Why doesn’t God answer our prayers more quickly? Have you ever prayed for a situation that did not change? You wish that your boss’s demands would be more reasonable, your parents more understanding, or a sick or elderly family member to be completely healed. Do you fight certain unhealthy tendencies in our heart that you cannot seem to overcome– a lurking pride about our accomplishments, perpetual struggles with either physical or emotional lust, an obsession with buying things that we do not need, or a pervasive discontentment about our own situation?
God could easily snap his fingers and fix each of these situations. Why doesn’t he? Ultimately we don’t know, and there are many answers to this question. One problem, though, is that we become obsessed with fighting this one sin or changing this one situation but are not concerned in a larger way with the purposes of God. God desires universal obedience not just the relief of our situations or our consciences. He desires to conform our lives completely in the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). Sometimes God knows that if he were to give us what we wanted, we would not desire what He wanted. We want to fix a particular situation or particular issue that plagues our conscience, but we are not concerned with the negligence of prayer or neglect of God’s Word, or obsession with the things of the world rather than the things of God. We “tithe min and dill and cumin” but neglect “the weightier matters of the law” (Matt 23:23).
While our desire to be rid of this sin or change this situation is good, we must consider the goal of dealing with this sin:
If thou hatest sin as sin, every evil way, thou shouldst be no less watchful against every thing that grieves and disquiets the Spirit of God, than against that which grieves and disquiets thine own soul. It is evident that thou contendest against sin merely because of thy own trouble by it. Would thy conscience be quiet under it, thou wouldst let it alone. (John Owen, “On the Mortification of Sin,” ch. 8 )
This is the issue. Do we fight these sins, do we desire to change these situations, simply because of the discomfort that it causes us? Or do we earnestly desire what pleases God?
God desires our holiness not just our comfort. Paul says, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1). We are to bring holiness to completion by cleansing ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit. “Every defilement” refers not only to the sins that bother our conscience and the situations that bring us discomfort; God desires that we “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit.”
So how do we fight this sin? This post is getting a bit long, so we’ll save that for another post.