July 10, 2012

God’s Mysterious Will

My mother told me that when I was small, I was so “busy” that feeding me was impossible unless she put a book into my hands. I still feel the urge to read when I eat, but also see that “busy” trait. Now I would call it “easily distracted” or perhaps say that I have to keep my hands busy. Even when watching television, if I can crochet, work on a crossword puzzle, or do something with my hands, then I don’t feel the urge to be busy or to snack. Yet this antsy desire often makes me wonder if I am accomplishing all that I ought according to the will of God for me.
Missionary pioneer, J. Hudson Taylor, said that “the real secret of an unsatisfied life lies too often in an unsurrendered will.” That is, the person who is doing the will of God has a sense of accomplishment that comes from no other activities or ambitions. However, this means surrendering to what God wants, not focusing on my own desires.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. (John 4:31–34)
For me, this could mean many things. The will of God is spelled out in Scripture, but it is not always preaching, or teaching, or doing works of ministry. It might be that God wants me to take a rest and talk to Him, or clean the kitchen and prepare supper for my family. To know His will requires a yielded mindset plus attentively listening to the Holy Spirit. 

For instance, God’s will likely does not mean parking myself in front of the television. I could write a letter, call someone, or make cookies for a cookie-lover. Any of those activities could have eternal value, not be a mere waste of time or energy.

Another example involves yesterday’s angst over our response to repeated requests from a high maintenance neighbor. She has relied on us for years to do tasks for which most people would call a repair person. Right now, we are busy and fatigued from moving (in 35 degree heat) so told her she needed to call someone else. She persisted until I forcefully said no. 

Later, after talking to God about that, I was prepared to apologize for that harsh rebuke. An apology seems to be His will, but for whatever reason, He clearly tells me to wait for Him. He will tell me when. Perhaps His will has something to do with her that I do not understand. I only know that He wanted my confession and willingness, but also to let my apology sit for awhile. 

This seemed as odd to me as Jesus’ words about food and eating must have seemed to His disciples. To them, how could asking a Samaritan woman for water be more important than food on their long journey? Yet Jesus said that He was doing the will of God and was satisfied with that.

Then the Lord reminded me of a story told by Walter Marten, the cult expert. He went to the headquarters of a major cult to get some of their literature. After a short discussion with the clerk about the identity of Jesus, Marten became angry, banged his fist, shouted a truth at this startled man, and charged out. Then he realized he’d forgotten what he came for, but when he tried to go back inside, the man shut and locked the door in his face.

Marten had no opportunity to say he was sorry (and didn’t relate even if he was). However, several years later, a man stood up in a crowd that was listening to Marten. He reminded Marten of that incident and told him that the words he had shouted stayed with him. Seven years later, he woke in the middle of the night, rolled out of bed unto his knees and put his faith in Jesus Christ. 

This example does not justify Marten’s anger (or mine), but does remind me that God works in ways that are beyond my comprehension. No matter what I think or assume, I need to pay attention to Him.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5–6)

Lord, Your will is far more important than mine, but again, You astonish me. You can take willful actions on the part of Your people and use them for Your purposes. Again, this is no excuse for willful actions, but it humbles me --- I want to be a better listener. Not my will, but Thine be done.

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