“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3).
FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE, OUR EXPECTATIONS OF HIM MUST OFTEN SEEM QUITE CARELESS. We have no adequate idea of His grace or His eternal purposes, and so we make claims upon Him so casually that we come close to being flippant and disrespectful. God’s goodness is indeed a treasury of wonderful riches. But it was not set up to fund the removal of every little inconvenience from our lives in this world. We need to be careful what we ask for and why. God’s grace is not to be taken lightly.
Imagine that a loving, wise parent has made excruciating sacrifices for a son or a daughter to go to college. The parent is then disheartened to receive frivolous “Send more money!” messages when the student’s lifestyle indicates that there’s little appreciation for what had to take place for those funds to be made available. In a much more profound way, God must find it disturbing to receive casual “Help me with this problem!” messages from us, when it is obvious that we’re out of touch with the reality of what had to be sacrificed to make our prayers possible.
The more serious aspect of the problem is that we see the Cross as little more than our ticket to a trouble-free life. Not only do we underestimate the cost of God’s grace, we also fail to appreciate its purpose. The Son of God did not go to the Cross merely to purchase our convenience, or even our happiness. No, what happened on that dark day was “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is not too much to say that we should see even the blessing of forgiveness in this light. We should not seek to be forgiven merely because it benefits us personally. We should seek it because our reconciliation is a part of God’s eternal purpose in Christ, the outworking of which purpose redounds to “the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:12–14). The kingdom of heaven is not about us. It is about God. We seek to be saved for God’s sake, not our own.
“God does not pass out packages of spiritual victory sent special delivery to the person who requests them. Your sin cost him the death of his Son; he is not about to hand out spiritual bandages. He uses your struggles to give you a thorough housecleaning, reorganize your priorities, and make you dependent on his grace. There are no cheap, easy miracles. You must want spiritual freedom, not merely for your own sake, but for God’s sake as well” (Erwin W. Lutzer).