In teaching and leading young people over the years, I have noticed a cultural idea that has seemed to creep its way into our world view. Churched or unchurched, you've probably heard this phrase many times before - "I have Jesus in my heart" or "I have God in my life."
Sometimes, no doubt, that phrased is used by a Christian to express a genuine salvation experience, but more often than not, I think it reflects a dangerous line of thought in American world view. It's the idea that we can "have God." The truth is we cannot. We cannot "have God in our schools," we cannot "have God in our government," we cannot "have God in our nation" because we cannot "have God."
But we aren't the first generation or the first nation to try. The Israelites in 1 Samuel thought they could "have God" too. The Philistines who bordered them had spent years oppressing the Israelites with their iron chariots and superior military prowess.
Tired of being enslaved, the Israelite leaders devised a plan. They would remove the ark of the covenant from the tabernacle, which represented God's presence with them, and bring it into battle against the Philistines. By having the powerful presence of God so physically in their midst, they were sure to defeat the mighty Philistines.
Their plan was not successful. Not only were they defeated, but 30,000 Israelites died in the battle and the Philistines stole the ark of the covenant.
Why had God not saved them from their enemies? Why had He allowed such defeat when they had taken great efforts to have His presence with them?
The answer is because God cannot be had. Salvation, victory and peace only come when God has you.
The Israelites in this story had not surrendered their control to the one, true Lord. In fact, they practiced many forms of idol worship to "cover all their bases." During this time in the nation's life, they worshipped God, but they also worshipped Baal, who was said to control the weather and agriculture, and Ashtoreth, who was believed to have the power over love and sex. They thought they could have God and their idols too.
I recognize this idea in American world view today. Some of us have God in our schedule once a week. We attend a service, say our prayers, hear His Word, and deserve to check the box that says "Chrstian" when asked our religion.
Some of us summon His presence when we find ourselves in a situation beyond our control or too big for our strength or understanding. We say things like, "I'll get through this because I have God." But we forget completely about Him when life seems manageable on our own again.
The words, "If we had God back in our schools…" or "we need God back in our government" has tumbled from my lips more than once. Do I mean sprinkling in prayer will summon God's presence and solve all our problems? It won't.
It won't because God cannot be had. Salvation, victory and peace only come when God has you.
If you are trying to "have God" to improve your life, your marriage, your family, or your children, stop. It won't work. The only thing that brings true salvation, lasting peace and unshakable hope is when God has you.
Promise for Today:
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:7-10