Wednesday, June 25, 2014

To Follow God

We’re living where we never expected to be.  It’s not in a place where we felt called or drawn to be.  It’s near where April grew up.  It’s true, you never go home again, and we’re not home, but it’s where grace and mercy has been offered to us. 

We’ve gotten here by choosing to trust what we believe we heard from God.  Believing what we heard put us into action.  We acted and took risks and a couple doors opened for us, but we had to suffer for the sake of what we believed.  Our suffering has not caused us physical pain or harsh conditions, but misunderstandings and financial hardship have been some of the costs.  With that, family opened their doors to us.  We are blessed and loved and thankful.  It’s interesting where trusting what God has told you will put you.

In Matthew 19, a rich, young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to secure eternal life.  Jesus told him to keep the commands.  The man told Jesus he did.  “’What do I still lack?’”  Jesus told him to sell all the things he had, give the money to the poor, “’and you’ll have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me’ (vs. 21b).” The commands were not a treasure like the things that made him rich.  The commands were not a lifestyle, a way of life, a culture.  They were things he did.

The commands were things he did that didn’t compel him to sacrifice anything.  He never gave up anything in his life that was sacrificial for the sake of the commands, for the sake of the will of God to be done in and through him. 

“’What good deed must I do to have eternal life (vs. 16b, NRSV).’”  After he said he did all the commands since he was young, he asked, “’What do I still lack (vs. 20b)?’”  He had ‘everything’ but he still lacked something.  He felt it.  He knew it.  In the face of Jesus he knew he still lacked.  With the earthly treasure, he still lacked.  With the doing of the commands since he was a youth he still lacked.  He goes to Jesus and asked what was it he was missing in order to know beyond a doubt he had eternal life secure.  He doubted because he was insecure, insecure in the face of Jesus. 

“I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens” – Psalm 89: 2, NRSV.  The young man’s focus still remained on what was not firm. The treasure he possessed and measured and counted, he believed, was firm, but it wasn’t.  God’s faithfulness is firm.  Being heavenly minded makes us aware of his faithfulness.  It’s firm.  What must we do to take hold of what is so firm?  The rich, young man’s soul and spirit were not firm because he obviously still believed he could keep a grip on what is valued in this world and do his religious duty; thereby, secure heaven for himself without giving up anything.  He knew he lacked. 

The young man treasured what was not firm, and in the face of Jesus, he knew it, and it bothered him greatly to the point he approached Jesus for the answer.  The answer had to do with how he wasn’t living.  He didn’t treasure what deserved true attention and acclaim by this man.  He was poor and wanted to fix it religiously without fixing it through surrender to the True Treasure.  “He went away grieving, for he had many possessions (19:22).” 

We’ve grown familiar with doing what we can with what we have or have been given.  We’ve lacked financially.  Our debt has fluctuated from two cars being paid off finally to an increase in our credit card indebtedness to an unprecedented level.  We’ve lacked socially.  Friends and acquaintances have grown cold to us to the point we’ve felt abandoned without encouragement.  We’ve lacked professionally.  April and I have never had such difficulty finding work especially in a time in our lives we’ve needed incomes the most.   It’s interesting where trusting what God has told you will put you, but there’s little we would have changed.

“Oh, maybe you missed God.”  “Oh, maybe you didn’t count the cost.”  “Oh, maybe you never ‘heard’ God.”

April and I had scores of conversations addressing these and other propositions.  I’m sorry, if you’re making these same comments now, you’ve fallen behind.  We’ve crossed these bridges and have come to the other side.  We’ve been given prophetic words by strangers and family alike that had little idea what we were going through.  We’ve had dreams.  We’ve had encounters with God in worship and prayer and out-of-the-blue.  God has expressed and continues to express to us how good he is and how good it’s going to be for us and those we’ll encounter in the seasons to come.  Truly, after having such encouragement given to us, we have decided in faith to not look back and follow our True Treasure. 

Sisters and brothers, it has and continues to be hard on many levels; however, we believe we’ve had to go through many of these experiences and conditions so we can never say we have regrets. 

We will not encourage anyone to sacrifice and surrender-it-all unless they’ve heard from God and followed up with confirming words, dreams, visions that support what was told to them originally.  We’ve sacrificed wealth and security and relationships for the sake of what God has told us.  We believe him.  This is what it is to follow God. 

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