For the past two weeks, we have been exploring the concept of God’s will. We looked at whether God really does have an intentional will for us and the need for us to be listening for his call. We also worked through how we can join him in accomplishing his purposes in this world and how we might be healed.
So what are we to glean from this exploration of God’s will? My response is that each of us is called into service, service to the Living Lord. I can heed his call or I may run away. If I say yes, God and I go to work. We do not stroll merrily down the path arm in arm, but rather we go to work together. There is much work to be done to ready the earth for the Reign of God. I don’t know what that work will entail, but I must be prepared to take it on, knowing that it will most certainly be a worthy task, even if it ultimately leads to what we here on earth would deem a negative end (see last week’s musing for more on death, pain and suffering). If I should choose to run away, all is not lost. God perseveres. He will continue pursuing me. There will be other choices and other decisions. I will be offered another opportunity to serve him. God never gives up on me.
I am drawn to John 9, the story of Jesus healing the man born blind. The people ask if the man was born blind as a result of his parents’ sin or because of his own sin. Jesus replies, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed.” Did the man find joy and peace in being blind? No. Was this a comfortable and rewarding experience for him? I seriously doubt it. He was born for that moment, to be an instrument of God that Jesus might use him to teach and convert. His imperfection was yet another vehicle to bring glory to God. William Barclay wrote, “Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but rather to turn it into glory.” In all things, in all failures and sufferings, there remains an opportunity to turn them to God’s glory. It is of these opportunities saints are made.
Look for a minute at Esther (Book of Esther). She was moved into a world of comfort and privilege. She greatly enjoyed her station in life, I would imagine. And yet a day came when life became difficult for her. She was called upon to take on a life-threatening endeavor. Mordecai says it plainly when he tells her, “Who knows, whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Few of us attain this clarity. We search to define what the moment is for which we were born. Some of us will recognize it when it comes and some of us will die never knowing. It is unimportant whether we are conscious of the moment, just that we meet it and rise to the challenge. Esther rose to the challenge.
We sing a song in our worship service that says, “still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly chose you [God] now.” That is not intended as an indication that those who choose for God early enjoy a richer or more magnificent reward. One need not search any farther than the parable of the vineyard workers (Matthew 20) to disprove the fallacy of that line of thinking. The point is the sooner we choose his way, the more time we have to work in His company for his cause. The joy is not just an end reward; the joy is also in the work itself. Clearly, we were placed here to work, “God placed man in the garden of Eden to work it and to till it” (Genesis 2:15).
God yearns for interaction with us and he offers many devices and opportunities. First and foremost, prayer. Man has gone to God in prayer through the ages. Jesus not only endorsed the practice, he engaged in it repeatedly and taught his followers new ways to pray.
He also calls us to study his word. Reading is good; study is better; instructed study is best of all. One example I would offer is Jesus’ use of parables. Jesus used parables to convey many of his most important messages. If you want to communicate your message in a manner that will allow your listeners to grasp it and retain it, there is no more effective form of communication than telling them a story.
I long believed that the parables were Jesus’ perfect way of teaching us how we were to relate to one another, how we were to change in order to lead a new life. Yes, he was trying to do just that and succeeded, I might add. But it was through study, through learning what others had to say about the Gospels that I gained a critical, new insight into the parables. One teacher imparted that while the parables were effective in relating the messages I just enumerated to us, that was not their primary function. The primary function of each and every parable was to teach us something new about God. Every parable illustrates how God relates to us, the kind of relationship God wants with us. Now that is powerful!
God wants us to turn toward him. I remember an old preacher’s story about a small child whose mother died. That night, he crawled in bed with his father and tried to go to sleep. After a few minutes, he tapped his dad on the back and asked his dad if he would turn the other way. “I’ll be able to sleep if I know your face is turned towards me,” he said. The dad was comforted, as well. He knew that the child’s face was turned towards him, too.
Draw near. Draw quiet. Hear the call. Heed the call.
Listening for God’s call, praying for the courage to say yes,