I want a God who will help me win the lottery. If I won one of those mega-million jackpots, I'd pay off my house, maybe buy a place at the beach (and in the mountains, too, why not?), buy all the land that touches my family ranch in Florida and buy myself a big spread. I'd be generous, too. I'd give away 10 percent, like I'm supposed to, give my siblings a million each, and my brother-in-law, too. I'd probably sign up for liposuction. But the money wouldn't change me, no sir.
I want a God who will fix my problems. I want him to fix the people who drive me crazy, take away all my cravings and guide me to all the right decisions. I want a God who will do it all for me. All I have to do is ask.
I want a God who will make me smart. I want him to stop me before I say stupid things. I'd like to be smart enough to listen to TV and my wife at the same time. I want to know which stocks will go up and which will go down every day. If God would help me know what other people were thinking when I'm talking to them, that would be great.
I want a God who humbles self-centered people. It would be great if God would squash the arrogant people and bring them down to size. I have a list I'd like to give God of people I've identified who need to be brought down three or four notches. A number of these people are in politics.
I want a God who agrees with me theologically. It puzzles me how people can read the same passage in the Bible and get different meanings. I want everyone to understand it like I understand it. I'm pretty sure my interpretation is correct. Maybe God could get everyone else in line with my understanding.
I want a God who punishes the wicked a little faster. Wouldn't it be great if every thief had his hand fall off when he stole? Wouldn't it be great if everyone who committed adultery grew big warts? Of course, God and I would have to agree on what "wicked" is. Wicked is the big stuff. I would expect God to look the other way when I tell a white lie or exceed the speed limit or cheat on my taxes or lust a little in my heart.
I want a God who never disciplines me or teaches me a hard lesson. I want my life to be soft and comfortable. Why can't God make character formation easy? Wouldn't it be great if I just naturally wanted to do healthy things? It would be even better if I didn't have to make healthy choices at all - if God just kept me healthy while I downed a dozen doughnuts with a cheesecake chaser.
I want a God who will understand how hard it is to be me. I want him to require nothing from me; instead, I want him to make sure I get parking spaces near the door, that it stops raining when I get out of my truck and that all my decisions are easy.
I want a God who never convicts me of sin but winks at me and says, "That's OK. Do what you want. I gotcha covered." How great would it be if my conscience did not trouble me when I was selfish or greedy or unkind?
Funny, as I write each line about the God I want, the personality of God shrinks. This God I want is no longer the great "I AM;" he is an idol of projection. I am projecting the darker corners of my soul. This God I want would not be the God mighty enough to save me.
When God told his people "I am the LORD your God; you shall have no other gods before me," I think he was saying, "You don't get to define me; I define myself." When you begin to think you get to tell God who he is, you are really creating an idol, an idol you will find in the mirror. Every idol ever made, whether in stone or in our hearts, reflects a God we want, not the God who is real. How you think about God matters. He decides who he is, not you.
My hunch is even if I got the God I wanted, it wouldn't work. That God would be too small, too narrow, too bound up with my own flawed understandings. The God I want is not the God I need.
The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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