A pastor went hiking in a nearby wilderness. It was a clear day, perfect for a walk in the woods. As he followed a trail around a bend he found himself face to face with an angry brown bear. As the startled bear reared up to seize and devour him, the pastor cried out, “Dear Lord, make this bear a Christian.” There was a huge clap of thunder. The bear fell to its knees, clasped its paws together and prayed, “Dear Lord, in the name of Jesus I thank you for this meal which you have so generously provided for me.”
When we ask God for something, and we get what we ask for, sometimes things don’t work out the way we intended. Those are the times that test our faith and our character. That’s when we need to remember, faith always wins. This is especially true of pastors and church leaders. Good leaders pray, plan and persevere in pursuit of their goals. Well laid plans create certain expectations, and it’s a hard blow when things don’t turn out the way we hoped they would. It is a test of our faith when success brings with it unexpected challenges that threaten to devour us. It’s easy to thank God when God gives us exactly what we want. But how do we pray when answered prayers include things we don’t want, or aren’t prepared to handle?
Successes can lull us into a sense of false security that invites us to think we are in control of our plans and the results. But new challenges can be reminders that God is in charge, and that we walk by faith and not by sight. Remember, our trust in God which served us well yesterday, is what will get us through the challenges of today because faith always wins. That doesn’t mean we always get what we pray for.
After pouring our heart out to God about what we want, let us pray “Not my will, but thy will be done.” That humble prayer requires that we let go of our fears, trust God, and move ahead in faith. Prayer in the final analysis isn’t about getting what we want. It is primarily about aligning our lives with the will of God, and seeking the greater good that comes to those who love God.
Who knows what good might come from the new challenges we face in faith? Faith makes all things possible. Perhaps, if that pastor stepped out in faith to treat the bear like a Christian, maybe the bear, seeing his faith, would decide not to treat him like a meal.