I am sitting in our little hearth room checking emails and I am listening to Janet and Kristin’s three boys playing the game of Life. I was never much of a board game kind of guy, but Janet and the boys just love playing them. So until a few minutes ago, I was out in the enclosed porch and watching them go at it – decisions about career or college and other sorts of problems and opportunities that people encounter throughout their lives.
It was interesting to watch the action and how several of the boys don’t really understand the value of money. They are throwing around numbers such as $180,000 like it’s chump change and I can’t help but wonder what this will do to them as they enter the real world and find that everybody doesn’t make $100,000 a year – usually it takes years of study and some career maturity to get to those numbers – but then again, who know what the economy will be like when 8 and 10 year old boys enter the workforce.
Anyway, as I am sitting here, I can detect a note of frustration from several of the players and one of my grandsons just blurted out to Janet, “I’ll pay you back…I promise!” But the words rolled off his tongue way too easily. He certainly didn’t sound like he meant it – he just wants to be able to stay in the game and will do anything – including making false commitments – to continue to have a chance of winning.
It struck me rather profoundly when I heard those words. How many times, as adults, do we make promises that we don’t think through? How many times have you added those words, “I promise” to the end of a statement – without thinking through the consequences of your inability to live up to your word? And how many of us have made a deal with God? A desperately sick child and you say to God, “Please heal my son/daughter and I will go to church every week for the rest of my life.” Or “if you only let me have this raise at work, I will never ask for anything ever again.” I could go on and on but I think that you get the point.
Most of us “forget” our promises as soon as our crisis is over or when our prayer is answered. God must be incredibly patient to tolerate these false commitments that we make to Him. There is a great illustration in the psalms about this very problem with people. Psalm 107 tells the story of God’s people who are persecuted and have all sorts of problems. Then, finally, they cry out to the Lord and He delivers them from their issue. Of course, it doesn’t take long for them to get into another problem and sure enough, when they can’t get themselves turned around, they cry out to the Lord again and He delivers them – again.
The pattern repeats itself throughout the entire psalm. Trouble – deliverance; more trouble, again, deliverance – on and on… The people just don’t seem to learn to appreciate God and what He has done for them. The verse for this evening is Psalm 107:28-31, “Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.” See the pattern? This last sentence about giving thanks is the “chorus” that the people experience again and again – getting themselves into deeper trouble every time God delivers them.
My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to depend on Him to get us through the tough times. But He also wants us to learn from our mistakes and not continue to expect God to deliver us when we have no desire to get better at what we do or how we behave around others. My prayer is that you will keep the promises that you make and that you will learn that there are usually consequences to failed promises. Make you not suffer too much as you learn these truths. And by the way, that grandson who made the commitment to pay back his grandmother – well, he did. Praise God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…