By Terry Porter
We truly live in a great country that is blessed beyond measure. Take a typical Saturday afternoon in the fall. As Americans, we have countless choices of activities to fill our time with: from yard cleanup to hay rides; from apple picking to shopping at the local farmer’s market; from watching a youth sports event to taking a hike in the woods while taking in the majestic colors of autumn. Personally, I enjoy a BBQ and watching football with friends. We really have endless options when it comes to our weekends, we only need some imagination and the motivation to accomplish it. What’s more, most of the time we can spend our free time the way we want and we take pride in it. We have slogans in America that captures our prideful attitude: “I want it my way” or “Have it your way”; “It’s my life”; “No rules, just right”; and of course “Where’s my bailout?”.
I have to confess I got caught up in the “have it my way” narcissistic way of life this fall and I didn’t realize it till it was too late. It all started so simple; my son Aiden and I went over to a friend’s house for an afternoon of football and hangin’ out. We usually have something to throw on the grill to go along with the game but this weekend we dropped the ball. Well, by half-time of the game we were getting hungry so I decided I would make a Wendy’s run for burgers and fries. Now, like I said, everything was going fine; I have 15-20 minutes to drive to Wendy’s, order the food (to go), drive back to the house and lay everything out before the second half kick-off.
When I get to Wendy’s I order our meals, several burger and fry combos. I really like Wendy’s because they pride themselves in making their burgers fresh to order so, being the picky guy that I am, I can order my burger with cheese only and feel pretty confident that it will be prepared to my expectation.
Okay, I place the order, grab the food and race (without breaking any speed limits) back to the house. As I get through the door I notice that the football game is just starting the 2nd half. I get Aiden’s food ready with his chocolate milk (he’s 2 years old so I bribe him with the chocolate milk in order to get him to eat the healthier burger). I also get my friend his burger and then precede to un-wrap my Single with Cheese (only).
The Sin of Entitlement
God has a great way of showing His children where they need to grow-up socially, emotionally, and spiritually. For me, on this wonderful Saturday afternoon of football, He used a burger.
As I un-wrapped my burger I found that not only did it have the cheese that I asked for but it also had several layers of other items that, to my knowledge, have never crossed the lips of my mouth. Things like mustard, mayo, and other combination of items. At that moment the sin of entitlement crept into my life. On any normal visit to Wendy’s this would be no big deal; I would simply wrap the burger back up and take it back to the counter to request a new burger. However, on this occasion that was not an option. I had already left the franchise and the 2nd half of the game had already started. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A BURGER WITH YOUR 2ND HALF OF FOOTBALL!!!
My friend asked if I wanted something else; pretzels maybe? “I Want My Burger and after the game I am going to go back there and let them know this wasted my time and money!” Basically, “I want it my way!”
I did enjoy the rest of the game, my team won, and I believe Aiden even got a little nap in. After the game I packed up, put Aiden in the car and grabbed the cold burger to head back to Wendy’s (it’s on my way back home so it really wasn’t out of the way). When we arrived at Wendy’s I grabbed the burger and went straight to the counter where the crew member greeted me with a smile and “can I help you?”
“Yes,” I said, “You can help me. I was in a few hours ago and order a burger with cheese only and got a burger with everything on it.”
“Oh yes,” she said, “I remember your order, let me see your receipt. Yes, you ordered a plain burger (cheese only).” Seriously, how could she forget me? I am one of only a handful of SUPER FANS in northern Michigan that wear’s their Notre Dame t-shirts with pride. She proceeded to take my cold burger back to the manager to explain my situation and get me the right burger for my order while I stood by with my arms crossed and a stern look on my face. I have rights you know! This is AMERICA and I can have it my way!
The manager then said to the crew member; “You cannot bring that cold burger back here, that’s against company policy; you must give it back to the customer.”
“Hell No!” I thought; and that was probably the facial expression I gave the crew member because she looked at me and said she would just throw it away herself. She walked around me to the waste bins, threw the burger away and came back around the counter. At this point my day really changed (from bad to worse).
“Are you Pastor Terry?” She asked.
Do you ever have that feeling where you know you know someone, but you just don’t know where you know them from? That’s how I felt about the crew member at Wendy’s both times I talked to her that Saturday. As I answered her question about my title as pastor, I remembered that I did know her from the local dry-cleaners. Several times a month I drop off my shirts and she knows just how I like them pressed with a little extra starch (I told you I’m picky – maybe a little OCD as well).
I looked at her name tag; how ironic, her name is Wendy. I stated that she does my dry cleaning, I grabbed my fresh burger and thanked her for her helping and headed out the door to drive home. Honestly, I didn’t give the situation much thought the rest of the day. My mind now was consumed with thoughts of child care, getting dinner ready, spending time with Jen (my wife) and getting the kids to bed on time so we would be ready for church the next day.
God’s Teaching Moments
Proverbs 11:2 (ESV)
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
Proverbs 16:18 (ESV)
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 29:23 (ESV)
One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.
My Sunday routine starts at 6am; shower, get dressed, and out the door by 6:30am. I get to Starbucks early to avoid a crowd, enjoy my morning coffee and have a personal time of Bible study and reflections. On this particular Sunday I was reading in the Biblical book of Daniel and journaling my thoughts in my leather notebook. I really enjoy my morning time with God – reading the Word, meditating & praying the Word back and documenting my thoughts, prayers and application points down in my notebook.
