Thursday, August 13, 2009

Prayer – In one billion, three hundred forty nine million, six hundred seventy eight thousand, four hundred and eighty-twelve lessons.

Lesson 6

I worked out today. I changed into athletic gear and then warmed up by walking up a flight of stairs to where the weight machines were. I marched right up to a machine that twists your abdomen like the rubber band on a wind-up propeller, toy airplane. I’m sure I’ve seen it in a museum about torture devices used in the Spanish inquisition. I set the weight at a level I thought would be an impressive challenge for a body builder… and started talking to the guy on the next machine over about which college football team he preferred. He was wearing an Auburn t-shirt, but he is a graduate and fan of LSU. The incongruity was as mind-bending as the impact that machine was designed to do to my stomach.

Meanwhile, a 125 lb. engineering student with a pocket protector asked if he could do a set on the machine I was “using.” I let him. He increased the weight and did a quick set of 20 reps. At that point I noticed that one of the televisions in the room was set to a soccer match. Well, I had to know what game it was, so I sat on a machine that was supposed to strengthen the long muscle that runs between your little finger and your knee cap. I didn’t want to distract myself from the match, so I set the weight at zero and continued to watch. After the match ended 40 minutes later, I had completed 18 rigorous sets of 2 reps each. I showered as a matter of principle, not because I had actually broken a sweat, and went back to work.

Tonight I saw 2 slices of leftover cheesecake in the refrigerator. Yeah, I’m on a diet but since I “went to the gym” today, I decided I deserved the little indulgence. Besides, I can work out again tomorrow and it would sill leave one more piece of cheesecake. On the other hand, if anyone eats that cheesecake before I get to it tomorrow night, I’ll be livid at that affront. I deserve that piece of cheesecake after the effort I put into working out.

Jesus told a story in Luke 17 about a slave that worked all day and when he came home he wouldn’t think of taking it easy. He first prepared supper and served his master. It would be silly and inappropriate for the slave to get the first seat at the dinner table, ahead of the master, just because the slave did what he was supposed to do all day. I think he was teaching something similar when he said “give us this day our daily bread.”

If Billy Graham were to pray for something, it seems like God would be practically obligated to give it to him no matter how silly, selfish, or sinful it might be. After all, Billy Graham has earned that answered prayer from all the hard work he has done.

I think maybe part of what Jesus was teaching was, “Just because you submit to what is best for God’s honor and reputation; just because you submit to His will being done on earth, it does not entitle you to health, wealth, and prosperity.” By submitting, you haven’t done anything as special as you might think. Submitting to God is just right and necessary, not so virtuous as to deserve preferential treatment. You are still entitled to no more than the provision of your basic needs, which He will do because he is a good master, not because you deserve something wonderful.

A sense of entitlement is incompatible with humble submission. Well, my cheesecake is gone. I think I’ll go hide that second piece to save it for tomorrow.

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