Have you ever went out of your way for someone only to have your efforts rejected? Perhaps you helped someone financially. Then, the person squandered the funds you provided on worthless trinkets and toys. Perhaps your gift was by physical efforts. Maybe you worked extra hard on some task for the person. Then, instead of being grateful, the person complained that you were not doing more, or perhaps the task was inadequate to their standards.
Picture a time when this occurred to you…
Do you have it in your mind yet?
Now, before you get angry at the person, ask yourself, “Why did that bother me so much?”
The answer is simple: a lack of appreciation.
We want our efforts to be appreciated. When I worked at a factory, I noticed that many workers would go out of their way to do a good job if they felt that they were appreciated. The contrast is also true. Now, I want to stretch your thinking.
How often are we guilty of being ungrateful to God???
I am seeing a trend. People get angry with God and leave the church when things do not go their way. With a proverbial I’ll show you attitude, we throw temper tantrums and act like spoiled brats when God does not answer a prayer in the manner we think God should. Now, I understand that it is more difficult when the unanswered prayers concern a person who is sick. But most of these attitudes stem from a job that was not received, extra money that did not come, trouble with a neighbor or friend, or a gift that was not given.
Recently on a podcast of Reasonable Faith, a person named Malcolm posed a conundrum for the skeptic. We ask the question, ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ But if God made a world with no suffering, then could someone not ask the same at the slightest example of discomfort? Malcolm writes that “it could be converted to the proposition that a loving God would always ensure that his creatures are happy. In such a situation, the Christian would be defending the proposition that a loving God would permit his creatures to suffer unhappiness.”
Dr. Craig responds by saying,
“This is a point that has occurred to me, and I think Malcolm has expressed it very well. Not only is it the fact that even if pain were eliminated you could still have things to complain about, but pain could be a lot worse than it is. As Richard Swinburne has pointed out, there is a kind of upper threshold to the pain that the human organism can experience and then we just blackout. It is not as though there is an infinite scale of pain that we might go through, as awful as it is. Pain could be a lot worse than it is. But then as Malcolm says if you eliminate pain there would still be grounds for complaint – discomfort. If you eliminate discomfort then there is inconvenience. In one sense, no matter where on the scale you are, the atheist could always have something to complain about and indict God for. I think that he is quite right in saying that it would be very difficult for the atheist to prove that if a loving God exists that he would always ensure that his creatures are happy. That would be to treat the creatures not as serious moral agents but as spoiled immature brats.”
I think that Malcolm and Craig are on to something. Many quote Philippians 4:13. You find the verse on mugs, shirts, pens, and even on Bible covers. It says that a person can do all things through Christ. However, few read the preceding verses. Paul writes,
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
The congregants where I pastor have heard me say several times that God is not a genie in a bottle. God does not pop out and grant us wishes. Rather, God is our Heavenly Father. God is building people of integrity. Paul writes that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
We may become frustrated when people act in unappreciative ways. However, it may be that we are guilty of being unappreciative to God. As we begin a new year, let us resolve to possess a spirit of thankfulness. Sure, things may have not gone the way you planned. Even still, you can be appreciative to God. God is building integrity in you. We really should thank God even for his answers of “no” and “wait.” As the popular country song states, we can even “thank God for unanswered prayers.”
God is loving and just. Obviously, God is far more mature than any of us could ever be. But consider how we must appear to God. God blesses us every day in ways that we will never know. Instead of being appreciative, many act like spoiled brats. Claiming, “God, I’ll show you.”
But understand this from one who has learned this principle firsthand: if you refuse to be used by God, God will use someone else.
God is going to continue his work with or without you. This is true of individuals, churches, communities, denominations, and even nations.
Become appreciative. Thank God for the blessings that God has bestowed upon you. Be open to the moving of God’s Spirit. May we all learn the art of appreciation in the New Year!
© December 30, 2015. Brian Chilton.
Craig, William Lane. Interviewed by Kevin Harris. “Questions on Pain, Numbers, and Knowledge.” Reasonable Faith.org (November 8, 2015). Accessed December 30, 2015. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/questions-on-pain-numbers-and-knowledge#ixzz3vvWUPEx0.
 William Lane Craig, interviewed by Kevin Harris, “Questions on Pain, Numbers, and Knowledge,” ReasonableFaith.org (November 8, 2015), accessed December 30, 2015.
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).