Stop Asking for Snakes

Only God knows what's best for us.

Joshua J. Cotten

When Katie and I were looking for a new church home about eight years ago, we stumbled into one near our house that looked like a normal church.

But once we checked in the kids and settled in a pew, it didn't take long to realize this was not a typical church at all.

The speaker kept talking about firstfruits and about God multiplying our offering. He raised his voice so frequently in over dramatic tones that I developed a headache by the end of the service. Throughout the seventy-five minute ordeal I never once heard the name of Jesus.

The speaker had a man come on stage who had received a large bonus from his employer. The man gave the entirety of the bonus to this church as a "seed offering."

Generosity, of course, is a great thing, but this man was obviously expecting something in return for his gift as if he were investing in a small business startup or betting on a horse because of a hot tip he'd received from a deacon.

The Truth about Faith 

In the 21st century, there is no shortage of churches, teachers, and preachers--especially those on television--who will tell you that if you don't have what you want, you need only to have more faith. Believe harder and you can get that Ferrari, that boat, that promotion at work.

This message, though, gets faith all wrong. Faith isn't a belief in anything, it's a trust placed in Jesus and his work on the cross. Too often we make it about us, thinking if we just believe harder God will bend his will in favor of ours. In doing so we make God out to be a genie; we just need to rub the lamp a littler harder and then we can get whatever we want.

Genesis tells us God made mankind "in his own image" (Gen. 1:27), but some mistake this for thinking we are, therefore, gods. Take Word of Faith preacher Creflo Dollar for example who said, "You are gods. Little g. You are gods because you came from God. . . You're not just human. The only human part about you is this physical body that you live in."[1]

See what he did there? In confusing procreation and creation, Dollar established a foundation on which to base his claim that we deserve whatever we want because we are divine beings. But what does the Bible actually teach?

Although we, like God, have the ability to reason, the prophet Isaiah does a good job of clarifying the massive chasm between our intellectual ability to comprehend reality and God's omniscient vantage point. God, speaking through the prophet, says:

My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

So although we have an inkling of foresight, a modicum of capacity for rational thought, God's vantage point is infinite. He sees all. He knows all.

Faith, then, isn't believing harder in your plan or praying more diligently to win the lottery. It's not naming your next high-paying job and then claiming it is real.

Instead real faith involves trusting that our heavenly father knows what's best for us because he knows everything. It's understanding that sometimes a Lamborghini just isn't in the cards, no matter how many times we ask for it. That should go without saying, but we are a sinful race and it's easy for unrighteous desires to cloud our judgment.

A great passage to remember is from the book of Matthew in which Jesus is teaching about asking for things from the Lord. He said:

Everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 8:8-11

The prosperity camp would use this as ammo in their favor. Jesus said all we have to do is ask!

One thing they overlook though is that little word good: "How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matt. 8:11, emphasis mine). Sometimes we think we know what's best for us, but in reality, these supposed good things are actually harmful. Think of it this way: which of you, if your son asked for a snake, would give it to him?

Sometimes we think we're asking for fish, but really that job promotion or romantic relationship is more like a serpent.

The truth is, God really does want you to prosper, but prosper by his definition, not ours. Only he knows what's best for us.

So go ahead and ask for that car or that raise, but instead of naming and claiming we should ask like this: "Lord, please grant me this promotion, but your will be done, not mine." Those are some genuine words of faith.

And if you'd like to grow in your faith, I recommend spending time with God every day. I've written a guide to help you do just that. It's called How to Establish a Daily Habit of Quiet Time with God, and it's totally free for you. All it costs is your email address. (You'll be signed up for my mailing list, but you can unsubscribe any time.) Just enter your email address below to get the guide:



  1. This message is profound and real. How believable and simple, yet complex in the disipline. Precious message. Thank you

  2. Thanks for making sense of that passage in Matthew