Sunday School Lessons

Self-Fulfilling Doubt

In the context of the previous article (2 Chronicles 1:7-10), God answers Solomon’s request for wisdom to lead the people of Israel.

God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”
2 Chronicles 1:11‭-‬12 NIV

https://bible.com/bible/111/2ch.1.11-12.NIV

For those who believe God and take Him at His word, the first part of this is expected: God invited Solomon to make a request.  Solomon asked God for something.  God promised to fulfill that request.  Later in the Bible, we can see that (of course) God kept that promise.  Check!

In fact, if you’ve been reading the Bible and/or going to church for a while, you probably already knew the outcome, here.  Even people who have never been to church or read the Bible sometimes know about the wisdom of Solomon.

However, belief in something that has already been completed isn’t really belief.  It’s just history.  Accepting that God answered Solomon’s request doesn’t take a great leap of faith when we know – based on records and evidence – that He did.  In the same way, we may have seen God work in our own lives, or heard the testimony of others who experienced the same thing.  Those things help build and reaffirm our faith, but acknowledging what God has done is not an act of faith (although it is our choice to not credit other factors for His work, when we know He was responsible for the results).

Knowing the end of the story from the start is one thing.  It is a different matter to trust God to answer our prayers before we see the results.  This is what I would like to challenge each of us to do today.

James 1:6-8 reminds us that asking for wisdom from God while we harbor doubt shouldn’t be expected to produce results.  A lack of faith in God is kind of self-fulfilling.  Of course, God is still God, and He doesn’t change (James 1:17, Numbers 23:19, etc.), but when we don’t have faith, our prayers are hollow and empty: just words spoken out of routine or habit.

Some of us might have the faith that God can do great things, but before asking God to intervene in this world, maybe we are looking for some sort of vision or invitation from God, in order to know – for sure – that He is asking us to tell Him what we want.  Perhaps we read the passage above, and think that Solomon had an advantage that we don’t, since God asked him a direct question.  After all, has God appeared in a vision to you personally and said “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (see 2 Chronicles 1:7)?

If we don’t think that God has invited us to ask Him things, though, what would we call all of the instructions to call out to God in the Bible?  Are the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:7-8; see also Luke 11:9-10) not enough to consider them a direct command for us to ask, seek, and knock?  Is the first chapter of the book of James not clear enough that we should ask for wisdom?

Let’s be clear: God has invited – and probably commanded – us to ask Him for things.

In fact, I think that a key gap in our prayers is not God’s ability to listen and act, but rather our lack of faith to ask confidently in the first place.

  • Maybe we only pray little prayers (which aren’t inherently bad, but shouldn’t be the extent of what we talk to God about), rather than big prayers, because we don’t think that God will answer them.
  • Perhaps we intellectually know that God is all-powerful, but somehow we don’t really believe that He will use that power in our lives and around us.

If the entirety of God’s faithfulness – recorded in the Bible, seen throughout history, witnessed to by those around us, and observed in our own lives – isn’t enough for us to have faith in Him, and in His ability to work right now (in our present and our future), I’m not sure what else we could ask for in order to trust Him.

So, let us pray big, pray often, and pray with faith.  If you don’t have enough faith to ask God for things that are so impossible that only He could fulfill them, then ask Him to help you with your faith.  If you don’t even know for sure who God is, I can confidently tell you that He still hears prayers in the dark, offered up as you search for answers.  And, if you’re stuck, pray like the father in Mark 9:14-28, who said, “help me overcome my unbelief” (see verse 24).

As the refrain says in the hymn, ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, “O for grace to trust Him more” (ref. https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/568).  When we have that blessing from God (i.e., trusting Him), we learn the value of His invitation to call on Him more and more.


From Sunday School lesson prepared for July 4, 2021

References:

  • The Lookout, July 4, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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