The granddaughters had walked their baby dolls in the stroller, put together some puzzles, played catch with the giant ball, cooked dinner in their miniature kitchen, and scanned groceries into their cash register. Nona (me) was exhausted. The girls showed no signs of slowing down.
“Nona, will you read this to us?”
The three-year-old slapped a book into my lap. Her two-year-old sister stood next to her with another selection of reading material.
I stared at a hundred puzzle pieces strewn across the carpet, the other toys scattered in various corners of the room.
“Okay. And after I read the stories, we’re going to clean up the puzzle pieces.”
By the end of both books, they seemed to have forgotten the agreement. “Play ‘Ashes Fall Down?’” the younger girl asked.
“When you clean up the puzzle pieces, we can play ‘Ashes Fall Down,’” I promised.
The girls stared at the daunting task before them. They knew their Nona kept her promises, but this one was conditional upon a given task, and they didn’t know where to begin. I gave them a nudge. Picking up the empty bag that was supposed to hold the pieces, I directed them to pick up a few at a time and drop them in. They could do that. After several trips around the room, every puzzle piece arrived at its home in the bag.
And then we played “Ring Around the Rosy,” that age-old song that I thought was long forgotten by everyone except me. Apparently 21st century preschoolers love it as much as every generation before them.
Notice the order:
- 1) the girls made a request.
- 2) I answered with a promise conditional upon specific behaviors.
- 3) The girls completed their end of the bargain with a little assistance from me, BUT I did not do their work.
- 4) I kept my promise.
Doesn’t God do the same with us?
- We make a request.
- He answers with a promise, sometimes conditional, sometimes not.
- We have to follow through.
- He follows through.
Too often, though, we think He’s not being fair. We misquote 1 John 5:14-15 acting as if He is required to answer “yes” to anything we ask. But read carefully. “And this is the confidence which we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of Him.” (RSV).
My granddaughters didn’t think I was being unfair to require clean-up before we started a new activity. Why should we be angry with God if He requires something reasonable from us before fulfilling a request?
The girls felt overwhelmed at first looking at the mess. If I had left them with no guidance, the chore wouldn’t have gotten done. But I gave them some direction, and they managed the job a little at a time. God does the same for us. If He has required something difficult, we’re not totally on our own. He’ll help out, but He won’t fulfill the requirements for us.
The girls also trusted me knowing my word was good. They didn’t descend into whining. The answer to their request had already been obtained if they could figure out how to do their part so I would keep my promise.
Both skeptics and Christians can learn from them. Make a reasonable request. Don’t get mad or whine if the answer isn’t an immediate yes. Ask for a little help if you don’t know how to get started. Be assured that if God promises you something and you do your part, you’ve already got what you asked for. It’s on its way.
God has come through on many of His promises for me. I’m still waiting on others. Either I haven’t completed my part yet, or someone else involved hasn’t completed their part yet. It’s okay. I trust my Father in heaven to keep every promise to me as we work out my salvation together.
Feel free to share any promises He has kept to you. I love to hear stories of His goodness.