God is more than just a label and becoming God’s child is more than adoption. There is a mysterious birth that is going on. Strangely we are both adopted and born into the family of God, for the Bible says:

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him… (1 John 3:9)

In some mysterious fashion we are born as God’s children and receive the very seed of God and the nature of Jesus Christ implanted within us. And thus God becomes our Father, both by adoption and by birth. To those not born again, God is Creator, but to all who have received Jesus, He is our Father. And a very good Father He is!

The Firmness of our Father

Most of us get this. This is not exactly revolutionary theology. But where we sometimes miss it is in assuming that this loving Father is a pushover when it comes to us getting all we want and escaping the bumps and bruises that normally come with life on earth. God is a good Father, a kind Father, a gracious Father, a loving Father, and a generous Father – but He is no pushover. He will not spoil His children by blessing them so much, so fast, and without discernment, that they begin to think of themselves as little gods. Nor is He averse to allowing His children to struggle.

Most of us have known or have heard of parents who were so obsessed with their children that their children ended up becoming the totality of their lives. Nothing was too good for their little darlings. Whatever the child asked for, he got, and usually without delay. Spankings were strictly out of the question, and even strong words were never expressed, for fear of destroying the child’s self-esteem. I guess you could say that the strategy does work – usually that child has very high self-esteem, so high that he feels the world owes him or her everything, and he owes nothing to anyone.

Let me give an illustration. Suppose a child is put under my care, and I dislike the child so much that I determine to ruin that child’s life, not only for the present but for all his days. There are two ways I could go about this. First, I could beat the little boy, deprive him of meals, never buy him anything but the most fundamental needs, and constantly tell him what a loser he is. That would do it, and the boy would surely be ruined for life.

But there is another way I could devastate that little boy’s life. I could buy him everything he ever asks for, as soon as he asks for it. I could give in to him every time he fusses and wants his way. I could tell him over and over that he is special and far superior to every other child. I could refuse to ever discipline him and make myself his slave in all things. I could praise him when he is good and when he is very bad. I could get him out of every jam he ever gets himself into. This would also be a surefire means to ruin the life of this little boy. By this I would ensure that he would be miserable all his days and set him up for one failure after another after another.

He is God

Because God is a good, wise, and loving Father He will never act this way with His children. He will frequently assure us of His love, but He will also make it clear that He is God and we are not. In a very simple but profound declaration the Psalmist says:

Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3)

Once we become God’s children, God immediately enrolls us into His school of character development. Essentially, He wants three things of us: 1. An ever-increasing relationship with Him, 2. To produce in us the nature of Christ, and 3. To so work in us and through us that we bear much fruit and become a blessing to others. These are His goals for us, and He will be aggressive in promoting those goals.

Sometimes this means we will need to go through times of intense struggle. We don’t typically learn to depend upon Christ until we are put in situations where we have little choice but to depend upon Him. As Paul put it, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead…” (2 Corinthians 1:9). In our early days in Christ we may naively suppose that struggle is a thing of the past – our Heavenly Father is now with us to keep us from such desperate situations. But sometimes it is that very Heavenly Father who leads us directly into situations where we will have to struggle, not just little, tiny, polite struggles, but into situations where we will have to struggle with all our might, all our faith, and all our hope just to survive.

Where is God?

This hardly seems fair to us. Where is our loving, generous, kind and good Heavenly Father? He’s right where He always has been – on His throne and directing every aspect of our lives. He who presides over the death of sparrows surely has something to say about those desperate, nail-biting, heart-pounding circumstances which threaten to swallow us whole.

And then there is the issue of pain: physical pain, emotional pain, painful relationships… By definition nobody really likes pain. I know there are supposed to be masochists, but even they are very selective about the pains they prefer. Put them on a torture rack and nearly all will convert from masochist to decidedly non-masochist in a heartbeat.

Sometimes we suppose that because God loves us, He surely doesn’t want us to suffer pain. We should be able to trust Him to give us a pain-free life. It is not quite that simple. No parent wants to see their child in pain, yet until the last sixty years or so, nearly every parent spanked their children when they misbehaved badly. They deliberately inflicted pain upon their children. Why was this? Did these parents hate their children? Of course not. They were simply wise enough to know that if those children were to grow up to become decent, self-controlled, likeable adults, they were going to have to experience an association between bad behavior and pain. Do bad things – suffer pain (a spanking). Do more bad things – suffer more pain. Do good things – no pain, but rather praise and reward instead. Children may be immature, but they are not stupid. They eventually figure out that it is better to do good and be rewarded than to do bad and suffer pain. And when this lesson becomes part and parcel of one’s mentality, we call this maturity.

God works on this exact same principle. The Bible says:

Now no chastening (discipline) seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:11).

God Uses Delay

Another tool in our Father’s educational program is the employment of delay. Jesus tells us that those who ask of God receive, but this does not mean that we receive immediately. In many cases God is more than willing to give us that for which we so desperately pray, but He will do it in His own time and in His own way. We love things to happen immediately. We want to snap our fingers and watch while God runs to do our bidding. But it simply doesn’t work that way. Our Father wisely knows that almost nothing builds character as efficiently as answered prayer – after long delay and much persistence. And so while we cry, He waits. While we pray, he waits. While we fast, He waits. And we pray and cry and fast some more, and still He waits.

How long will this go on? It will go on precisely as long as God determines is good for you. Don’t give up; don’t stop praying, don’t impugn God’s goodness or attentiveness. He probably wants what you want more than you want it. But He takes His time, waiting for the flower of your faith to mature, and your character to grow over your season of praying and waiting. And then, in God’s perfect time, He moves with lighting speed, and you have the thing for which you have prayed. And it does you good! The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

You who have trusted in Christ, lift up your heads and rejoice. You have a wonderful, kind, and good Father in heaven. He loves you, but He is no pushover. He is not your waiter or your bellboy. He is your God. Allow His loving and skillful hands to shape your life and all the circumstances of it. He knows what He is doing, and He is for you, not against you. You are not an orphan.



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