When they had diagnosed that her cancer had advanced, she was upset. Now I had walked with Delilah (not her real name) through her cancer. First, she had a lung removed, and the surgery did not go well in the end since her remaining lung shifted which had cause her esophagus to shift also. This made things difficult for eating and swallowing. Then her husband, a cancer survivor himself, became ill. The doctors had found that the cancer had returned. Because of the nature of his cancer and as aggressive as it was her doctor felt her cancer was under control and suggested that they focus on his treatment since any treatment of hers would make it hard for her to care for him. So, for the six months, she cared for her husband and his needs. Delilah’s husband was a man of faith, and he and I had many conversations through this time, and as he entered into hospice and was in his final days, he shared such a faith that there was nothing but comfort for me and those who he lived. Delilah was another story. Delilah was angry about her husband’s passing. Delilah’s faith was crumbling. She was angry that God had taken her husband from her. Then the doctor found that her cancer was much more aggressive than had previously been thought, so they attempted treatment but found it was too late. Her anger with God grew. She disliked her step-son, also, and her words against him were harsh. As her cancer worsened, so did her cries against God. Her children echoed her resentment because she had been so faithful in the latter part of her life serving within the church. As her health declined the time of ministering to her became darker and darker. She continued to cry out against God because she felt that God had failed her. She was angry. At the time of her passing, it was not any more comfortable. She felt like God had owed her and he was unable to pay His debt.
This story is not uncommon. The details may be different, but the theme is the same, “God, I worship you, so you owe me!” This is the consumeristic model of the faith that infects the people of God. If the music doesn’t enthrall me and make me feel good, then we need to find another church that will play what I want. If the sermons don’t make me feel comfortable, then it is time to find another church or another pastor. If God doesn’t answer my prayers as I want them to be answered, then God is not worthy of my worship or praise. The people of Israel in Exodus 16:2-5 had witnessed great miracles as God led them out of slavery and through the waters of the Red Sea. They had witnessed how God had worked miracles with Pharoah through the plagues. They knew the accounts of their forefathers and how God had worked through Joseph and protected them in time of famine. Yet we find them crying out against God. Why? Because they are hungry. Instead of crying out in prayer and praise and asking for God’s providence they cry out in anger that they were hungry and it should be required of God to provide for them. In spite of this, God still provides. God provides not because we demand it, but because He is generous. He provides for our needs.
We confess in the Small Catechism, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures. He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them. In addition, He has given me clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods. He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life. He protects me from all danger and guards me and preserves me from all evil. He does all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this, I ought to thank Him, praise Him, serve Him, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.” [McCain, P. T. (Ed.). (2005). Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (p. 328). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.] These words are biblically sound and give us a faithful witness of the faith it is that we hold. Though not all Christians hold or even study Luther’s Small Catechism, the truths found within it can transcend the various Christian theologies as it is centered in the Word and traditional Christian thought. God has and always will provide for those He has chosen not because of the merit of them but out his own love.
When I was a teenager, I was helping my dad with some of his friends reshingle the roof. Mostly I was a runner bringing up shingles and supplies when needed. Being the typical teenager, I was tired and complained. I wanted more than what I was receiving and quickly was reminded of the reality that my parents owed me nothing more than food, clothing, and shelter. Being a father and knowing that my life was better than the life of my parents, particularly my father when I hear the words, “That’s unfair!” I can only think of my parents and how I felt so put upon. The reality is that nothing in life is fair. It’s not fair that God has chosen me even though I fail daily. It’s not fair that in spite of my shortcomings I am promised, Heaven. It’s not fair that I can feel the hope I feel that is not dependent on the circumstances in which I find myself.
Our faith is centered in the reality presented to us by Paul as he wrote to the church in Ephesus 4:1-16 as we are reminded that we are united in the waters of Baptism. We receive the promises of our Lord as we are joined by the Holy Spirit that calls us to love one another. We are not told to love each other because we deserve the love of another, but because we receive that undeserved love from our Lord and are given the opportunity to share that with others. Our Lord did not only ascend, but he freed those that had been in bondage. He broke the chains of sin upon us and all who turn to Him. It’s a great and glorious gift for which we haven’t had to work. Christ’s death and resurrection have lifted us. God has called people to prepare and send out all who believe and trust in Jesus Christ. The power of this Word is so great that hearts are transformed. It is a great and glorious love that can guide us through the turbulent waters of the world which desires to distract us from the promise. This love can carry us through any suffering with which we may be confronted. I have known pain as have most yet God is still there, and He carries us through in His hope.
It is centered in realizing who it is that provides for us. John 6:22-35 highlights the yearning in the hearts of many as they have tasted of the gifts of God, yet not understanding for what it is they are genuinely hungering. There are so many hungering to know what it truly means to know forgiveness. The initial cost for those of us who believe is nothing, yet the Holy Spirits work is quite costly. The transformation of our lives is unimaginable. Once we submit our lives to the Lord the paths that we are lead are not in areas we could imagine. The struggles that it may cause for those that desire to enjoy the blessings but are still desiring to control the outcomes is also unimaginable. When we hear from where the true bread comes many are troubled. When we realize that the bread life is our Lord and God it is indeed a struggle. To believe that the bread and the wine is our Lord’s body and blood isn’t difficult when we trust in the Words that Christ says. When we trust in those words, we can find greater confidence in trusting in those promises. The bread and wine are not made the body and blood of Christ by our will or our actions or even our believing, but it is because He says it is. When we struggle with the words of our Lord, we grumble against God. When we struggle against the words of the Lord, we can become distracted from the blessings that we have received. That is the power of our Lord. That is the power of Christ. That is the power of faith. Christ’s love is great! Why do we grumble against the one and only God who gives? God gives us everything.