My two favorite college football teams have been rocked by scandals in the past seven months. First, it was Penn State. Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator, was accused of sexually assaulting young boys. University trustees felt head coach, Joe Paterno, didn’t do enough to stop Sandusky, so they fired him. Joe died of lung cancer a couple months later.
Then earlier this week, Arkansas head coach, Bobby Petrino, was involved in a motorcycle accident. He suffered four broken ribs, a cracked vertebrae and some cuts and bruises on his face. What wasn’t known until yesterday was that he’d also had a passenger with him, 25 year-old, Jessica Dorrell, a young woman he’d recently hired to work in the football program. Last night, Petrino admitted to an “inappropriate relationship” with her. Petrino is now on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of athletic director, Jeff Long’s, investigation.
I was saddened and disappointed by the Penn State situation and I feel the same way now. If there’s one lesson that comes from these two situations, it’s this: sin destroys.
Bobby Petrino, despite a 21-4 record over the past two seasons, could end up losing his job. He has brought shame and embarrassment on himself, his family and the University of Arkansas. And sadly, the woman with whom he had the “inappropriate relationship” was engaged to be married soon. The website that contained the details of her wedding has now been taken down.
Sin destroys. It destroys us and those around us. The consequences may not always be immediate or even noticeable, but that only means sin is doing it’s destructive work unnoticed, in secret. For now anyway.
Sin destroys. It’s a promise.
Before the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan River to occupy the land God had promised to them, Moses told them:
Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time. (Deuteronomy 4:39-40)
God’s commands aren’t meant to rob of us of a good time, they’re meant to provide for us and protect us. They teach us how to live so that “it may go well” with us. The Author of life knows best how it should be lived. He knows that when we stray from Him and go our own way, the result is destruction. We see that destruction all around us, everyday.
There is good news though.
Today is Good Friday. It’s the day Jesus was betrayed and unjustly put to death. It’s the day my sin was put on the One who knew no sin. Jesus was put to death for the sin I committed. He took the punishment I had earned. He took my punishment and in exchange gave me His right standing before His Father.
I deserved death, but was given life.
I was an enemy of God, but through the death of Jesus, I became His child and His friend. I have peace with God through Christ.
What sin destroys, God redeems.
Yes, sin is destructive and carries with it consequences, but God is greater than the destructive force of sin. And He can even take the terrible consequences of our sin and use them for our ultimate good…if only we will turn from going our own way and begin to walk according to His ways.
Should Bobby Petrino still be allowed to coach the Arkansas Razorbacks? Well, he doesn’t really deserve to, does he? How can he, with any credibility, tell his players to be men of character after he betrayed the trust of his wife, his supervisor and the people of Arkansas?
But you and I are also guilty of betrayal, aren’t we? We betrayed Jesus. And instead of the punishment we deserve, by grace we’ve received forgiveness.
I don’t know what should happen with Coach Petrino. I just know I’m not able to throw the first stone. I’m a man in need of grace myself.
My hope is that Coach Petrino would come to know the forgiveness of Christ, because I care far more about his soul and his marriage than about how many games he wins.
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
Jesus came into the world. We didn’t recognize Him. And yet He didn’t assert His rights as God and demand His own way. He was humble.
Do you understand how the One who spoke the universe into existence is humble? I don’t.
God didn’t choose to humble Himself and become a helpless baby, He became a helpless baby because He’s humble. Jesus experienced life as one of us, felt what it was like to be rejected by those He created and even let us kill Him because that’s what a humble God does.
God hasn’t changed. He’s still humble. He doesn’t demand things be done His way. Sure, He gives us commands, but they’re for our own good and He doesn’t make us obey.
Do you ever read about someone in the Bible and get frustrated with them? I guess that’s the kind way of saying it. Do you ever wonder what in the world that idiot was thinking?
I do. Over the past few days, I’ve felt that way about Saul, the first king over Israel.
This is a guy who had everything going for him. 1 Samuel 9:2 tells us Saul was “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites–a head taller than any of the others.”
In 1 Samuel 10, Saul is anointed as king by Samuel who then tells Saul to go on ahead of him to a town called Gilgal. Samuel will follow along in seven days and offer sacrifices and tell Saul what he’s to do.
When Saul returns home after his encounter with Samuel, his uncle asks him what Samuel said to him. Saul fails to tell his uncle that he’s been anointed as king. I suppose you could call that humility, but I don’t think it is. It seems like the beginning of a pattern of shrinking back from responsibility, from stepping up to the calling God has placed on his life.
