Do We Take God For Granted?

John 1:1-14 / Psalm 84

The Reverend Bryn MacPhail / January 15, 2006


            We begin this morning with a very simple question: Do we take God for granted? We need not take 25 minutes to answer such a question. I need but a moment to determine what is for me an embarrassing reality—that, yes, I take God for granted.


            Clearly, God does not want us to take Him for granted. Jesus cites as the foremost commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mk. 12:30). “Secondly”, Jesus says, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mk. 12:31).


            Elsewhere, Jesus instructs us, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33).


            Time and time again we read in Scripture about the supreme priority of God and His kingdom. And, almost as often, we are cautioned regarding the human tendency to take God for granted.


            If we concede that, yes, we do take God for granted, it would seem prudent that we take steps this morning to correct this. To this end, I would like us to consider this morning three things. First, consider the nature and status of God. Second, consider our status by the grace of God. And thirdly, consider the benefits when God is made our supreme priority.


            The apostle John, throughout this Gospel book is concerned with our response to the call Jesus. John wants us to know the seriousness of this call and so he begins by describing for us the nature and status of Jesus.


            In the beginning”—that is, in eternity—we are told that Jesus is known as “the Word”. It is further explained that Jesus, the Word, “was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1,2). Why should we trust in Jesus? Why should we prioritize Jesus above all else?  Because Jesus is no mere religious leader; He is no mere prophet; Jesus is the One through whom the Universe was created (1:3); in short, Jesus is God. 


            Unfortunately, the light of Christ shone into the darkness, but “the darkness did not recognize (Him)” (1:5). Translation: Jesus, who stepped out of eternity and into human history, was taken for granted by those He came to save.


            Once again citing the eternal nature of Jesus, John writes, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (1:10, 11). Translation: Jesus, who created all things, was taken for granted by those whom He created.


            If we take some time to consider that the One who calls us is also the One who created us, we should be sufficiently motivated to follow Him. When we consider that the One who calls us is the sovereign King of this Universe, we should be adequately convinced of our need to not take Him for granted.


            I often think back to my University years, when I worked as a landscaper during the summer months. As you might imagine, our crew was divided up according to the tasks that needed to be done. The desired jobs were to drive the tractor lawn mowers or to be a part of the group that drove around watering all the flowers. The less desirable jobs were operating the push-mowers or carrying around a heavy-duty gasoline trimmer all day.


            What made things interesting is that our boss would frequently have us switch around the jobs according to how well we were working. At a moments notice our boss had the ability to promote us from a less desirable job to a desirable job. Similarly, he could just as easily take away our plush job and give us something much more difficult to do.


            Reminding us of this reality was his bright red truck, which circulated through the properties we maintained. If we began to take our current position for granted, all we needed was a glimpse of that red truck to regain our focus.


            Now, I do not want to extend this analogy to say that God is like a harsh boss in a red truck. No—that’s not my point. The point is that, because we are prone to take our privileged position for granted, we need reminders to motivate our work.


            Fortunately or unfortunately, God does not drive around in a red truck reminding us throughout the day to prioritize Him and His kingdom work. But God does provide us with His written Word, which confronts us today and reminds us of His sovereign rule over all of creation. The Scriptures before us this morning remind us of our need to receive Jesus Christ and to be led by Him.


            As we think about how to correct our tendency to take God for granted, we should, first of all, consider God’s nature and status. Secondly, as we seek further motivation for prioritizing God and His kingdom we should consider our status by the grace of God.


Thankfully, not everyone rejected Christ—indeed, there were some who did recognize the light and “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God” (1:12).


If you have received Christ, if you have trusted Him for your salvation, the Scripture says that you have a new status—we have become the children of God.


There is a distinction made here within God’s creation that cannot be easily dismissed. In that God has created every human being and every living thing, we confess that we are all recipients of His favour. Jesus, Himself, says that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mt. 5:45). And while all of God’s creation enjoys the benefit of a generous Creator, we are also told that only those who receive Jesus are given the particular right of becoming the children of God.


