April 1, 2015

Moving along to a broader place

Deuteronomy 1:1–46; 2 Corinthians 1:1–11; Psalm 31:1–9
Yesterday and today were a battle days. One battle was for my attention. It did not stop until I shook my fist at my spiritual enemies, and told them in the name of Christ to leave me alone. After that, I was able to concentrate.

The second battle was similar, but seemed less from the enemy and more about my difficulties with details. The task on both days is a mid-term assignment. I am doing overviews of twenty Scripture passages. I am not good with big picture assignments so every few minutes I wanted to get up and go clean toilets, or do anything else but stick to the task at hand.

I’ve struggled all my life with focus and my usual solution is to go do something else for awhile, but this time the Lord spoke to me with the first few verses in the above OT reading . . . “The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain . . . . See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.” (Deuteronomy 1:8)

I am not Israel or Moses, but the Lord used His words to those people to tell me that He has had enough of my excuses and wandering about. He gave me this opportunity, this incredible challenge to my old brain, and told me to get at it and stick with it. This didn’t make the work any easier, but it did help me to keep my butt in the chair.
The next part of the reading was also helpful. Moses talked to the people of Israel and reminded them of their history. He told them about going to the edge of the Promised Land forty years prior . . .

The thing seemed good to me, and I took twelve men from you, one man from each tribe. And they turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshcol and spied it out. And they took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, ‘It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us.’ “Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 1:23–26)

I didn’t want to think about the many times I’d given in to my wandering attention span instead of persevering, but have to admit that in this particular issue, I’ve wound up like them — wandering around and never getting anywhere because for years I’ve refused God’s invitation to stick to it. Now He insists I push through the distractions and reshape the way my mind works.

Then He had me read the NT passage to get another reminder . . .  How many times have I asked God why this was happening, or why I struggled with that, or with something? How often have I’ve hated affliction instead of seeing purpose in it? This time, through Paul, God says . . .

If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:6–7)

Some of what happens to Christians is for the sake of others. We experience loss, sorrow, illness and a host of other not-so-nice experiences, not because we are being punished, etc. but because it gives us reason to trust God, and in that trusting, we experience His comfort. When that happens, we have something wonderful to share with others who are struggling over the same experiences. I can help some people simple because I’ve ‘been there, done that.’

Yet not all of those experiences are entirely for the sake of others. Some of them happen to teach me to rely on God as I already mentioned. Paul said, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (2 Corinthians 1:9–10)

God knows that if I never had any trials, I would not learn how to trust Him. I’d simply trust myself. But that does not work. Today, “myself” let me down. “Myself” wanted to run away from home not work on a mid-term paper for most of the day. The paper is not finished, not even close, so I’m thinking that I will likely be fighting with “myself” tomorrow too.

However, I’ve already had a hint of what perseverance, with prayer, can do. Renewed energy and zeal comes because of God’s grace. I will continue, and press on with this assignment. And like the psalmist, “I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.” (Psalm 31:7–8)

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