Have you ever noticed that some people never think about God until something goes wrong in their life?
“Jailhouse” conversions are legendary. A person ends up in trouble, “gets religion,” and makes all sorts of promises to God that generally has the duration of their time in jail.
That is not to minimize real conversions that do happen in prison, one of the most notable being the late Chuck Colson who went on to found Prison Fellowship, an organization that does a tremendous work in prisons around the world.
And I’m sure my friend Frank Zeidler who heads up the Saints Prison Ministry could tell you many stories of marvelous transformations he has witnessed.
One does not have to be incarcerated to experience one of these jailhouse conversions; one needs only to find themselves in some difficult situation and suddenly they are bargaining with God, who otherwise they totally ignore, making Him all sorts of promises, that as soon as the trouble is past, the promise will be forgotten.
That’s a dangerous game. King Solomon, who has the reputation of being the wisest man who ever lived (even though this wisest man went through a season of his life when he did some pretty dumb things), wrote, “It’s better not to make a promise at all than to make one and not keep it. Don’t let your mouth get you in trouble! And don’t say to the worship leader, ‘I didn’t mean what I said.’” (Ecclesiastes 5:5, 6a CEV).
Then, there’s the atheist. Many atheists I know are a walking contradictions in terms. They claim they don’t believe in God, but as soon as something bad happens they spew venom about how a good God could allow such a thing. More often than not, it is this anger that has caused them to turn away from any belief in God.
One of the most well known men like this is Ted Turner. Turner was preparing for ministry when his sister became ill and died. This so angered Turner that he became an atheist. But my question to people like this is, how can you be angry at a being you say doesn’t exist?
In fairness, I am sure my atheistic friends would respond to that by saying, “We’re not angry at a being, we’re angry that people like you promote such a being in the face of the pain and suffering that happens in this world!”
Funny thing is I have never heard an atheist complain after a natural disaster that this just proves natural law does not exist. Furthermore, I have never heard anyone raise even a hint of complaint against Mother Nature after a natural disaster; the complaint is always leveled at God.
Even most Christians who claim to believe in God treat Him like the spare tire in their trunks. They know He is there for emergencies, they just hope they never have to use Him.
Like that spare tire, we’re glad when we do need it, but we don’t usually even think about it when we don’t need it. Be honest, how many reading this article when you are checking the air pressure in your tires ever open the trunk and test the pressure in the spare? I know I don’t.
Given this scenario, maybe the best thing God can do for us is trouble us. To let us know there are things greater than us and that we need the help of Someone greater than us.
C.S. Lewis called pain, “God’s megaphone to rouse a sleeping world” and observed that the phrase, “I have everything I need is a horrible phrase if it doesn’t include God.”
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway Web site at www.gatewaycommunity.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.