Do you remember this story:
The evening arrived; the boys took their places. The master, in his cook's uniform, stationed himself at the copper; his pauper assistants ranged themselves behind him; the gruel was served out; and a long grace was said over the short commons. The gruel disappeared; the boys whispered each other, and winked at Oliver; while his next neighbors nudged him. Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:
'Please, sir, I want some more.'
It is a powerful scene of want and need contrasted by unkind disregard and restraint. It leaves us with an ache in our hearts. A single word jumps out at us: more.
Dickens book, Oliver Twist, called attention to the social injustices of his day. People of authority were mistreating - for personal advantage - those vulnerable who had been placed in their charge. The masters and wardens were miserly and uncharitable toward those in need.
Is there any greater contrast to the generosity of our God?
Unfortunately, many do view God as having the same kind of disposition as those masters and wardens of Dickens’ day. They believe God does give - but only the bare minimum. He does pay attention - but only just in passing. His goodness may be poured out on the spiritually elite, but the rest of us have to clamour for it.
Consider the following:
“For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!” (Paul uses “more” here in a comparative sense, not a quantitative sense - Rom 5:17 NET)
“…and our Lord's grace was abundant, bringing faith and love in Christ Jesus.” (1Tim 1:14 NET)
Did you know Paul never teaches God’s people to ask for “more” grace, or love, or mercy, or forgiveness, or any other quality of God’s disposition toward us? Even when inflicted with some kind of suffering, Paul was reminded that God’s grace - the grace already abundantly poured out on him - was sufficient (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
Paul never prayed that the church would have “more” of God’s grace or love. He did pray - consistent with his own experience - that we would comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of the love of God. Our exploration of this will never end because it is infinite in nature. There is always something to learn. It is our understanding that needs to grow not God’s compassion toward us (Eph. 3:14-20).
We do not need “more” of God. We just need God. God does not withhold His love and grace from us. He does not dole it out as a reward like a trainer teaching tricks to a dolphin. Our struggle is not that love and grace are being withheld. Rather, it is with our understanding of who God is. Because of the lingering effects of sin and our brokenness, our perceptions of God - unless carefully sourced in Scripture - will be skewed. We always tend to make God in our image. Starting with flawed presuppositions results in flawed perceptions.
This is a hard truth for any of us to accept. Is this really true?
Yes, it is.
The solution? (It isn’t easy, it isn’t quick . . . sorry . . . and please be assured this is good teaching but hard living. I struggle with this as much as anyone else.) Our starting point is a realignment of our passions and priorities to those of the Kingdom. That’s why Jesus was so dogmatic about life in the Kingdom using statements like, “If you are going to follow me you have to hate your mother and father.” Shock value, for sure. Hyperbolic, for sure. But it drives home Jesus’ point that life in His Kingdom will be different than what we are used to. Our passions and priorities need to change.
We must also learn to embrace faith. Faith always has an object. Life in the Kingdom demands faith in a God who, although there is evidence of His presence, remains unseen. This is counter-intuitive but it is not anti-intellectual. The evidence of a Creator is everywhere. Displacing faith in things we can control with faith in Someone unseen and beyond our control can only be accomplished by the Spirit of God. Thankfully, God does that work and we can respond to Him.
Wanting “more” of God is because God is stirring something in our hearts. Let’s be careful, though. God has already promised and provided in abundance what we need. It isn’t more of HIM that is our pursuit. It is clarity of our knowledge of Him, skill in walking with Him, and confidence in His goodness.
Need help with that? That’s why we live our life and faith in community. Together we learn to walk with God and to represent Him well in the dynamics of everyday life. What a wonderful desire - to want more knowledge, faith-skill, and confidence in a God whose grace and love is always in abundance.