Do you sometimes find speed bumps along the way while reading Scripture? You know! That’s when you’re reading along in a chapter of the Bible and all of a sudden, you feel your mind or heart go up in the air and you think, “Why is that there?” Just as a speed bump in the road tells you, “Slow down!,” a speed bump in your spirit is the Holy Spirit saying, “Slow down! Pay attention to why this is here.”
I hit a Scripture Speed Bump this morning as I continued reading Romans. I’m currently reading Romans 11-16 every day and usually try to read in a different translation so that I don’t get too used to the wording of one version. And so this morning Romans 11 had a speed bump while I read it in the NCV: New Century Version.
(By the way, you might be thinking, “Kathy sure has a lot of different Bibles.” Actually, I read different versions at www.biblegateway.com.)
It always surprises me, but it shouldn’t, that a verse I’ve read many times can get a speed bump. It just goes to show how we can scan over something and not pay attention and/or the Spirit wants to stop us to reveal something to us. Option #2 is what happened this morning as I read Romans 11:34-36:
“‘Yes, God’s riches are very great, and his wisdom and knowledge have no end! No one can explain the things God decides or understand his ways. As the Scripture says,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been able to give him advice?” — Isaiah 40:13
“No one has ever given God anything
that he must pay back.” — Job 41:11
Yes, God made all things, and everything continues through him and for him. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (NCV)
I hit the speed bump when I read the words I highlighted in red. I stopped and thought, “What’s that got to do with anything?” It just didn’t seem to apply to the point. Paul has been talking about how the Gentiles were grafted in and the Jews were un-grafted and how it’s all up to God’s choice and mercy. I could see how the previous verse applied but my mind couldn’t grasp the verse that Paul quoted from Job 41:11.
So I went to Job 41 where God is telling Job about how just as it’s useless to try to tame the great Leviathan, it’s useless to try to tame Him. And then God says to Job: “No one has ever given me anything that I must pay back, because everything under the sky belongs to me. (Job 41:11 NCV).
My brain still wasn’t connecting all the dots but eventually I got it: “God doesn’t owe you anything, Kathy.” If we give someone something we usually have a sense that they owe us. Either they’ll need to return it or they must reciprocate. But God is saying, “Regardless of what you do for me, I don’t owe you anything. There’s nothing I need and there’s nothing you can give me that I don’t already own.”
Yet I hate to say it, we sometimes operate as if God owes us. I’ve talked about entitlement before and these verses go right along with it. And this all goes along with our current verse in Romans 13:14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
What are one of the ways we “make provision for our flesh?” By having an attitude that God owes us. I’m reading Red Like Blood: Confrontations with Grace by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington. Joe tells about how his younger brother, a sophomore in college, was killed in a head-on motorcycle accident along with his rider, a 14-year-old from the youth group. Joe tells about how Rachel and Jacob had household gods and then writes, “I realized as I stood knee deep in the aftermath of the storm [brother’s death], my faith floating like so many splinters around me, that I really had nothing more than a household god. As a minister and the son of a minister I thought I had a contract with God. My family would serve him and in exchange he would take care of us. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. I found out on that Monday night that God had not signed the contract and without a contract a household god is pretty worthless. I picked my god up and threw him as far as I could.”
Joe had made provision for the flesh through his “no-brainer” one-sided contract with God. In another part of the book he talks about how the disappointment with God not keeping His part of the contract resulted in anger at God which led to a three-year depression.
But Joe ended up “putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” by repenting of his disappointment and his wrong expectation. He writes, “Pain tempts me to question the heart or the head of God. I only need to take a look in either a telescope or a microscope to be reminded of his head. I only need to take a look at the cross to be reminded of his heart. God, forgive me for my simple math [of trying to figure you out].”
When you and I begin to believe God owes us (and we’re making provision for the flesh), we only need to look at the cross which reminds us of our sin and our utter unworthiness of anything good. And then we look at Jesus on the cross and see God’s love for you and me. If He was willing to give up His most valuable person, then whatever He allows in our lives is within His definition of “love.”
Maybe you’re going through something really hard and it’s hard to see and feel God’s love. Maybe this situation is even stuffing provisions into your back pack labeled “reasons to distrust God.” Throw out that back pack and put on the Lord Jesus Christ instead. I’m not saying it’s easy to do; but by focusing on the cross, you can throw out your “entitlement” household god.