by Jeff Lindsay
Two weeks ago I shared with you that we don’t always respond to Gods call or leading because we don’t truly recognize his voice. Last week I suggested that sometimes when God speaks, it’s so out of right field we just don’t get it.
I do believe God is speaking, leading, offering discernment, showing us the way, directing us even, but God’s ways are not always our ways. That’s something for us to take to heart of, especially when we want to cry out, “Why God, why? Why this way? Why is it taking so long to get to where you are leading? Why is it that I don’t want to do what I am sensing God you are saying especially when it means wait or do it a different way than I think is best!
Maybe you will recognize yourself in this scene from Shrek…
[Shrek and Fiona are traveling to see her family in a “kingdom far far away” and donkey is asking “are we there yet?” Because they are traveling to a place “far far away,” donkey asks many many times. As tempers mount, Shrek asks donkey to be quiet even for a moment. For those with internet access >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=basofea2UEs]
It seems too hard to live this life of faith. The need to trust God and His timing is such a challenge. Should it feel like this, like we are always fighting fires, just to survive in faith?
Have you ever heard the term stop drop and roll? It’s a term fire fighters use to teach people what to do if they ever catch fire. I was trained if I ever caught fire to stop moving, drop to the ground and roll. And keep rolling until the fire goes out. If you don’t stop and drop, but keep on walking or running, you actually fan the flames with more oxygen, which feeds the fire and makes it grow worse. If you stop drop and roll, you actually begin to snuff the fire out because you cut off the oxygen that feeds the flames.
There are times in our lives we run into problems/fires and what we need to do is stop, and drop — drop to our knees and not roll, but pray and listen for God.
Why because so many times our impatience, our efforts, just make things worse.
We know what these fires are, don’t we?
Life can be hard, it can be unfair, and it can be so difficult. It could be a bad day, week, month, or maybe even a year or longer?
I know many of you, because you have told me, are facing difficult situations. You are in the midst of the fire.
Have you heard the story of “Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, Not Good, Very Bad Day”? By Judith Viorst?
Alexander was a boy about 7 or 8 years old, and he had one of those days when everything went wrong… disasters one right after another. Nothing went right. “It was a Horrible, Terrible, Not Good, Very Bad Day.” For instance, when Alexander woke up in the morning, he discovered that he had gone to bed with gum in his mouth, and when he awoke it was in his hair. When he got out of bed he tripped over his skateboard, and then he dropped his sweater into the sink where the water was running. He said, “I just knew it was going to be a Horrible, Terrible, Not Good, Very Bad Day!” Then he went to school and he had a horrible day there, too. After school he had a terrible experience at the dentist’s office. Then came supper, and he said, “We had cauliflower for supper, and I hate cauliflower! And on TV all I saw was huggin and kissin, and I hate huggin and kissin!” “Then my bath water was too hot, and I got soap in my eyes, then I lost my marble down the drain. When he went to bed, Nick took back the pillow that he said I could have, and my Mickey Mouse night light burned out, and I bit my tongue, and the cat decided to sleep with Nick and not with me. All in all,” He said, “it was a Horrible, Terrible, Not Good, Very Bad Day.”
I have felt that way! Have you ever felt that way?
It is true that all of us face problems. There is a problem with diseases that come to us. There are problems associated with old age, sick and aging parents or spouses, with finances, misunderstandings between friends, some may have a problem with failing to forgive others, no self-esteem or very low self-esteem, suffering from guilt over things done in the past, some have been cheated, have been lied to, have been unfaithful in some way, you might have a family member with a drug or alcohol problem.
All we have to do is look at our prayer lists and we see the problems.
We may even personally struggle over our inability to do that which we should do and not do what we shouldn’t do. It can become so overwhelming to us that we begin to believe that there are no solutions!
Some times these are not even our problems but those we know, our loved ones, our friends. Many a parent is distraught over the choices of their children. How often do we find ourselves concerned and frustrated over our own problems and the problems of others? We get totally distracted and overwhelmed with problems.
In the book of Isaiah, Israel was having trouble, and thought that God had forsaken them. In the midst of our problems we may feel like God has forsaken or forgotten us. We might feel alone. We could wonder when, if ever, we are going to get some relief.
But we in the midst of all these concerns, problems, fires — we can hear God speaking to us! Isaiah 40:28 says, “ Have you not known? Have you not heard?”
