In cartoons, there’s an old gag where a dog owner throws a stick, and yells “Fetch”, but the dog (usually a robot or superpowered dog) comes back with an entire tree trunk in his mouth. Sometimes, I think that we also think too small in our lives. Gideon wanted to get some grain, but God wanted him to free his people (see Judges 6:11-14). A lame man at the temple was looking for money, but God intended to heal him from a lifelong infirmity, instead (see Acts 3:1-11).
Whether because of a past failure, because of fear, or because of a lack of vision, we all sometimes get stuck in little things. We pray to ask God to get a good score on a test, but He wants to give us an entire career. We throw out a quick prayer for a traffic light to turn green, but God calls us to be on an entirely different road…to a different destination. So often, I think that I am personally guilty of asking God for small blessings, when He wants something much bigger and better for me.
When posed a question from some of His rivals called Sadducees (who probably meant to trap Him), Jesus prefaced His reply with a pretty bold statement:
Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.
Mark 12:24 NLT
Like the Sadducees, here, we may have picked up part of God’s word – perhaps the understanding that He cares for us, and that He hears our prayers. We may have cultivated our faith enough to know that He can help us and guide us. We might even put these things together and trust Him to answer us in the way that will lead to the most good (on a grand scale).
And yet, we might still be limited by too small of an understanding of God, or by our own preconceptions about reality. No matter our respective levels of maturity, we can still each learn more about God from the Scriptures, and better comprehend the magnitude of His power.
For those of us trying to overcome the shortcomings that Jesus pointed out, one benefit is that these two actions complement each other:
- Reading the Bible teaches us more about God – not just His power, but His nature. We start to realize not only the sort of prayers that He is likely to answer “yes” to, but we also get a better idea of what we can ask Him about. People in the Bible prayed and God changed the weather, sent down fire, produced military victories against impossible odds, and raised dead people back to life. God called people (Moses, Abraham, the apostles, etc.), out of their routines, and made them pivotal characters in history. I don’t know what you’ve prayed to God about today, but I suspect that whatever it is, God can do more!
- Appreciating God’s power helps us learn even more about His nature, and can put what we read from the Bible into context. If we will look, we have the regular opportunity to witness God’s creation (in the universe around us – both near and far), His creativity (in the diversity of people He created and loves), and His power (in the good things He does for us and for others who testify to His work). The God who heals and changes lives today is the same God who challenged His people to live lives that were distinct (and better) than the results of a self-centered existence, rather than being apathetically content with a much smaller world.
With this in mind, I would like to challenge you today: First, spend time with God in His word. Read and study the Bible, not just to “check a box”, but to learn more about its Author. Then, pray big! Ask the God of the universe for a massive revival of faith and truth in the world. Ask Him to show you if He wants you to become a history-changer, and if so, where you need to start (hint: God has probably already started preparing you, based on your skills, environment, and history). Ask if your current restlessness is “holy discontent”, and if God is calling you to something far better. Or, just ask Him to show Himself to you, today.
Don’t be like these Sadducees who challenged Jesus and demonstrated their ignorance. Instead, know the Scriptures, and know the power of God!
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.