Monday, August 19, 2019
I haven’t felt so blessed for a long time. I am convinced it is because I had no expectations or demands. That’s what brings the real joy when a gift is received. More about what happened in a moment.
Many of us miss most blessings because we suffer from the popular disease of Entitlement.
In Luke 7, Jesus is asked to help a Roman Centurion who had a gravely ill servant. Two groups of representatives came to Jesus to ask for the healing of the highly valued employee. The first group misrepresented the true character of the Centurion by using the entitlement argument to try and convince Jesus to help.
Luke 7:4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him…”
The second group was the Centurion’s friends, and they spoke the truth about his humble nature. “I am not worthy…”
We live in a culture that has infected the church with an entitlement mentality. Christians have bought into this arrogant philosophy of self-advancement without self-effort. We believe that the world owes us payment for personal pain or loss in our lives. We have set up a personal standard of qualification for reward, and we expect people, employers, benefit programs or governments to pay up because it’s our right.
Several years ago my wife and I left on a short trip to a place we had never been before. Wednesday was my normal day off back then, so we decided to get away overnight and relax in Bayfield, Wisconsin and enjoy the Apostle Islands. Aside from the incredible beauty of God’s creation, God did some things that blew me away. They were totally unexpected. They were things I didn’t demand. They were things to which I did not feel entitled.
On the drive up north, I turned to Denise and said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to see a bear run across the road?” It was said so simply, so casually, and so uncharacteristically care-free. There was not even a hint of entitlement in the statement. I was not thinking these things at the time and evaluating my motives and planning my words to somehow conform to God’s commands; I just said the words with freedom. Ninety minutes later, as we approached Bayfield and I look down a side road to a marina entrance, a bear ran across the access road. I was thrilled and overjoyed, because I had not expected it.
On Wednesday morning as we travelled by boat out to Devil’s Island to see the sea caves and the lighthouse, I turned again to Denise and said in the same attitude as before, “Wouldn’t it be cool to see a freighter out here?” Without thinking about my rights or how the trip would be ruined if it didn’t happen, I just made a statement. Thirty minutes later Denise nudged me and said, “Look, there’s your freighter.” Sure enough, on the horizon and getting closer, was a 1000-foot freighter heading towards Duluth. Then twenty minutes later, there was another one.
By this time Denise is wondering why I am getting everything I ask for. I begin to evaluate it as well, and realize that for one of the first times in my life I had been asking with no sense of entitlement. It was such a blessed realization.
When we got back to the city dock in Bayfield, the captain of the boat announced that one of the gift shops in town had done a drawing of one name from among the 200 plus passengers on the two ships and that the person would win a prize. As we disembarked I was thinking in my mind about where the car was and where we were going to get lunch and what else we wanted to see. Denise asked, “Aren’t you going to check in the gift store?” My first thought was, “Why, I never win anything?” But I think that thought lasted less time than any other time in my life. It immediately smacked of entitlement, and I hated it. So as Denise waited outside I stepped into the store and saw my name on the wipe-off board above the cash register.
I just about fell over. I walked outside and signaled for Denise to come inside with me, and I stood in line with my identification in hand and collected my prize. It was a beautiful print of an original watercolor painting of all the lighthouses on the Apostle Islands. Many of you know my love for lighthouses and windmills. This was an awesome gift, even though it’s basically a poster, and I told the clerk how much it meant to me.
There is incredible joy to be experienced when entitlement is conquered. Expectations are the enemy of joy. Demands are the death of thanksgiving. The pursuit of happiness is the cancer of the Christian life. Worldly happiness can only be achieved through pre-determined conditions and circumstances, and when they are not achieved it leaves us demolished and demoralized.
Thank you, Jesus, for disciplining me in this area of my life. And thank you immensely for taking the conversation about entitlement beyond the level of how it applies to others and making it personal for me.
May the Lord do the same for you! Be careful not to think that entitlement isn’t affecting you too.