JENNIFER WILBANKS, TEACH US TO PRAY
by David Sisler
That Jennifer Wilbanks was found alive and well is cause for relief. That the runaway bride was not charged with criminal stupidity at the least, or for giving a false report to the police, at the most, is cause for head scratching.
But the issue which brings me to the word processor today is, lessons on prayer as taught by the man who was to perform her wedding, the Reverend Alan Jones.
The Rev. Mr. Jones said they were all praying, “Let her be a runaway bride.” She was found – a runaway bride. “So,” Jones said, “God was faithful.”
And boy that chaps my old control-alt-delete.
We have made God into a puppet. Or worse, a vending machine.
Pull his strings, and he dances.
Put a request in the slot, push the button, and he delivers.
If he does what we asked, he is faithful.
And if he does not?
God is faithful whether or not he does what I ask him to do. God is faithful whether Jennifer Wilbanks was a victim of cold feet, or the victim of a cold-blooded killer.
When Job had more money than anyone in his neighborhood, God was faithful.
When Job’s entire fortune was wiped out, God was faithful.
When Job had ten children, God was faithful.
When Job stood by ten fresh graves, God was faithful.
Totally misunderstanding where the attacks on his family originated, and perhaps never understanding the reason for those attacks, Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
And then the God-inspired author shouted, “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong!” (Job 1:22-23).
What did you say, Job?
God is faithful!
When Job’s health was assaulted, his wife told him that his integrity had failed to protect him and therefore he should abandon it, Job said, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks.”
How’s that Job?
God is faithful!
“Shall we accept good from God,” he asked his wife, “and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10).
Did the heroes of faith of Hebrews 11 ask for deliverance when they were persecuted? You bet your soft-soled sandals they did.
Was God unfaithful because they were “tortured ... had trial of mockings and scourgings .. chains and imprisonment ... [when they] were stoned ... sawn in two .. slain with the sword ... [and were] destitute, afflicted, [and] tormented” (Hebrews 11:35-37).
You bet your soft-soled sandals he was not.
Josh Long and Troy Driscoll were fishing in a sail boat without a sail on April 25 when a rip tide swept them out to sea. When they were rescued a week later, Eddie Long, Josh’s father, said, “We always held out there was going to be a miracle.”
Thank God – he sent a rescue boat.
If the two teenagers had died, would God have been unfaithful?
The Psalmist said, “And those who know your name will put their trust in you; For you, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10).
Does he answer every prayer we pray, every seeking of his face, with, “Yes?”
Is he faithful?
Connected with the idea of faithfulness is the idea of trust. When we decide that a “No” answered prayer violates us, we decide that we cannot trust God. At that point he ceases to be faithful and becomes untrustworthy.
In Gethsemane, Jesus uttered the greatest prayer ever prayed: “Father, let this cup pass from me!” The answer to that prayer was, “No, Son. You must drink the cup!”
And that denial of Jesus’ heart-felt, sweat-drenched, blood-covered prayer was a demonstration of the faithfulness of the Lord God Almighty.
Why would we think that a God who dances to our tune is a God we can trust? Why would we think that a God who works his sovereign will in our lives, regardless of our wishes, is a God we cannot trust?
Do you think that every prayer you conclude with the words, “In Jesus’ name,” guarantees the positive answer to that prayer?
It does not!
And when God does not grant our request, does he prove himself unfaithful?
The clear message of all of Jesus’ teaching about prayer is that when we are properly asking in his name, we are asking the same thing he would ask. If he would not ask that prayer himself, then he won’t answer that prayer from us, no matter what mantra we chant. And it is time we grow up and learn that.
His faithfulness is never more apparent that when he says, “No. That is not my will for you. Trust me.”
To teach otherwise is to rob God of his sovereignty, and to rob us of our security.
God is faithful, even if he breaks my heart.
On May 15, I heard from Rev. Alan Jones. His letter to me follows, without comment.
“God is ALWAYS faithful. Had we found Jennifer dead, God would have still been faithful. I agree, many times God answers NO and I thank him for that also.
“When was the last time you were handling media and a crisis situation and trying to give God the Glory? In the preceding paragraph, I shared the Gospel with over 25 million people by explaining the nature of sin, forgiveness, and grace. I didn't see your article commending that? This is not to mention that I had been up agonizing with the family for 39 hours straight when I made the statement.
“It's beyond me why a Christian brother would attack another who is under the scrutiny of the world's eye and trying to give God the glory.
“You pulled my name through the mud over a matter of semantics and attacked a well-meaning messenger. Maybe it's time that you sir "grow up" and learn something. Maybe it's time quit hiding behind your keyboard and join us on the firing line ministering to those who are hurting.
“The whole situation was and continues to be messy, however, God placed a mantel of leadership upon me for a time and I was called to stand in the gap. Maybe next time you should contact the person you would like to slander and check out the condition of their heart before you judge. I think a retraction or apology would be in order.
Copyright 2005 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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