May 11, 2007

Pulling God’s Strings?

A man, I’ll call him Reg, was having marriage woes. When advised to seek the Lord, he went to church looking for answers. When he found out that he could not manipulate God into “fixing” his problems, he became angry and stomped away from anything spiritual.

Another man, Howard, is also having marriage woes. He too was advised to seek the Lord and he went first to a pastor looking for answers. When he found out that he needed to yield to God and accept His way, including His way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, he did. His marriage is still very much on the rocks, but because Howard is standing on the Rock that is Christ, he is calm. As he obeys Christ, he has no assurance that his wife will do the same, but he is at peace and has a thankful, glad heart.

John 6 reminded me that not everyone responds to Jesus the same way. He had just fed a huge crowd, then left that area only to be followed by the multitudes. When they found Him, He told them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

When I was looking for truth (and didn’t know it was Jesus), it was partly because I wanted to know what would happen to me when I died, and partly because I was in great emotional distress. I wanted God to fix it. After He revealed Himself to me, I soon realized that knowing the Lord is far more than “me-needy, You-fix it” relationship.

My greatest need was my own sinful heart, not the fact that someone had broken it. I wanted no more pain; God wanted no more of me running my own life. I can see now that He even allowed the broken heart. Otherwise my heart was too hard, too determined to have my own way to listen to Him. An injury of the heart opened it up so He could speak to me.

The people who chased Jesus were not thinking about their hearts, only their stomachs. Reg was not thinking about his heart, only his reputation as a success, and having his own way. Howard’s heart is broken, but not hard and scarred. He is tender toward God.

The hungry crowds asked Jesus about doing the work of God and He told them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

They wanted a sign to prove that God sent Him. They said, “What sign will you perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will you do? (And here is the kicker . . . ) Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

They were still trying to get bread! Essentially they said, If you are who you claim be, then do what we want you to do—feed us!

I found out very early in my walk with God that I do not pull His strings. He surprises me with grace and kindness, bestows blessings every day, is utterly good to me, but I cannot tell Him what to do.

Jesus doesn’t either. Verse 38 says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

Jesus, who is God in human flesh, never, ever let His humanness, as perfect as it was, dictate what He did or did not do. He always did the will of His Father, and in doing so sets an example for me. God lives in me, and although I’m not ‘fully God / fully human’ as Jesus, His goal for me is that I live by His will, not my own.

Getting practical, I hear the voice of the Holy Spirit saying to me, If you put your own will first, your own needs, your I-wants, you will gain weight (I love my bread), take on more than I want you to and be exhausted, be constantly striving about the unimportant . . . and the list goes on.

The challenge to seek Christ for change in my life rather than persuade Him to do what I want Him to do, comes out when I pray. It shows up in my disappointment when those prayers are not answered. It shows up when I whine instead of being thankful. While I am quick to shake my head at people like those in that crowd and people like Reg, I need to take a look in the mirror. More often than not, I’m doing the same thing.

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