October 25, 2015

God’s ways are higher (and better) than my ways!

Daniel 1:1–2:16, 1 Thessalonians 2:1–3:5, Job 40:3–12

The essence of sin is doing what I think rather than what God says. The process of overcoming sin involves a learning curve — that of becoming absolutely sure that God knows best, even when it makes no sense to me.

Job’s faith was tested and he passed the test, even though he was full of questions whether or not God was doing the right thing. He wasn’t that different from his friends who figured this man must have done something awful, otherwise God would not have allowed his suffering. Job knew he hadn’t sinned, so why then should God do this to him? He was perplexed and frustrated that God was silent on the matter.

In the end, Job said to God, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”

Then the Lord said to him, “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:3–8)

Job learned that no matter how God-fearing he was, that answer to his situation was trusting God enough to simple wait on Him and do what He asks.

As a young man, Daniel knew this. He was part of the large number of Israelites taken captive and exported to Babylon about 500-600 BC. The leaders in that foreign place singled out a smaller number to train in their ways. These few exceptional young men were assigned a daily portion of the king’s food and wine, and “were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.” (Daniel 1:5)

Daniel knew that this diet was against the dietary restrictions God had given his people. He refused to eat “unclean” food or defile himself with the wine and asked his guard to allow this. God gave Daniel favor in the sight of this man but he was worried: “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”

Daniel replied, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”

The man listened and tested them for ten days. “At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.” (Daniel 1:8–16)

This makes a good case to be a vegan or a vegetarian, but that is not the point. Daniel applied the same principle that Job learned: trusting God and submitting to Him in obedience is wise, for He knows better than we do concerning the wisest way to live.

Daniel and his friends eventually stood before the king and “in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.” (Daniel 1:17–20)

In the New Testament, Paul had learned the same principle in regard sharing the Gospel. Some try to please people using words of flattery. Some preach it for money, as seen in those scandals connected to television evangelists. Others seek glory from people. A few are experts in confrontation using a ‘turn or burn’ style often called ‘fire and brimstone’ preaching.

Not Paul. He denied these human ways and said he did not “seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4–8)

As the Scripture directs, he and his coworkers learned how to “speak the truth in love” and when they did, they found out that God’s way is the best way. Paul said to those who listened, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

Sometimes the ways of God make sense; sometimes they do not. However, trusting the Lord isn’t about that rationale, but about turning from my ideas and self-determination — with the knowledge that sin makes my ways polluted and selfish — whereas His ways are for my good and His glory.

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