I just finished cooking my wife dinner and am listening to INXS’ Devil Inside. Perfect song for what I’m about to write!

Lately it seems a theme is emerging from some of the things I’ve noticed in my Sunday morning adult Sunday school and in my Wednesday night Bible study. Believe me, I didn’t plan it this way, but I think God is trying to get our attention on this issue.

So how many of you have cried out to God to help you, bless you, heal you, save you, or whatever but have not given yourself fully to Him in obedience? Come on, raise your hand – we’ve all done it! What I’ve noticed lately is a lot of people are really hurting and need prayer, yet they are not making decisions that allow God to answer those prayers. Let me explain.

God is not a vending machine. You can’t just plug in a prayer, pull the handle, and get a blessing. We have a relationship with Him, which means it is a two way street. God wants to bless us. In fact I think we would be stunned how much He wants to bless us if we really could understand it. However, in this relationship we have a part to play in that blessing.

Here’s how I think about it: Let’s say you want to give your kid a new bike. But you get home from work and find out the kid’s been a knucklehead and got caught shoplifting or something like that. Needless to say the kid’s not getting that bike – at least not until he straightens up and meets your expectation of him in this relationship. Same thing goes with God.

He has blessings to give you, but if you’re doing dumb stuff He can’t give you the blessings. So what would God consider dumb stuff? Anything that is willful disobedience against Him AND disobedience for which you don’t go to Him in repentance and seek to make the relationship right again. Here’s what I’m seeing around me lately:

  • People praying for financial provision but not coming to church to worship or participating in any other activity – not being in relationship with God, just turning to Him when they’re in trouble.
  • People praying for physical healing but not trusting that God’s will is perfect no matter what the outcome.
  • People praying for emotional healing but doing nothing to curtail their dysfunctional ways.
  • People seeking God’s face but living a lifestyle where they won’t actually find God.

There’s more, but I think you get the point. How can God bless you, answer your prayers, and prosper you if you’re not meeting Him halfway by doing the things He tells you to do? In other words, how can God do anything for you if you refuse to submit to Him in obedience? I guess the better question would be why would God do anything for you if you don’t love Him enough to submit to His ways?

Luckily, God knows we’re all knuckleheads and He loves us anyway. In fact, He knew before the beginning of the world that we would be knuckleheads and He created us anyway because He loves us so much! Does that mean God’s going to give in and give you want you want if you’re not in right relationship with Him? Most likely not. But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t love you. It does mean He wants you to get straight with Him so He can bless you.

Are you hurting right now and need God? Does God seem distant and you don’t feel or hear Him? Start asking yourself if your relationship with Him is right. Have you confessed your sins to Him? Have you forgiven others the way the Father has forgiven you? Do you hold something against someone? Are you trying to show brotherly or agape love to your neighbors, loving them the way Jesus loves us? Are you giving up those things God has told you to eliminate from your life? Are you worshiping God the way he calls you to in His word? Are you being honest with yourself and God?

Chew on this, because you don’t have to forego God’s blessings in your life. You do have to do it His way, though. God’s ways are not our ways, which makes this very difficult, so pray that the Holy Spirit moves in your life in a way that teaches you how to submit yourself in obedience to the creator of the universe who loves you especially.