July 19, 2015

Assumptions and amazing grace

2 Samuel 3:1–4:12, 1 Peter 3:8–22, Psalm 135:1–21

In my Christian life, I’ve made some assumptions about what I thought Jesus wanted. For instance, many years ago I produced and sold paintings using the money to support missions. However, I determined that because my artistic endeavor was such a passion for me, it must be sinful. Therefore, I decided that Jesus wanted me to turn my back on it. Now I realize that painting was not my problem, but my attitude toward it bordered on idolatry.

In today’s OT reading, people were killing people because they assumed this was what their King David wanted. The passage begins with: “There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.” (2 Samuel 3:1)

For some reason, I saw this as a parallel. Saul represents the old life, the fleshy and sinful way of doing things, while David represents the new life under my new King Jesus. In the beginning, I also wanted the new King to become stronger, so I began putting to death things in my old life, thinking I was pleasing my new King.

The story continues by telling how David’s man Joab told the king that Saul’s former man, Abner was not really on his side and was deceiving him. Then Joab found Abner and put him to death. The king was not happy with this and mourned the loss of Abner. He did not realize that Joab had done it out of revenge, not out of respect and loyalty to David. (2 Samuel 3:24-31)

For many years, I wondered why I would grieve each time I went to an art supply store or anything that reminded me of this loss. I didn’t realize that I’d given up something good — that my King Jesus wanted. I did it with presumption instead of at His direction.

Later in the story, others killed a son of Saul named Ish-bosheth. They took his head to David, thinking they were avenging David for Saul’s actions against him. David was angry at this also and required their blood for striking down a righteous man. (2 Samuel 4:5-11) Again, they acted presumptuously. Instead of finding out what King David wanted, they took matters into their own hands and paid a price for it.

In my situation, I abandoned a gift God had given me, but my King Jesus was gracious. It happened at a time when I was spending too much time at my easel and not enough time with my children. God knew what was more important so He used my presumption for good. I didn’t see it that way though.

Later, after my children grew up and were on their own, I still didn’t understand what He wanted, even when my adult daughter gave me a large package of canvases and supplies. Hint, hint. And I still cried when walking through the tubes of paints and brushes in the art supply stores.

Now I do understand. The Bible says that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29) This verse doesn’t express the right thought, but it is close. It says that what God gives is not to be regretting as if there is something wrong with it. Other verses say His gifts are to be used. My mother’s words sooth my angst; she often told me, “Your creativity always finds an outlet.”

The lesson learned is to never presume that I know what God wants of me without making sure I am hearing from Him and not listening to my own zealous rationalization.
The NT reading also talks about zeal, but not the zeal that leads to presumption. Instead, it is a zeal that leads to persecution and suffering . . .

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:13–17)

Actually could be related to my choices for I’ve know people who gave their entire skill set to God for the furtherance of His kingdom and were ridiculed for “wasting their lives” because they didn’t use their God-given creativity to become rich and famous. There is such danger in that . . .

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.” (Psalm 135:15–18)

Had I continued with art, I might have given in to those temptations to be rich and famous, and thus allowed an even deeper idolatry. If so, then perhaps my presumption was used for a greater good where God protected me for falling even farther.

As it is, right now God is directing me to use my creativity to bless others and to glorify Him. Of course I am shaking my head and raising my voice to declare His amazing grace.

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