Later, when Samuel publicly brings the tribes of Israel out to indicate who has been chosen as king, the tribe of Benjamin (that’s Saul’s tribe) is chosen. Then each clan in that tribe is brought forth, and Saul’s clan is chosen. And finally, Saul is chosen from those men in his clan.
There’s a problem though–Saul’s nowhere to be found. So the people inquired of God, “Has the man come here yet?”
God answered them, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.”
What? He’s hidden himself among the baggage? That’s right. Saul was hiding. They had to go look for him.
Once Samuel explains to the people how this new kingship in Israel will work, he dismisses everyone to their homes. Saul returns to his home in Gibeah and was accompanied by “valiant men whose hearts God had touched.” But there were also some troublemakers who despised him. “But Saul kept silent.”
Are you seeing a pattern? He doesn’t step up. He hides. He keeps silent.
He’s not leading. He’s not accepting responsibility. He’s acting passively.
Um, I do that. Before I’m too hard on Saul, I need to take a look in the mirror. And as I do, I’m not sure I like what I see.
How about you?
There’s more though…
Remember when Samuel told Saul to wait seven days? I posted about it here. Basically, Saul waited, but not long enough. Saul didn’t have his eyes on God, they were on his circumstances. That will always lead to feeling fearful, worried or anxious. And that never results in doing what’s right or best according to God.
Saul disobeyed and offered the sacrifices on his own, which was not for him to do. Rather than fear God, he feared his circumstances.
Some time later, Samuel gives Saul instructions from God to attack the Amalekites. God is going to punish them for how they treated the nation of Israel in the past. God commands Saul to spare no one–not people, not animals, not anything.
Saul carried out the attack and did what God commanded. Well, almost. Saul spared the king of the Amalekites. And they also kept the best animals.
That’s when God tells Samuel He’s grieved He made Saul king. So the next morning, Samuel set out to meet Saul. When he reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”
But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”
Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
At one point, he tells Samuel that he kept the best animals because, “I was afraid of the people so I gave into them.”
What Saul does is make excuses. Eventually, he agrees with Samuel that he has sinned, but you still get the idea that he’s not truly grieved over what he’s done. He’s more sorry he got caught than sorry He disobeyed and grieved God.
Again, he’s not fearing God–this time he’s fearing the people.
I do that. I fear people. I fear their opinions or what they’ll think of me. And so like Saul, I will remain silent when I should speak up.
I don’t respect Saul and how he failed to lead well, accept responsibility and fulfill God’s call on his life, but before I’m too hard on Saul, I need to take inventory of my own life.
Do I get so focused on my circumstances that I lose sight of God…and as a result make sinful decisions?
Do I fear people more than I fear God? Does that lead me to be silent when I should speak the truth?
Do I make excuses when I fail to fully obey? Do I tend to view partial obedience as enough?
Do I hide from responsibility and act passively when I really need to be stepping up?
Have you ever read the Old Testament and wondered how God could just wipe people out? I mean there’s the the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jericho and all the nations in the land of Canaan.
It just seems like lots of innocent people are suddenly killed as a result of God’s orders. Where’s the God of love and patience? Where’s the grace and mercy?
Let’s take a look, beginning with the fact that there are a couple of wrong assumptions in what I’ve just said. First, no one is innocent. Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
From the youngest child to the oldest adult–no one is innocent. Not. Even. One. “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
Second, God doesn’t “suddenly” wipe people out. He is always patient. In the case of the Amorites who occupied the land of Canaan, God waited hundreds of years before judging them. They had centuries to turn from their evil ways, which by the way, included sacrificing their own children. Not so innocent, huh?
In 2 Kings 17, Israel is attacked and taken into captivity by the Assyrian empire. God makes clear to Israel why this happened. Because they had sinned against Him by worshiping other gods, something He had repeatedly warned them not to do.
The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and seers: “Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees…” 2 Kings 17:13
They rejected His decrees and the covenant He had made with their fathers and the warnings He had given them. 2 Kings 17:15
The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn from them until the Lord removed them from His presence, as He had warned through all His servants the prophets.” 2 Kings 17:23
Has God been warning you? Is there an area of your life He has put His finger on?
Is it a relationship? One you need to end? One you need to restore? One you need to persevere in?
Is it your finances? Has God been telling you to give? Or stop using credit cards? Is there a debt you need to repay?
Is it your health? Do you need to eat better? Begin exercising? Rest more? Work less?
Is it a sinful habit? A habit that’s now become an addiction.
