I was listening to preacher Kenneth Copeland a couple days ago. He told a story about when he was sitting in the waiting room to see the dentist, and he overheard two dental assistants talking. The first said that she asked God for patience, and the second replied that she should go to God and take that back, for now God will put her through all kinds of turmoil to teach her patience!
Kenneth Copeland did not agree with the second woman. He said that
God corrects us through his word and out of love, whereas the woman was
seeing God as rather harsh and untrustworthy. He also stated that the
woman was mixing the law-oriented system of the Old Covenant with the
(presumably grace-oriented) New Covenant. Copeland was about to say
something to the second woman, he narrates, but he said that God told
him to keep his mouth shut!
I liked this story for three reasons:
1. I never cared for the platitude that we should never pray for
patience because God would then put us through horrible experiences to
teach us patience. I agree with what Kenneth Copeland said about this
in his sermon: it doesn’t present a very flattering picture of God! But
because that platitude is somewhere in my mind, it discourages me from
praying for patience. The thing is, I need patience: the ability to
stay inwardly and outwardly calm when I am not getting my own way. I
have reached a compromise: rather than simply asking God for patience, I
ask that God might give me calm and peace through specific situations.
God does not have to manufacture those situations to teach me
patience. The situations are already there, and I am asking God to help
me to cope with them.
Platitudes that comfort some people may turn other people off. I one
time heard somebody say that he never cared for the platitude of “If
you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” He did not think that
God laughed at his plans! He put a lot of thought into his plans, as
we all should do! Why would God laugh at that?
The platitudes may be getting at something edifying, though. God may
teach us patience by giving us things to be patient about. Or God may
have plans for us that differ from our own plans, and that we did not
anticipate. But these platitudes can be taken in directions that are
not exactly edifying, at least not to everyone.
2. I could somewhat identify with what Copeland said about law and
God’s grace. He could have fleshed it out some more, and he may have
elsewhere. But my impression is that there are many versions of
Christianity that mix law and God’s grace. They may proclaim, “God is
loving, but…” or “We are saved by grace, but…” They
believe that God forgives, but they also see God as one who condemns
people for their flaws and does not fully accept them. It is almost as
if people need to pass some test to get God’s approval. Christians who
love to focus on grace, however, maintain that there is no test: God
accepts us. Our goal now should be to grow spiritually within the
context of God’s acceptance.
It is not the case that Copeland dismisses moral standards. As he
said, God corrects us through his word and out of love. God has to have
standards if God is to correct us according to them. But keeping the
law is not the pathway to getting God’s acceptance, for nobody is
perfect in keeping the law. Rather, for Copeland, God offers his
acceptance freely through Jesus Christ. God does not condemn believers
for their sin, I presume is the case in this model, but God corrects
I can see some wisdom to this. I question how biblical it is,
though. Perhaps it is consistent with aspects of Paul’s thought. But,
this morning, I was thinking about Jesus’ statement that the narrow way
leads to life or salvation, and that only a few will find it (Matthew
7:13-14; Luke 13:23-24). I recalled listening to a tape in which
Lordship salvation advocate John MacArthur was responding to someone who
claimed that, if Lordship salvation (only those who obey Jesus as Lord
are saved) is true, then only a few people will be saved. MacArthur’s
response was that this is exactly what Jesus said was the case: narrow
is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it! I had to
laugh at MacArthur’s wit and use of Scripture to refute a Christian
thinker. But it kind of splashes cold water on any notion I have that
Christianity is about a God of unconditional love. I feel as if I need
to keep some law to be assured of salvation, and that does not make me
feel that good, for I am far from perfect, or even righteous, for that
matter! Maybe there are ways to understand Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke
13:23-24 in manners that are consistent with God’s love and grace.
3. Copeland said that God in the waiting room told him to keep his
mouth shut. I find that to be appropriate for certain situations. Even
if I am right, people do not need to hear me express my right opinion
in every situation. I had to respect Copeland’s humility in recognizing
that it was not the time or the place for people to hear his opinion,
in that setting.
There are times, though, when I am silent and I later wish that I had
said something. In a Bible study group, for example, I may choose to
refrain from mentioning my doubts about Christianity as we discuss a
devotional DVD about Jesus’ life. I do not want to disturb the
spiritual flow or rain on people’s parade. But, when people in the
group later express that they are baffled that there are people who
believe differently from them about Christianity, they fail to
acknowledge that there are reasons for other points of view, they
manifest an “us vs. them” mindset, they scream “persecution,” or they
wage the culture wars (i.e., about people saying “Happy Holidays” rather
than “Merry Christmas”), I may have to say something. I hope that I
have the courage to do so.
Believe truth! Shun error!
2 hours ago