A couple of weeks ago as we prepped to launch "Promise Island" VBS, I helped prep our church by taking on the text for the for the first day's theme: "I Am With You." I preached the famous Shadrach, Meshach, and A Billy Goat (at least that is what I thought as a kid) story from Daniel 3.
The story continues to build the author's case for God (Yahweh) as the cosmic sovereign. In my message I built upon the books' theme by stressing: Your level of obedience and boldness is directly tied to the depth of your trust in God's sovereignty. You can hear the message here, but as with all sermons I had to nip and tuck as I pursued a fluid and cohesive piece, which means I was forced to leave out thoughts, ideas, and ramblings. This post is a rambling that failed to make the team.
Before Burger King hired the creepy big-headed King who kept popping up in people's beds, backyards, and children's bikes (Isn't that illegal?), the chain sold their product with the motto: "Have it Your Way!" I like that. Days would be sheer bliss if everyone's motto for me was, "Have it Your Way!" If my kids woke up and said, "Have it your way, Dad!" Or if my boss said, "Charlton, have it your way!" If the cop who pulled me over, "Sir, you were going 95 in a 45, but have it your way." If all church members said, "A 45-minute sermon? Have it your way!" If the U.S. Olympic committee said, "Although you have never run fast enough to compete in the mile at the high school level, we would like for you to represent the U.S. in London for the 1500 meters. Have it your way!"
We like it our way, and our consumeristic culture and natural inclination toward self-centeredness blend into a deadly concoction of self-absorption and entitlement. We begin to function as if God stands behind the BK counter sporting his hat, taking our prayers, and responding with a "Have it your way!" The entitlement mentality limits God's sovereignty. It makes God's sovereignty dependent upon his answering my prayers according to my specific requirements. The moment he doesn't, "I guess God isn't that powerful after all. I guess he doesn't care about my family or me. Maybe he doesn't exist."
I'm not minimizing the problem of evil. It's clear things are not right in the world. Brokenness screams from all corners of the globe. Scripture gives us room to question God, to be angry, to shout and yell, and even throw a temper tantrum. There is dissonance between a sovereign and good God and the state of the world. But too often, we doubt God's sovereignty not because we are wrestling the larger questions of evil, but simply because he did not look smilingly across the counter and say, "Have it your way!"
Apparently Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego never ate at BK. When Nebuchadnezzar (I bet he got picked on as kid. That's probably what fueled his aspirations to become a ruthless dictator) threatens them with death by fire for refusing to bow to his golden idol they respond,
"Your threat means nothing to
us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from
your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But
even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. We
still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up."
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had no doubt that God is sovereign, that he rules over the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and even Nebuchadnezzar and his magnificent kingdom. But they also believed that God's sovereignty was not contingent upon him saving them. His sovereignty did not rest on whether their prayers were answered according to their requirements.
God does not lose control because I don't get what I want and God does not lose control because I do not understand what he is doing. Yes, I have permission to question, to shout, and to be frustrated. God welcomes such honest banter but perhaps before I call God's goodness and sovereignty into question I should assess my motives. Is my desire really for God to reign over HIS kingdom or do I simply want a God who says, "Have it your way"?