In preparing for a sermon on Ruth 4, I was looking for stories of those who maintained or lost their hope in God. As I scrounged around, I found something of a tragic post, in which a dear young cynic gave 10 reasons why he gave up on God. His sixth reason was: “I prayed for a Miata and all I got was a lousy Camaro.”
After reading this, I couldn’t help but remember a story that my seminary professor told me after returning from a ministry trip to Africa. After returning, he asked us to pray for a church in Africa that had been bombed by a group of Islamist radicals. Shortly after being bombed the church gathered together and sang these words:
Holy, holy, holy,
LORD God Almighty
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee
Holy, holy, holy,
Merciful and mighty
God in three persons,
Now if you know a bit about Islam, you know that they don’t take too kindly to the Trinity. The resolute and passionate love that this community expressed to the Triune God was basically a way of painting a big target on their backs. I’m honored and humbled that in Christ, I’ve been invited to share an inheritance with this courageous and beautiful community of believers. The riches and the courage that they have found in Christ surpasses the worth of a thousand cars.
I’m also reminded of the excellent quote by David Wells:
“We will not be able to recover the vision and understanding of God’s grandeur until we recover an understanding of ourselves as creatures who have been made to know such grandeur. This must begin with the recovery of the idea that as beings made in God’s image, we are fundamentally moral beings, not consumers, that the satisfaction of our psychological needs pales in significance when compared with the enduring value of doing what is right. Religious consumers want to have a spirituality for the same reason that they want to drive a stylish and expensive auto. Costly obedience is as foreign to them in matters spiritual as self-denial is in matters material. In a culture filled with such people, restoring weight to God is going to involve much more than simply getting some doctrine straight; it’s going to entail a complete reconstruction of the modern self-absorbed pastiche [imitation] personality.”
Incredibly, in the post above, here’s a snippet from reason #2 for giving up on God: “I don’t need God. I don’t need anyone or anything. Everything I do, I do by myself, with my own blood, sweat, and tears, thank you very much. I’m a bootstrapper, a liberty lover, a staunch individualist. I am the one who personally, singlehandedly made a delicious tomato lentil chili the other day…”
Great. So in a world that faces the gut-wrenching pain of losing those we love to terrorism, and the myriad other evils that plow furrows into our souls; we are offered an invitation to spurn God and assert the competence of our own self-rule? Is this the answer:
In a world touched by such massive sorrow, is this the comfort that we then offer those who’ve been seared by the bitterness of evil? At least this young man is honest about the fact that after God has been displaced, then it is Us (or rather, “us”) that must take his place. I’ve seen too much of our “handiwork” to be persuaded that we’ll find rest in our own self-rule. This is precisely what I’ve been invited to forsake by Christ in that ironic, scandalous, and life-giving invitation that Christ gave in Matt. 16:24-26.
Gracious Father, I’m astonished and humbled at the incredible sacrifice that your people have paid to bear resolute witness to the beauty of the gospel. Will you graciously rob me of my inclination to self-preservation, vanity, and ease, so that I might join your people in a costly witness to the self-giving beauty of the Triune God? I’m pained by the way in which I instinctively know how to avoid the pain of suffering. Will you also beckon those who have given up hope to find their inheritance in you (Ps. 73:25-26)? Amen.
 David Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 115 quoted in D.A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 489.