I find that God will warn me in multiple ways. It could be through His word. Or a phone call from a friend. Maybe through a sermon or podcast. Or it could be difficult circumstances or a medical condition that will only get worse if ignored.
Now I’m not suggesting He’s going to wipe you out if you continue to ignore Him. Based on my own sin and stubbornness, I can tell you He’s very, very patient and full of grace and mercy.
At the heart of our sin is unbelief. We persist in going our own way and ignore God’s warnings, because we simply do not believe Him. We assume we know what is best for us. We think our plans for our lives are better than His.
We’re wrong though. We’re arrogant too. How foolish of us to ever think we know better than God.
The only answer is to take His warnings to heart, turn from our own way and follow Him.
No matter what He’s warning you about, no matter what He’s telling you to do–it is always in your best interest to obey Him.
Playing dumb: to pretend to be ignorant of something
Sometimes people play dumb to avoid responsibility. “The lawn needs to be mowed? I’m sorry, I’m not sure how to work a lawn mower.”
Other times, we play dumb to gain an advantage for ourselves. “Well, I guess I could try, but I really don’t know very much about poker.”
Years ago, I already knew what game system I was getting my kids for Christmas, but I would pretend I didn’t know anything about it, so they’d be surprised. “So what was that thing you were asking for? A Nintendo something?”
We’re not the only ones who play dumb though. In Luke 24:13-35, Jesus has just risen from the dead and as a couple of His disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus, Jesus joins them, “but they were kept from recognizing Him.”
He asks them what they’re discussing and they proceed to tell Him all about the events of the past few days. Things, of course, that Jesus already knew. He then begins to explain how the Scriptures spoke about Him. When they get to Emmaus, “Jesus acted as if He were going farther.” But the disciples ask Him to stay and He accepts their invitation.
When they sat down to eat dinner together, He gave thanks, broke the bread and gave it to them. “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, and He disappeared from their sight.”
There are numerous reasons we choose to sometimes play dumb, but why would God? It’s not to avoid responsibility. It can’t be to gain information–He already knows everything.
I guess what I’m really asking is this: why isn’t God more clear? More obvious? Why does He hide Himself?
Take a look at Philippians 2:5-8…
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very natureGod,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very natureof a servant,
being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Jesus humbled Himself. Think about that for a moment. God. Humbled. Himself.
God is not arrogant or prideful. He’s not abrasive. He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. Of course, one day He will return to earth and set up His throne and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.
But God doesn’t use force to coerce us into following Him. He pursues us, but He doesn’t force Himself on us. He loves us, but whether we love Him in return is up to us.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Could it be that God isn’t more “in your face” obvious, because He wants us to seek Him? If He always showed up with big miracles and lots of fanfare–maybe we’d be less inclined to seek Him because we wouldn’t need to–we’d just be wowed by the sheer force of His presence.
We saw in the previous post that King Nebuchadnezzar had a pride issue. He thought more highly of himself than he should have. He also lived his life on his own terms, not God’s.
Those are the two faces of pride. Two sides of the same coin. Thinking more highly of myself than I should. And refusing to submit to God’s authority in my life.
Pride is a very dangerous condition. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar is about to find that out. The hard way.
By the way, there are two ways to gain wisdom. One is from your mistakes. The other is from other people’s mistakes. The latter is much better.
Daniel 4 finds the king at home in his palace, contented and prosperous. Things are good. Really good.
Something is wrong though. He just doesn’t know it. Actually, he does know it–he’s just forgotten it. At the end of Daniel 3, the king had three young Jews thrown into a furnace because they wouldn’t worship an idol he’d made. The men didn’t die though. God saved them. And the king got to see it with his own eyes. He saw the one true God rescue these men from the fire.
But he forgot it. He forgot that God was the true King. He forgot God is the one who gives authority and takes it away. He forgot that he was not the sovereign ruler, God is.
I forget, too. Or is it that I hope God will forget? I “forget” the sin God brings to my attention. I “forget” the changes He wants me to make.
Forgetting, like pride, is a dangerous condition.
So the king has a terrible dream. Read the chapter to get all the detail, but the bottom line is this: due to his pride, the king is not only going to lose his royal position, he’s going to become like the cattle. For seven years, he’s going to live in the fields, eat grass and begin to look like the cattle he’ll be living with.
After Daniel interprets the dream for the king, he concludes with:
“Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”
The king has a chance to avert what’s coming. He can turn from his sinful pride, submit to God and show kindness to those he’s now oppressing. He has a chance.
