Why God Isn't a Magic Genie6:05 AM
We watched Facing the Giants the other day, we kids. We drank our tumblers-full of Pepsi and Sierra Mist, fought for a space on the couch and laughed at every joke and non-joke just because we're Bergmanns and that's what we do. As a self-professed critic, I know I ought to say something about the cheesy acting or the corny lines or the "faith-filled" plot, but quite frankly, I like my movies a bit amateur at times. (Plus, I've never got the guts up to write and film a movie, so I don't want to be too vocal against my betters.)
In case you live under a rock, Facing the Giants follows a defeated high school football coach as he struggles with life's giants. His team stinks and has for the past six years he's been a coach, and then he gets his life turned around and the team keeps winning games -- in short, like all the other sports-themed movies.
The problem for me isn't whether it's possible that a down-and-out Christian school can win the state championship -- I've seen God do bigger, and the miraculous isn't cheesy except to film critics. It's the notion that success is always what one imagines it to be.
I always wondered what would have happened if the protagonists hadn't been playing against a big, mean, tough, cheating, obnoxious team. What if the state championship title lay between two Christian schools who clawed by faith to be there that Friday night -- both with equal claim to God's help? Only one school would come home with the trophy.
I think about that when I lose scholarships and contests and prestige and whatnot. I don't think of my losing as God's displeasure or my failure but simply God's will -- which is bigger than my own life. When I "signed up" for Christianity, I didn't sign up for a personal genie to grant me peace, joy and happiness (a.k.a. my stuff when I want it). I surrendered myself to God alone. When I pray, I don't (or try not to) pray for my wants to be done but His will.
As a writer, I know how important the little things are in a story, especially when the story's epic and the cast of characters overwhelming. This Christian life is the most epic story out there -- the story of the Gospel changing hearts all across the world. The cast of characters involves all my brothers and sisters now and yet to be. I know I am of equal worth with every spiritual sibling -- and that each spiritual sibling is as worth as much as I am. If we lived life according to each person's wants and desires, the story would train wreck.
Which is why God isn't a genie -- He's sovereign. He cherishes each child and plans their lives carefully and loves them equally. He knows when it is better that I win or lose and when it's best that someone else wins or loses.
And the amazing thing is? Every act of God -- every win and loss and problem and everything -- is not only done for God's glory but for my ultimate benefit. He doesn't play favorites. I'm not cheated out of happiness. I find joy in everything because everything is joy.
That's why, to quote the Facing the Giants's coach, "When we win, we praise Him. If we lose, we praise Him." Because in the end, we always win.