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable.”
If these words are true then it’s amazing to me that the God of the universe is actually trying to get me to notice Him. In fact, the Bible teaches us that when we seek God we will find Him, and also reminds us that God is pursuing us, trying to get our attention because He wants a relationship with us, to direct us to His ways.
Its true! The God of the universe is pursuing us to lead us to where He is at work. To a place where He can extinguish the fires, to a place where we can experience His presence in ways we haven’t yet known. What will it take from us?
Oswald Chambers, pastor from the late 1800s and author of the book, “My Upmost for His Highest” said, “Obedience to God is essential, but not compulsory; he never insists on being Master. We feel that if only he would insist, we should obey him. But God never enforces his “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots”; he never takes means to force us to do what he says. He never coerces. In certain moods we wish he would make us do the thing, but he will not; and in other moods we wish he would leave us alone altogether, but he will not. If we do not keep his commandments, he does not come and tell us we are wrong. We know it, we cannot get away from it.”
Jesus, in Luke 15, tells three stories all of which say, God is searching for us, looking for us, longing for us. In the book of Revelation it tells us that Jesus is continually knocking at the door of our hearts requesting to come in.
Do you know this verse, “ Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.”(Rev. 3:20)
As we listened to our scripture today, we might have heard ourselves say, you’re joking, when God used an unexplainable phenomenon in an extraordinary way to get just one man’s attention.
Do you remember how it happened? The Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt about forty years earlier. It was now time to enter the Promised Land. On the east side of the Jordan they had defeated the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan. When the people of Moab saw this, they were terrified. Their king, Balak son of Zippor, took action.
If the Amorites couldn’t stand against Israel, he figured he couldn’t either. So he tried another tactic. He sent an envoy to Balaam son of Beor. He wanted to hire Balaam to curse Israel. He believed if they were cursed, then perhaps he could defeat them.
That night God told Balaam not to go. So Balaam sends King Balak’s envoy away. But Balak was persistent. He sent more princes who were more distinguished and promised Balaam even greater rewards. And that night, God allowed Balaam to go with Balak’s men, if and only if, Balaam would obey Him.
But when Balaam set out, he apparently had decided in his heart, not to do what the LORD would tell him. Wait. You mean Balaam made a promise to God and now isn’t going to keep it? I know shocking!!
The passage said an angel of the LORD stood in Balaam’s way and would have killed him, except Balaam’s donkey saw the angel and went off the path around him. Balaam couldn’t see the angel so he became angry with his donkey. The third time the angel appeared and there was no room for the donkey to go around, the donkey just sat down and Balaam beat him.
Balaam was seeking to go to a place that God did not desire for him to go as he faced one of these “fires” in life. The angel of the Lord comes out to meet Balaam but fortunately, Balaam’s donkey sees the angel standing with a sword waiting to punish Balaam for his disobedience. The Donkey three times refuses to lead Balaam into danger. But three times Balaam beats his donkey for his seemingly disobedience to his commands.
Finally the unthinkable happens. The donkey speaks. “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”
After this crazy brief conversation, Balaam is able to see the angel of the Lord standing before him. He is thankful for the loyalty of his donkey. The angel of the Lord would have killed Balaam for his disobedience. Balaam repents for disobeying God and his donkey becomes the hero in the story.
Are we Joking? No, God is serious about obedience.
What was it that Oswald said to us earlier?
“Obedience to God is essential, but not compulsory; he never insists on being Master. We feel that if only he would insist, we should obey him. But God never enforces his “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots”; he never takes means to force us to do what he says. He never coerces. In certain moods we wish he would make us do the thing, but he will not; and in other moods we wish he would leave us alone altogether, but he will not.
If we do not keep his commandments, he does not come and tell us we are wrong. We know it, we cannot get away from it.”
Do you recognize God’s voice? God longs to have the kind of relationship with His creation where His voice is undeniable, His leading unmistakable. Can you believe God can work outside your ability to reason, for your good? God is God and you are not, my friends. Do you want to face the fires in life with your limited resources or with the limitless resources of a loving God?
God has and will go to great lengths, to get our attention, to get your attention, but maybe we shouldn’t challenge Him in this way. Maybe we should stop, drop, and pray with open hearts, ears, and minds, that we might truly experience the life God desires for us.