What do we take for granted? Who do we take for granted? The foundation for taking something for granted is a belief that something does not need attention, that it is fine just as it is. It is something that we do not need to think about. We take things for granted, like breathing, until something happens that makes breathing difficult. Then it gets our attention. We can take eating for granted until there is no food. We can take relationships for granted until we lose them. We can take God for granted until we come to find out we need God.
I am afraid too many people take God for granted. I am afraid too many people do not realize that they have done this until a disaster strikes or they die and discover with horror and regret we should not have taken God for granted.
How do you avoid taking God for granted? We can avoid it by reflecting and acting on what Jesus says. Jesus gives us an important insight here. If we love Jesus, we will obey God’s commands? Ok, good, what is it that Jesus commands? Do you know?
Bible tells us of a young man who comes to Jesus and asked what is required for eternal life. Jesus replied, “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ” (Mk. 10:19 NIV) The young man agreed and says that he has done this since he was young. At least he through he had kept them. However, Jesus tells him to give to the poor and follow him. The young man cannot do this and walks away sad.
Jesus tells us, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
The question for us in reflection is a simple one, “Have I done what God expects? Do I care what God expects? Do I simply try to ignore the spiritual requirements of life, taking them for granted and hoping everything will work?
God does want us to understand that while grace is free and that God loves us unconditionally, God does not force love or obedience. We do not have to choose God. We can choose our own will if we want. We had just better not make the mistake of taking God for granted and believe there will be no consequences for doing so. We cannot take our eternal state or our relationship with Jesus for granted. Relationships are a two-way affair. Yes, God gives and gives and gives. Yes, God is forgiving, merciful, and loving. But God will not force us. If we know God, love God, and desire to honor God we must keep God’s desires first and foremost in our minds. To not do so is to take them for granted. The Christian faith is not about cheap grace. It is a faith of relational connection and relational responsibility. It is not a take-it-for-granted relationship. If we understood the opposition to the true faith, the deceptions, delusions, and diabolical lies we will face we would not take our faith for granted.
Jesus gives us insight into the challenge we face, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14 NIV) And, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14 NIV) Jesus tried to make it clear, “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Lk. 12:5 NIV)
We are continually struggling whether we know it or not against not only our own willfulness to choose the way we want but also, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12 NIV)
Jesus knows how difficult our spiritual struggle is. Jesus knows that we can easily fall victim. Jesus knows how we can be used by evil. Jesus knows how we often willingly follow lies. Jesus came to show and teach humanity how easily we can be deceived. Jesus wants the disciples to know this. Jesus wants us to know this.
Jesus then tells the disciples, “All this I have spoken while still with you.”
Jesus was aware that even in his death, the enemy would not give up. The enemy wants to lead every human being astray. The enemy wants to see us suffer and die. The enemy wants us in hell and will do whatever it can to destroy us. Jesus will not leave us to fight this fight by ourselves. Jesus wants to give us a helper, a comforter, an advocate, and the very presence of God in our lives to stand with us, strengthen us, and empower us. This help is going to be the Holy Spirit.
This is what Jesus tells his disciples, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
A relationship with Jesus is always about faith. Jesus did not come to bring certainty but an opportunity to believe and trust based on the revelation God gives to us. Then. The disciples could see Jesus but that was going to change. Jesus became one of us because faith had descended into legalism and ritual without relationship. Jesus gave us an understanding of God that transcends certainty and instead gives us a connection to the mystery that is much deeper and far more real than certainty. Death is a certainty. The promises of God go beyond death to all of eternity. Jesus was God with us, and he still is God with us, not by sight but by faith. It is the Holy Spirit that enables faith and sustains faith. It is the Holy Spirit that comes and dwells with us when we turn to faith in Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit that works in us to make us more like our Lord and to give us assurance and hope beyond certainty.
To confirm what Jesus says, Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Jesus then goes on to say, “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. (Jn. 14:28-29 NIV)
Jesus says he will come back. Jesus keeps his word. Our faith believes in this promise. Jesus will return.
Jesus has left us as far as his incarnate presence as a human being on Earth. We are the ones who now must fully live by faith and trust. In this, we are blessed. For Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Jn. 20:29 NIV)
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Pet. 1:8-9 NIV)
It is a dangerous thing to take God for granted. It is a positive thing to seek the assurance Jesus offers us. How often do we cheat ourselves from the blessing because we are not active in our faith and belief? We too often choose the path of the world rather than the way of the Lord. I hope each of us takes time to reflect, repent, and return to seeking to do the will of God in all things.