The week before I had already studied the passages in the book of Daniel about Daniel and his friends not eating the kings food, the story of King Nebuchadnezzar and his dream of the giant statue, and the story of the fiery furnace. I’m now into chapter four where it begins with the king praising God; “How great are His signs, how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.” (Dan. 4:3)
Daniel chapter four begins with King Nebuchadnezzar praising God for who HE is and what HE has done. The Chapter then turns to the second dream of King Nebuchadnezzar; a dream of a great tree:
Daniel 4:4-18 (NLT)
“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was living in my palace in comfort and prosperity. But one night I had a dream that frightened me; I saw visions that terrified me as I lay in my bed. 6 So I issued an order calling in all the wise men of Babylon, so they could tell me what my dream meant. 7 When all the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and fortune-tellers came in, I told them the dream, but they could not tell me what it meant. 8 At last Daniel came in before me, and I told him the dream. (He was named Belteshazzar after my god, and the spirit of the Holy gods is in him.)
9 “I said to him, ‘Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too great for you to solve. Now tell me what my dream means.
10 “‘While I was lying in my bed, this is what I dreamed. I saw a large tree in the middle of the earth. 11 The tree grew very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. 12 It had fresh green leaves, and it was loaded with fruit for all to eat. Wild animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. All the world was fed from this tree.
13 “‘Then as I lay there dreaming, I saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven. 14 The messenger shouted,
“Cut down the tree and lop off its branches! Shake off its leaves and scatter its fruit! Chase the wild animals from its shade and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump and the roots in the ground, bound with a band of iron and bronze and surrounded by tender grass. Now let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the wild animals among the plants of the field. 16 For seven periods of time, let him have the mind of a wild animal instead of the mind of a human. 17 For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.”
18 “‘Belteshazzar, that was the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now tell me what it means, for none of the wise men of my kingdom can do so. But you can tell me because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.’
What a story! I remember reading the story several times but the meaning of the dream had escaped my memory. What does the dream mean? I was hooked – at this point I am focused on the story and I cannot wait to hear what Daniel has to say to King Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel 4:19-27 (NLT)
“Upon hearing this, Daniel (also known as Belteshazzar) was overcome for a time, frightened by the meaning of the dream. Then the king said to him, ‘Belteshazzar, don’t be alarmed by the dream and what it means.’
“Belteshazzar replied, ‘I wish the events foreshadowed in this dream would happen to your enemies, my lord, and not to you! 20 The tree you saw was growing very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. 21 It had fresh green leaves and was loaded with fruit for all to eat. Wild animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. 22 That tree, Your Majesty, is you. For you have grown strong and great; your greatness reaches up to heaven, and your rule to the ends of the earth.
23 “‘Then you saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, “Cut down the tree and destroy it. But leave the stump and the roots in the ground, bound with a band of iron and bronze and surrounded by tender grass. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven. Let him live with the animals of the field for seven periods of time.”
24 “‘This is what the dream means, Your Majesty, and what the Most High has declared will happen to my lord the king. 25 You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses. 26 But the stump and roots of the tree were left in the ground. This means that you will receive your kingdom back again when you have learned that heaven rules.
27 “‘King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.’
I believe we have a personal God who loves us and does everything He possible can to help us live the Christian life short of violating our own free will. I believe God can see into the future and understand how our freewill will interact with His sovereign control and plan. I believe that God IS God and I am not (although my actions, thoughts and attitudes many times imply that I think I am God – or at least entitled to “godly” treatment).
God knew; years, decades, ages ago; that I would be reading Daniel chapter 4 on this particular Sunday morning at 6:30am. God knew that the message of Daniel chapter 4 was exactly what I needed to hear and apply to my life to become closer to the man of God He wants me to be.
That morning, as I read about the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, I wanted to see what the king would do; now I see what I need to do. Here’s the point, God was using this story to speak to my heart and my pride and my attitude of entitlement. No, I didn’t sit there thinking I was some great king like Nebuchadnezzar; no, I sat there think of what an entitled jerk I was the day before at Wendy’s – how my attitude was so bitter and vile that I showed what was really in my heart that day – Selfishness.
God is so loving, He came along side of my at Starbucks, put His arm around me and told me a story that I needed to hear. A story of how pride (or entitlement) will destroy a person; it would destroy me. I want to be a pastor that honors God with his life and I knew that I needed to act on what Daniel chapter four had taught me that morning.
Daniel 4:28-33 (NLT)
28 “But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. 30 As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’
31 “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. 32 You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’
33 “That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws.
The sin of entitlement (the sin of pride) can creep up in our life and many times we are not even aware of it. On that Sunday morning when God got a hold of my heart to tell me I had the sin of pride in my life I made a commitment to take care of it as soon as possible. I first started by sharing my story with the church and then I committed to going back to Wendy (the person not the restaurant) and ask her to forgive me for my rotten attitude. I followed through on both of my commitments and I could not believe how fast the story got around church; in fact, for Pastor Appreciation Month I was given several Wendy’s Gift Cards from members of the church family.
The Point; listen to the still small voice of God when He tells us areas of our life we need to change – we will become better for it and it shapes our character to become more like that of His Son, Jesus Christ.