The Gospel According to Starbucks

The Gospel According to Starbucks

2 Chronicles 7:11-16

James C. Denison

Starbucks is clearly America’s favorite coffee shop, with some $8 billion in sales last year. Since I don’t drink coffee, I have never bought their product. And so I was interested to learn that Starbucks prints quotes from customers on their cups. Some are quite interesting, or even inspiring.

But one cup and quote is not so uplifting. It was given to me last Sunday morning after church: “Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure.” The quote is signed by Bill Scheel of Ontario, a self-described “modern day nobody.”

I have an answer for Mr. Scheel, and for anyone who is wondering how you can experience God today. We have learned that God Almighty is awesome, to be feared and revered; and that he is intimately interested in each of us. We have discovered that he is both love and judge. Now we learn that he responds to our faith, and yet he is unchanging. In everything he does he is awesome, intimate, love, and judge. He never changes. But the ways he acts can change, depending on us.

Let me show you why that theological fact is true, and why it is so crucial to living a life God can bless today.

Why does God bless his people?

God called Solomon to build his temple, a place where the Lord would always meet with his people, receive their sacrifices, and hear their prayers. But Solomon was the son of David’s adulterous liaison with Bathsheba. A man who had won no battles and had yet to accomplish anything of significance. How would such an untested leader accomplish the greatest and most significant building project in Israel’s history?

When we trust God, he responds to our faith with his grace.

The king had accumulated 100,000 talents of gold (3,750 tons) and a million talents of silver (37,500 tons; 1 Chronicles 21:14). I ran the numbers recently: that’s a total of $60,504,000,000. Solomon would inherit a net worth 25% greater than Bill Gates’. And that doesn’t count the “quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone” (v. 14). With this disclaimer: “And you may add to them.”

Who would utilize all these riches? His father had enlisted tradesmen in every kind of work (vs. 14-15). Who would help him organize this massive effort? David had enlisted “all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon” (v. 17).

So it was that a man who had never won a battle, never built a kingdom, never built anything that we know of, was called to build the most important structure in human history. And succeeded. When we respond to God, he responds to us.

Now David’s son has finished his task. It would seem that he has achieved success for the ages. But success in his eyes or that of his people is immaterial. God is clear: only “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways” (2 Chronicles 7:14a) will he bless this Temple.

“Humble ourselves” means to admit that we need his help and hope and direction, that we cannot accomplish his purpose in our plans and power. So we submit ourselves to his plan, his will, his glory. It’s not about us–it’s all and only about him.

So we “pray” as we turn to his power and purposes, not our own. When we pray we “seek my face” with honest, heart-felt, intentional, intense, soul-giving prayers. We seek a personal, daily, intimate relationship with him.

When we do, we must “turn from our wicked ways.” The closer we draw to him, the more our sins are exposed by his light. You see the dirt on your hands not in the dark but in the light.

Only then will he “hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (v. 14b)–the purpose of this Temple.

Only then will his eyes be open and his ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place–the purpose of this Temple. Only then will he use the efforts of men for the eternal glory of God. Only then.

When we respond to God, he responds to us. When we pray, he answers; if we don’t, he doesn’t. When we seek his face we find him; if we don’t, we don’t. When we respond to God in faith, he responds to us in favor. When we don’t, he can’t. This is just how it is with the God who responds to the people he has made.

Does God change his mind?

Have you ever wondered about the times when Scripture indicates that God “changed his mind”? There are numerous biblical references which seem to indicate that God did this. Remember Abraham’s intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah–if ten righteous people had been found, God would have changed his plan to destroy the city (Genesis 18-19).

Other examples are even clearer:

When Moses prayed for the nation as they worshiped the golden calf, “the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people” (Exodus 32:14).

God told the prophet Jeremiah, “At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it” (Jeremiah 18:8).

When God showed Amos the destruction he planned for the sinful nation, Amos prayed for his mercy. Then “the Lord relented concerning this; ‘It shall not be,’ said the Lord” (Amos 7:3).