A year goes by and the king has blown his chance.
He is walking around on the roof of his palace, admiring all that he’s accomplished. That’s when God has had enough. What Daniel had said would happen now comes to pass. And for the next seven years, the king lives in the fields with the rest of the cattle. Just as Daniel said it would happen.
Finally, after seven years, the king says, “I…raised my eyes toward heaven and my sanity was restored.”
After seven long years of living like an ox, the king gives up. He surrenders control to the true King. He acknowledges that God is the one with all the power. God is the one who does as He pleases. The king realizes that God is able to humble those who walk in pride.
The king also discovers the grace of God when his kingdom and authority are restored to him and he “became even greater than before.”
Most likely, you and I won’t be made to live like an ox, but God has other ways to humble us when we walk in pride, so it’s much better to learn the easy way (from the king’s mistakes) than the hard way (by learning from our own mistakes). Here are a few life lessons we can take away:
1. God gives authority, success and wealth. They don’t come from our intelligence and hard work. All the credit goes to God. Claiming the credit for ourselves is evidence of pride.
2. We forget, but God doesn’t. If God has put something on your heart to do or change, then just do it. Just because a year or more goes by, it doesn’t mean God has forgotten what He said. Continuing to do what we want is evidence of pride.
3. God is faithful to forgive us and give us more grace when we turn away from our pride and submit to Him. It doesn’t mean we don’t experience the consequences of our sin. King Nebuchadnezzar lost seven years of his life while he grazed in the fields like an animal, but once he submitted himself to God and thought rightly about himself–God blessed him.
Do you find a little of King Nebuchadnezzar in yourself? Have you tended to look at your accomplishments, your wealth, your abilities as coming from you? Have you forgotten (maybe “ignored” is a better word) something God has told you to do?
Submit to God today. Don’t wait. Don’t lose seven years or even seven days. God is ready to give you more grace right now.
1. Meet your spouse’s needs. First, you need to know what they are. Become a student of your spouse to find out. Write down everything you learn. Then start meeting those needs.
Yes, it’s that simple. Easy? Not always. Simple? Yes.
If you’re trying to come up with some needs, here are a few to get things kick-started: conversation, alone time, words of encouragement, romance, a hug, quality time with you, help with the housework, sex, a weekend away, an extra hour of sleep, respect, a phone call “just because”, a massage, etc.
Keep in mind, you’re looking for your spouse’s needs, not your needs. Also, while you’re at it, discover some wants and meet those, too.
2. Be third. God first. Spouse second. You third.
I know you also have needs and wants that aren’t being met and you may be giving a lot more than your spouse, but choose to meet your spouse’s needs even if yours aren’t being met.
What’s the alternative? Pull back and wait until your spouse goes first?
How well do you think that’s going to work?
I know it won’t be easy, but you will reap what you sow. Be the bigger person and begin serving your spouse. See what God does.
3. Pray together. If this is a scary thought to you, then start small. Before you go to sleep tonight, hold hands and say, “Lord, thank you for my husband/wife.” If it’s not so scary, then take a few minutes to pray for each other.
4. Believe God. Difficulties are inevitable, so learning how to deal with them as a couple is critical. The most important thing you can do is focus your attention on God, not your circumstances. Your financial crisis, medical issue or rebellious child may seem overwhelming, but it’s not to God. He has a solution and He has peace for you. Read Hebrews 11:6.
Choose to trust Him and not give in to worry, fear and anxiety. Those negative emotions will only poison your marriage.
How do you begin believing God, not your circumstances? There’s no substitute for spending time reading the Bible. In it, God has revealed Himself, His purposes and His ways. As we discover who God is and how He works, our capacity to trust Him is enlarged. Difficult circumstances no longer seem insurmountable when seen through God’s eyes.
5. Be your best. About 18 months into marriage, Robyn and I attended a “Weekend to Remember” marriage conference. During that weekend, I realized what a poor job I was doing as her husband. I decided then to be the best husband I could be. That was in 1987. While I’m far from perfect, I’m much further along than had I never made that decision.
6. Give grace. Your spouse is going to blow it. A lot. What are you going to do then? Keep score? Hold a grudge? Punish? Where will that get you?
What if instead, you gave grace and forgiveness? The way God does to us. What if you chose to treat your spouse the way you want to be treated when you fail? Again, I know this isn’t easy, but that leads to the next point…
7. Be filled with the Holy Spirit.In Ephesians 5, Paul gives instructions to husbands and wives. It’s some heavy stuff. And in our own strength, it’s impossible stuff. So prior to giving those instructions, in verse 18, he said, “…be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
To be filled with the Holy Spirit means to be under his influence. In fact, Paul compares being drunk to being filled with the Spirit. When someone is drunk, they speak and act in a way that indicates they’re under the influence of alcohol. When we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we will speak and act like He desires.