If we have received Christ, our thoughts should frequently dwell on our particular status in Him. We are, in a very distinct way, God’s children. And, as such, we represent God in a distinct and special way. Accordingly, how we speak and how we behave reflects on Him—because we have taken His name in calling ourselves Christians.


This should motivate our conduct. In that we are God’s children, bearing the name of Christ, we should make every effort to live for Him and His kingdom.


And finally, as we seek to correct our tendency of taking God for granted, we should consider the benefits when God is made our supreme priority.


If we do not know what this is like; if we do not know the benefits of making God our supreme priority, we should observe the benefits of this pursuit being enjoyed by others and we should seek to learn from them.


Reflecting once again on my younger days I remember the first time I was convinced that going cliff jumping would be a source of great fun. This was the message from a group that just returned from cliff jumping from a nearby island in Lake Rosseau.


In response to my friends’ testimony, I went with a few people to the same island, but my experience was quite different. On my first jump I made the mistake of yelling in mid-air only to have the water slam my mouth shut causing me to bite the tip of my tongue. I’ll not go into the gruesome details that followed. Needless to say, I did not find cliff jumping to be a joyful experience.


Sometime later, I tried cliff jumping again. This time, I made sure my mouth was shut, but I made a new mistake—I held my arms straight out. The result of my arms slapping the water caused me great distress and left behind bright red markings. Again, not very much fun.


Call me a glutton for punishment, but a couple of years ago I attempted cliff jumping once again. This time, however, I paid attention to what other people were doing. I desperately wanted to share in their joy and so I watched their every move—how they approached the ledge, how they jumped, what their body did in mid-air and what their body did when impacting the water.


I am glad to report, as the expression goes, ‘the third time was a charm’. Well, really, there was no ‘charm’ here—in order to experience the joy of cliff jumping, I had to carefully emulate the habits of those who were already enjoying the exercise.


And, so it is in the Christian life. For most of us, we need more than to simply hear from a pulpit that making Christ our supreme priority is the key to lasting joy. We need examples of where this has been true. We need role models who we can watch and imitate. I think this is why people say that they want church leaders who not only ‘talk the talk’, but who also, ‘walk the walk’.


I certainly have not mastered this. Making Christ the supreme priority of my life is a daily struggle, but I can tell you that when He is first in my life—it is then that I am most satisfied with life. My limited experience resonates with the beautiful testimony of the sons of Korah in Psalm 84, “How lovely are Thy dwelling places, O Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God” (Ps. 84:1,2).


O that we could all say, “my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God”!


Friends, this is the benefit of making Christ and His kingdom your supreme priority. This is not some ‘pie in the sky’ theology; it’s not as if the sons of Korah were speaking from a perspective unfamiliar with hardship. No, in verse 6 there is a reference to “passing through the valley of weeping”. Christian joy does not come by escaping adversity, but rather, Christian joy comes by overcoming adversity. The Psalmists teach us that when we place our trust in the Lord, “the valley of weeping” becomes “a place of springs”.


As I consider our gathering here this morning I reckon that some of you are presently in “the valley of weeping”, some of you are in “a place of springs”, and the rest of you are somewhere in between.


Conceding that we are in different places, I should ask a question that unites: Where would you like to be?


I think we all would like to be in the place the sons of Korah spoke of. “How blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee”, they declare. And again, “from strength to strength they go” (Ps. 84:7). That’s what I want. I want to say with the psalmists, “a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand outside” (Ps. 84:10).


We can have that for ourselves. Consider the nature and status of our Lord Jesus Christ. Consider our status as the children of God. And, consider the benefits when God is made our supreme priority.


If you do this, you will find that you will take God for granted less and less. Do this and you will find yourself singing with the psalmists, “O Lord of hosts, how blessed is the one who trusts in Thee!” Amen.