Praying for Character Development
A thought in applied theology:
It is said (about half-seriously) in Christian circles that you should never pray for God to make you more patient. The reasoning is that He normally does this by arranging events so as to give lots of opportunities to practice. Which is probably the opposite of what you actually wanted.
This can also apply to other things. My list is currently:
- Trusting difficult circumstances
- Responding well to trials/suffering/difficulties
- Loving the unlovable
I got the following response (among others):
God teaches us the things we need by giving us real-life examples of what we lack, and gives us repeating opportunities to be in those situations until we finally make the right decision (with His coaching and encouragement). God doesn't cause bad situations, but He does allow the enemy to test us - the same way Job, Joseph, David, etc had been tested... so that they could see where they lack and understand God more fully.
Other religions desire one to be religiously perfect - to act in the ways that are believed to be most honorable by the people. In giving to those who don't deserve it, to take care of fellow man who asks regardless of who they are or what they have done, and to be at peace in all things. In many ways, I think some of them show these things better than many people who call themselves "Christ-like" but are not. The problem with other religions is that they do these things with a promise of reward of good blessings in their life... which happens. God never goes back on His word, no matter who is doing it... His promises are not just for those who know who He is. His promises are for everyone: "if you do this, than this is what I will do". Many people call this karma - but it is the promise of God fulfilling itself in the real world. If we take care of the poor, broken & needy than good things will happen to us in this life.
The problem is that these people are able to receive the promises of God, but the miss the great picture of being in relationship with him. They perform strict "religious acts" because it is easier to be told what to do, than to discover it for yourself. Christians are not told anything religious - for we are not to act without having the light of God's spirit actively working in us daily. We are the only ones that are able to call God friend - and whom God calls us friend. For we truly know His heart and can do even greater things than find blessings for ourselves - but the the example that brings more friends/sons/daughters to being in this powerful and beautiful relationship with Him.
- Sadly, I doubt making a right decision once will get you off the hook for future experiences. I am not sure if this is better viewed as additional practice or as employing the skill now that you have it. You are right that "God does not temp anyone" (James 1:13), of course.
- There are also atheists (not just non-Christian religious) who are more Christ-like than many Christians. For some reason, there are Christians who try to promote Christianity as good by making everyone else look bad. This is not the way. We cannot bring about good by making the rest of the world more evil. Instead, if we as Christians want to stand out, we should make ourselves better. "...there is nothing wrong with Christianity ... The trouble is with you Christians. You do not begin to live up to your own teachings." ~ Ghandi
God's promises are for everyone / karma
- You definitely have something real here (e.g. Romans 2:6-15, Proverbs 19:17, 25:21-22). However, be careful you do not take it too far or you will wind up with the idea that anything good or bad that happens to someone is a result of their actions. This is not the case. Many good and bad things happen to people in the Bible that are explicitly stated to not be based on this. For example, God calls Abraham, God chooses Jacob over Esau (see Romans 9:10-13), Deuteronomy 9:4-6, Job, Malachi 3:6, Jesus's death (He had committed no crime), Romans 5:6-8, and any number of martyrs in Revelation. Also, God cares about motives (e.g. Romans 12:9, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Doing good to win karma points is missing the point.
- God is very smart and He knows things that we don't. I suspect that a lot of God's rules are there because He knew that that was what would work well. Kind of like a cheat sheet.
Another response I got:
Learn to love the mundane... Neruda to the rescue.
Odes to Common things (Song lyrics)
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