Posted by: Bob Clark | March 25, 2008

God in a Bottle

If you have not read the previous entry, “God in a Box”, I would encourage you to do so before reading this entry.

God is amazing. He can do amazing things. He can heal. He can hear and answer prayers. We must not try to put God in a box. But neither should we put him in a bottle, you know, try to bottle Him up for use whenever we may need Him.

When we embrace this “God in a Bottle” view of God, God becomes like a genie in a bottle. And God performs for us — all we have to do is know how to rub the bottle the right way — then presto, God appears and our wishes are granted. Confession time: I remember a time when I was downright haughty about my prayers being answered. I had pity on the poor, unspiritual people who did not know the correct formula for rubbing the bottle. I had put, or tried to, God in a Bottle.

God as a genie in a bottle.

I actually read an interview with a singer recently who was asked if she had any good luck charms. Her response, “God.” Sometimes people treat God as if He were a charm to bring good luck. It’s like sometimes people think they carry God around in a bottle and whenever they need Him, they just rub the bottle and He comes out and does tricks.

Sometimes it gets much more personal and sincere than what we witness in some people who have stars in their eyes. Some Christians get depressed and feel guilty, thinking their prayers were inferior, their faith too weak to have God answer. And so we say, “If I had only prayed more, my son would not have. . . .”
God, as I know Him, is powerful, make that, all-powerful. God can do anything that can possibly be done (please, none of that, “Can God make a rock bigger than He can lift?”). God can heal. God can do things that leave people in utter amazement. God answers prayer.

But God does not always do what we think He should do. God does not always do what we ask Him to do. God does not always say “yes” to every prayer we offer up to Him. God does not always make everything go perfectly for His people. Or to continue my metaphor, God does not always come out and perform for us.

As you think through this with me, consider these quick references —

  • The Jewish people of the Old Testament. See Joseph. See Job. See the entire nation.
  • Jesus. He died on a cross, a death designed for criminals deserving of the death penalty.
  • Paul. When you first read about him in Acts (as “Saul”), he is killing Christians. Were they praying? Was anyone praying for them? Later, after Paul becomes a Christian, he faces all sorts of hardships (you can read about many of them in Acts as well as in an autobiographical section of 2 Corinthians, in chapters 11 and 12).
  • People buried in every cemetery in town. Was there no one praying for them? Did none of them pray? Why does everyone eventually die, even those who have at some point been healed?

No, we must not put God in a box. We need to be open to the amazing power of God. But we must not put God in a bottle either. Think about it — when we understand God as a being who must act the way we want Him to, whenever we ask, we really have placed Him under our control.

Here are some questions I am wrestling with as I try to better know my God. Am I willing to admit that God’s understanding is greater than my own? Am I willing to admit that God’s view of the big picture of life is clearer than my own? Am I willing to admit that I may be praying for something that God, who knows more than me, might know to be harmful in the big picture of things? Am I willing to let God out of the box without putting Him in a bottle?

Father God,
You are amazing.
Your power is amazing.
Your wisdom is amazing.
Your love is amazing.
Your listening to me is amazing.
Your answering me is amazing.
Amaze me, God,
in ways I do not expect,
in ways I do not understand,
in ways that I cannot comprehend.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tomorrow: God on a Leash

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