Choking on the Will of God
God most often speaks to me in analogies. This time was no different. As I was preparing a message for our youth group several weeks ago on “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” I got a revelation from two different Scriptures.
First, in John 4, is the story of Jesus speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well. His disciples had gone into town to get some food while Jesus stayed behind. When they returned and offered Him something to eat, He replied,
“I have food that you don’t know anything about.” John 4:32 (CEV)
This left the disciples scratching their heads as to what He might possibly mean, so Jesus clarified it for them by saying,
“My food is to do what God wants! He is the one who sent me, and I must finish the work that he gave me to do.” John 4:34 (CEV)
Then, in Psalm 63:1, and again in Psalm 143:6, David iterates his intense longing for the presence of God in these words,
“My soul thirsts for you.”
God had brought him to a dry, deserted, lonely place in his life so that his craving for the presence of God would overwhelm him. That’s often a hard pill to swallow, but it is such good medicine!
After reading these several verses, the Lord began to speak to me in terms I could really understand. Think back to a time in your life when you sat down to a tantalizingly delicious meal. Perhaps it was a perfectly cooked and juicy steak right off the grill, complete with a side of sautéed mushrooms and onions. Or maybe it was that salad that had just the right combination of fresh veggies and topped with that one special dressing that just makes your mouth water. Or imagine being one of the five people left in this country who hasn’t sworn off carbs and there’s that particular dessert you dreamed about one night — you know, the one oozing with chocolate or caramel, smothered in fresh strawberries.
Now, if you just kept eating and eating and eating your favorite food, whatever that might be, and never took a drink, that steak or salad or dessert would quickly lose its appeal, wouldn’t it? Imagine how dry and scratchy your throat would get. The food that once made your head spin with delight is now causing you some potentially life-threatening problems. That’s because the liquids we drink help to coat the food as we get it from the plate to our stomachs.
It works the same in the spiritual as in the natural. Our food is to do the will of God, but it is God’s presence that we thirst for. Too many people have burned out and choked to death on the will of God because they neglected to make regular trips to the river for a drink of the water of life.
Jesus offered the Samaritan woman at the well water that would leave her eternally and completely satisfied. That water is Jesus Himself. Are you living for God at a breakneck pace, trying to do everything He’s called you to do? How long has it been since you stopped and just drank deeply of the presence of God? How long are you going to wait before you answer the Lord’s call to drink the water which will become in you a spring of eternal life?
If you are choking on God’s will, He is calling you to put down your forks, spoons, and knives for just a moment and take a healthy gulp of His presence. Do what the Samaritan woman did and just ask Him for that water. You will be glad you did!
Nehemiah 5:8-10 8and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. 9So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop!
During the time they were building the wall, some of the people came to Nehemiah and told him of their financial hardships. There had been a famine, and they had borrowed grain from their brothers. Those who loaned the grain were charging 1% interest, and in some cases, buying the sons and daughters of those in hardship as slaves. The people were giving up their fields to those to whom they owed the money, and that meant they could never repay and would only get deeper in debt.
When Nehemiah heard this, he was angry. This is the anger of righteous indignation. They had bought back their people who were slaves to Gentiles to try and restore the nation, and now they were enslaving each other. Nehemiah asked them if what they have done was done in the fear of a just and righteous God. If not, then their Gentile neighbors could reproach them for their double standard. They were already being mocked for doing good. Why would they give them a chance to mock them for acts of hypocrisy? Nehemiah told them, “Lend freely, but don’t charge interest, and restore what you have taken from them!” The people agreed to do what was right.
This a message that needs to be declared today. The church should be known for its generosity to those in need. We need to set a standard for the world. Instead we often hear of the greedy Christian businessman who was a poor testimony. The unbelieving world reproaches us for not acting in the fear of God. If you are claiming to be a Christian and being unjust in your dealings with other Christians, you should restore what was taken unjustly. If your brother wrongs you, follow Matthew 18, but do not take your story to the world.
Consider: If we do not walk in the fear of God, why would the world want to hear our message?
It’s Good for Your Character
by Laura MacCorkle, crosswalk.com
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. – Romans 5:3-5, NIV
I grew up in a very special church back in the ’70s and ’80s. It was nondenominational, had tremendous traditional worship and congregational singing and was attended and led by many seminary professors and students.
Seeds that were sown in my life in those early years of my spiritual growth are now sprouting, and I’m drawing upon what I have learned as I make my way through adulthood.
From time to time, I flip through a bound collection of meditations on sayings that my pastor put together. He would regularly refer to these life principles from the pulpit, and today, whenever I hear them being said (or similar concepts) by others, I remember what he preached on them many years ago.
“It’s good for your character,” he would often say. And here’s how he explained that further:
“God uses the routine, the difficult, even the painful to develop in us qualities of Christlike character that can be learned in no other way.”
When we begin to see our lives from this perspective, that’s when we’ve turned a corner. But in order to keep thinking in this way, we have to make daily readjustments, as we don’t always want to see the routine, the difficult and even the painful in this way.
But it is the right way to look at any uncomfortable situation in our lives. The classic passage regarding trials in James 1:2-4 is wonderfully helpful and instructive to us pilgrims traveling life’s road on our spiritual journeys:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Now, let’s break down this outlook:
1. Consider it pure joy. How do you do this when you’re going through a divorce? Or in the aftermath of a departed loved one or the loss of a job? What will it take to see the joy despite the circumstances? Only God can give us this joy and change our perspective (Psalm 16:8-11).
2. Testing develops perseverance. In order to learn how to persevere, we have to go through some trying times. Think back on the trials in your life. What were the results? Did you make changes in your life? Did God help you get through them? Remember that as you continue to serve him (Psalm 25:4-10).
3. Perseverance must finish its work. We can’t go from diapers to dungarees in the snap of our fingers. Living takes time. And there are “pains” that go with it. Sure, it hurts sometimes, but know that the uncomfortable seasons mean that you’re growing (1 Peter 4:12-19).
4. Be mature and complete. When you were a child, you didn’t have a bulging file folder of life experiences to draw from. Now that you’re older, hopefully you can see how you have grown closer to the Lord and how he has changed you. Draw from past lessons as you choose to live and think differently today (1 Cor. 13:10-12).