May 30, 2016

Following Christ without saying ‘but . . . .’

Our pastor is doing a sermon series on hearing God speak. In the first one, he said that God is the only one who can speak directly into our thoughts. Yesterday, he made it clear that any ‘voices’ we hear must be measured against the Word of God. While Jesus said His sheep hear and know His voice, we are also to test the spirits and not be deceived.

During brunch after the service, a friend told me of a time when she clearly heard God telling her not to drive on a certain road. She was simply going to the post office, but the voice in her thoughts persisted. She couldn’t see why not, so went anyway. On her way, she had a head-on collision with a gravel truck and was nearly killed. She tearfully admitted the importance of listening and obeying.

Many do not realize the challenge of trusting God, particularly when His requests seem irrational. For those, rational is their “but God . . . .” For others, it could be something different. When Jesus was approached by several who said they would follow Him, He consistently responded by urging them to consider what that decision might mean. He knew that little word ‘but’ would creep in to every commitment. For instance . . . .

One person said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” (Luke 9:61)

“I will follow You, but . . . .” How would I finish that sentence? My friend said that her condition before that fateful accident was “but it must make sense.” As we talked, I realized each of us has a caveat, a point where we might shrink back, yet unless it is tested, we likely don’t know it.

However, God knows our weaknesses, those situations where our faith might flee and we will say no to Him. Thankfully, the Bible says . . .

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

 Even with this encouraging promise, there is no automatic obedience. God provides the way of escape, but I have to step in that direction, without saying “But . . . .”

Chambers talks about it in terms of habit. He says that if I determine to do what Jesus Christ wants, eventually a point will come where I am strongly tempted to turn back, usually because what He asks does not make sense, or it will not be comfortable, or my deepest needs will go unsatisfied. Whatever the reason, the question is: have I learned that taking a risk with Jesus is safe? Have I learned that because of who He is, I can trust Him even when He asks seemingly crazy and impossible things?

This is one reason to read His story. Noah made a boat even though it had never rained and everyone laughed at him. Abraham left his home and went out with no clue where God was taking him. Joseph kept his cool despite years of unfair treatment. David took on a giant with a slingshot. Job lost everything in one day, but refused to curse God.

If I were to write my own story, how would it read? What has God asked of me that made no sense at the time, but seems now like common sense?

I have noticed that faith changes nonsense into logic. The practice of obedience in the small things helps me be more apt to obey God when His words come out of left field and seem total nonsense. This kind of living by faith is not based on rationality or reasoning though. It is based on the character of God. Knowing who He is goes beyond a lifetime of discovery. It makes daily deepening that relationship one of the most important disciplines of life.

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