January 1, 2013

Willing heart first, clarity next

Before we rose to greet the first day of this New Year, my hubby and I talked about a lesson we learned last year; God wants us willing to obey Him before He gives us a clear idea of what He wants us to do.

This principle applies also to our ability to understand the Bible. As Jesus said, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” (John 7:17) How much more we need that willingness so we can discern the voice of the Holy Spirit amid the plethora of voices in the world and in our own hearts.

Besides that, there are a plethora of ‘interpretation’ methods when it comes to reading the Bible. I am about to embark on a course in New Testament theology and am already reading books that explain some of these methods. I’ve noticed that the subjective side of faith in a Christian’s relationship with God is mostly disregarded in these modern methods. They say subjectivity cannot be trusted and there is an element of truth in that conclusion. Yet without being willing to do what God says, God usually does not bestow much clarity on me.

Then I read this morning’s devotional from a book called, Take Heart —Daily Devotions with the World’s Great Preachers. The Scripture is from Joshua and involves instruction to the people as they are about to cross the Jordan River into the new land that God had promised them. They were told to follow the ark of the covenant…

Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:4–5)

In the first day of a New Year, I look back a bit, but mostly look forward. We had a stressful year of change. What will the next year bring? As the devotional writer says, before us lies an untrodden way. We have not done 2013 before. How would God have me approach this way?

I notice that Joshua told the people to consecrate or sanctify themselves. Jesus also said the same thing as He prepared to go to the cross, for Him also an untrodden way. His words were, “For them I sanctify myself” (John 17:19).

This means dedicating myself again to God, giving my life to Him in fresh and unreserved surrender. I have already learned that the “wonders of tomorrow depend on the sanctification of today” and that the will of God will unfold before me as I am willing to do whatever He asks of me.

I breathed a sigh as I read, “enthusiasm of youth may have departed, the strength once enjoyed may have been weakened, the freshness may have been rubbed off things through the ceaseless handling of the years” yet smiled also in agreement where the devotional reading said that for those who face the unknown in sanctification, “tomorrow will be more wonderful than yesterday.”

This is about being willing to obey before I find out my marching orders. Israel sent on ahead the ark of God to show that they believed God was with them. My willingness to obey also shows that I believe the Lord is with me. If He asks me to plunge into a swollen river, I can do it because I trust Him.

The devotional writer also reminds me that too often I send my imagination ahead instead of faith. I toss myself into a fit with fear over some untrodden way. For example, fear of going back to school, of participating in online discussions, of taking exams, of trying to remember the words in a 700-page textbook. But as he says, fear is poor at finding a place to wade across a river and is also a lousy bridge-builder. Fear hears nothing but the raging water, missing the music of the Spirit, missing the still small voice of God.

Israel sent that ark of God on ahead and the waters stopped, even stood in a heap. Because the people surrendered themselves, they were able to go forward with banners flying into a new adventure. Their willingness to obey conquered their fear of the unknown and silenced all objections toward having never come this way before.

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