Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Aimless or Abundant?

For the past little while, I’ve experienced a vague feeling of not knowing why I’m here. Perhaps this is because I’m taking a sabbatical from teaching at our family Bible school, or it could be the letdown of retiring from an executive that I’ve been on for years.

Whatever the reasons, this morning I was struck by two passages of Scripture. One is in 1 Peter and part of my ‘read through the Bible in a year’ plan. It says:
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers (1 Peter 1:17-18).
The words that jump out are “aimless conduct.” The NIV says “empty way of life” which is just as piercing. I’ve a routine that includes spiritual disciplines. I talk to God about things that come up. I do what seems to be the right things, but somehow the routine of it doesn’t fit the abundant life that Jesus promised.

I’ve heard people say that Christians should live in such a way that there is no explanation for our lives except that God is at work. It seems to me that the explanation for mine would be more like she is well-disciplined.

Before I sat down to my Bible, I asked the Lord to fill me with His Spirit so that my day would be fruitful and pleasing to Him. I am not surprised that He first shows me that I need to do something about the parts that are not. Today these are the parts that are good in themselves, but I am doing them by rote instead of by His leading. My ‘control’ needs to be His control, and where it is not, I must confess that self-focus. He is the Lord, not me.

The second passage came out of Isaiah, the verses from my devotional book. God challenges me again by saying:
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance” (Isaiah 55:1-2).
First, the abundant life is free. I’ve no need to work so hard to make it happen. In fact, if my efforts to stay close to God are not working, those efforts are rooted in the wrong things. Spiritual disciplines are ‘places of grace’ where I put myself in an attitude where God can bless me. The disciplines themselves are okay, but not blessings unless I meet God in them.

The next thing I see here is a reminder of what Jesus said in response to Satan’s temptation in the wilderness. Jesus was hungry (so am I) and the enemy suggested He make bread out of stones. Jesus could have done that (He can also make bread out of my spiritual disciplines), but He didn’t. Instead, He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

I’ve studied this verse and know that ‘word’ here is the Greek ‘rhema’ which means a word from God that is specific for the need of the moment. This isn’t just about reading the Bible; this is about hearing God speak. It is about paying attention. It is about eating bread that satisfies, and it is about abundance.

Isaiah’s words are a warning about spending time, even money, on that which does not satisfy. The abundant life is about being delighted with life, about enjoying it to the full. That does not mean that trouble will never happen, but it does mean that with Jesus, life will be an adventure, a fulfilling experience. If I am hungry and thirsty for something more, then I need the something more of ‘rhema’ and of spending time with Jesus, not spending time in spiritual disciplines without experiencing Him in those disciplines.

I’ve been a Christian long enough to know that if it seems He has drawn back it is because I’ve done something wrong or have a sinful attitude that has not been confessed. This gets down to the nitty-gritty. I’ve been complaining (which in itself is not a good thing) about some inability in my life. Duh. James says “I have not because I ask not” (James 4) and aside from the reasons for not asking, I simply have not confessed my need to God and asked Him to change me. This has been going on for some time. Duh, again.

Lord, Your patience is astounding. I wonder why it takes me so long to realize my foibles and folly, yet You put up with me and are gracious. You know what You are doing. Once again, I realize that I cannot do this myself. I am not my Savior and Redeemer; You are!

1 comment:

Beautiful Mess said...

Delightfully, I stumbled across your blog. Thank you! You greatly encouraged me! On the journey together, JenP