Misunderstood God – Part IIElderly Care Ministry
Misunderstood God Series – Part II: Hard to Please
Text: Romans 8:15, Romans 5:6-8, Ephesians 2:4-5
We’re going to talk about misunderstandings of God that we have.
People have a lot of different ideas about what God is like. One idea is that God is really distant from us. He doesn’t know what’s going on in our lives. God actually knows us very well, and he has a hope and vision for our lives. Another misconception that people have about God is that he’s really hard to please, that he’s this perfect, all good, all-knowing God and we just are not like him. When he sees us make mistakes and sinning and we commit the same sins again and again, we think he must be so fed up with us and that he’s just angry, and he’s like, “You did it again,” and that we’re always failing his standards. And that’s the idea that a lot of people talk about God, is that he’s just very hard to please.
A lot of the ways that we think about God are based on our experience with other people and we think, “God must be like that person,” or, “God must be like him or her.” We may have grown up with people that we found were really hard to please. For me that was my parents. I’m really confident that my parents love me very much, but as immigrants to America we really pursued the American dream and they really wanted me to succeed.
So whatever I did, it usually wasn’t enough. I remember when I was in the 4th grade and I was in a spelling bee competition. I won the school wide spelling bee contest so I moved onto the school district spelling bee contest, which was bigger. And I kept competing. I spelled all these hard 14-letter words until it was down to me and just one other girl. We went back and forth, spelling words, until finally I spelled one word wrong. And then it was the other girl’s turn and she spelled it correctly. At that point I breathed a sigh of relief because I was so relieved that the darn competition was over. I was glad to have won second place.
But when I approached my mom after the competition was done, I was expecting her to be really proud and congratulating me that I won second place. But instead she asked me, “Why did you spell that word wrong?” I was so disappointed. That communicated to me that I wasn’t good enough, that I hadn’t done well enough, and that my parents didn’t raise me to be second-best—they raised me to be number one.
So I had projected my experience with my parents onto God, and I thought, “God must be like my parents—hard to please, really high standards.” And especially since God’s standard is perfection, then we must obviously think, “Yeah, he’s really frustrated and he’s really fed up with us, and he’s disappointed.” Sometimes we think God is hard to please not because of our experiences with other people but because we have high standards for ourselves. I think to myself, “I want to be a certain kind of person—I want to be smart; I want to be pretty or popular; I want to be responsible, not let people down; I want to be independent and not have to depend on other people.” And we beat ourselves up because we don’t even meet our own expectations for ourselves.
You can feel this way also when you transition into different stages of your life. When you’re a student and you transition into the working world, you keep making mistakes and your boss gets mad at you. Or maybe you were childless and now you’re a parent and you feel so weak and inadequate because you don’t know what you’re doing and the baby keeps crying and you’ve done everything you could and you feel like you’ve failed as a parent. Maybe you feel frustrated now that you’re getting older. You can’t remember the things that you used to, or you used to be a lot stronger and healthier, but now you keep getting sick. As much as we try, we can’t live our lives perfectly.
How should we respond to our failures and shortcomings, and how does God respond? Is he always dissatisfied and displeased with us? The Bible says that he is not, that he is like a father who has affectionate love for his children. Let’s read the first verse together. It’s Romans 8:15. If you’re able to, please follow along and read aloud with me:
15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
This verse makes it very clear that God regards us as children, and he is the father that we can cry out to.
I think about parents and why they love their kids. I’m not a parent yet. I will be eventually, I hope. When you think about how parents love their kids, it has nothing to do with what they can do for their parents. All kids do is take. They just receive and take from you. If you think about babies, they take your time, your sleep, and your money. I’m sure many of you have your own children and grandchildren and you love them just because they’re there, just because they belong to you. You’re not thinking, “All this investment, that kid better pay me back. He better buy my car or pay my retirement fund.” You love the child just because he or she is there. The Bible makes it clear that we are children of God, that through Jesus we all became adopted as his children, and he loves us not because of anything we’ve done, but just because we belong to him. And even when we mess up, he still loves us. Let’s read Romans 5:6-8:
6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
That means, even while we’re still sinning, even while we’re wicked and grumbling and complaining and being beastly towards other people, God still has mercy on us. We get frustrated with ourselves because we think, “Gosh, we’re still like this, we’re not going to change.” But God’s reaction is mercy and love. He’s not waiting for us to fix ourselves.
Now just to clarify, I’m not saying that God is ok with our bad sins. He doesn’t approve of our mistakes, just like maybe you as a parent didn’t approve if your child lied to you or cheated on a test at school. God does not compromise his holy and good standards. But when he sees us mess up, he responds to us with mercy.
If he gives such mercy, how should we respond back to God? We need to go to him with our honest and humble confession and ask for forgiveness. There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If we confess our sins to God and say, “God, this is what I’ve done, this is who I am, this is what’s happened of my life,” and we say that honestly to God and ask for forgiveness, then he will definitely forgive us. So, in closing, let’s read this last verse—Ephesians 2:4-5:
4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in his mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
That is the good news of the Gospel, that even though we are sinners, and even though we keep messing up, God has made us alive through Jesus. It’s by his grace and mercy that we’re saved. As we think about this misunderstanding, that he’s just part taskmaster or he’s always shaking his finger at us, we need to replace this picture of God with the real picture of God from the Bible. He sees us with mercy and he sees us as forgiven and clean through Jesus, and as his beloved sons and daughters. Because of that, we have the confidence and the strength to go back to God again and again.