How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit? Simply by surrendering control of your life to Him. You can be in control or He can. He’s not going to fight you for control. He’s going to wait for you to give it to Him. When you do, you will experience His wisdom and power in your life.
8. Get healthy. You can’t change your spouse, but you can change you. Commit to getting healthy both physically and emotionally. If you’re not eating right or exercising, then you won’t feel well. If you don’t feel well, you won’t have the energy to invest in your marriage. If you don’t know where to start, click here.
You also need to commit to good emotional health. If your leg is broken, you’ll have an extremely difficult time running a mile. It would be painfully obvious that what you need is a doctor to set your leg in a cast, so you can heal.
The problem with our emotional health is the broken things are less obvious. The consequences are no less serious though. If you’re walking around with unresolved issues from your childhood, hurt and resentment from a previous marriage, a bad experience in a legalistic church or some other emotionally traumatic event, then you do not have the emotional health required for a successful marriage. You just don’t. So get help.
How do you know if you need help?
If you often feel angry, anxious or depressed–you need help.
If you need _______________ to feel good, relieve stress, unwind or shake off a bad day–you need help. Put whatever you want in the blank: food, alcohol, drugs, pornography, shopping, sex, gambling, chocolate, etc.
If you often feel guilty or ashamed–you need help.
If you are verbally abusive to your spouse–you need help.
If you’ve ever hit your spouse (or been hit)–you need help.
If you’ve lost any hope of your situation getting better–you need help.
Find a Christian counselor and make an appointment. Do it today. You’ll be stuck until you do.
9. Be playful. Sure marriage takes some work, but it doesn’t have to be all work. Lighten up a little. Have fun with each other. Take a walk. Take dancing lessons. Take a shower (together). Go on a bike ride. Cook together. Send each other suggestive text messages. Go to a dollar store and buy each other five gifts. Exchange them over coffee and dessert. Play a game. Put the kids to bed early, order Chinese food and watch a funny movie.
Just enjoy each other and laugh together. Like when you were dating.
10. Get away. If you can afford it, spend a couple nights in a bed and breakfast or hotel. Don’t take any work. Leave the laptop at home. Turn off your phones. Focus on each other. Eat some good meals. Take walks. Talk about your dreams. Consider attending a “Weekend to Remember” for your weekend away.
Getting away from the normal routine of life will do wonders for your marriage. If you can’t remember the last time you got away, then schedule something now.
Obviously, these all work better and more quickly if you both commit to do them, but don’t wait for your spouse. (Read #2 again.) Do what you know to do. Start right now. Trust God with the results.
Okay, here’s a bonus one:
11. Be your spouse’s biggest fan. While you’re studying your spouse looking for needs, also be on the lookout for strengths. What is your spouse good at? What do they enjoy doing? What are they passionate about? What gets them excited?
Once you have those answers, encourage them to pursue those activities, ideas or dreams. Cheer them on. Help them. Help find the resources to make it happen. Do whatever you can to help the vision become reality.
My wife, Robyn, just finished reading through the Bible in about three months. I started through the Bible about two and a half years ago by reading some from the Old Testament and some from the New Testament. I’ve read through all of the New Testament at least once and I’ve made it as far as Ezekial in the Old Testament.
What’s interesting is that from Robyn’s quick read and my slow one–we both have concluded the same thing:
God is full of grace, but He’s holy and righteous at the same time and not to be messed with.
I’m reminded that the central character in history is God. It’s not me. It’s not you.
From before the beginning of time, God’s desires and God’s plans are what matter. This is His universe. He created it for His glory and pleasure. I get to enjoy it with Him, but I can’t make the mistake of thinking He exists to make me happy or to give me an easy life.
I am His creation and exist for His pleasure. Apart from Him, I have no purpose, no reason for being. Neither do you.
True happiness and meaning are found only when I wholeheartedly give myself to Him and live according to His pattern for this life. My needs are met in Him. My wants are met in Him. My hopes are met in Him.
Looking elsewhere for life is futile. We won’t find apart from Him. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life…”
Have you drifted off course lately? Has your relationship with God been on the back burner? Does one day seem to slip into the next without much thought of God and His purposes?
Going our own way, whether passively or in active rebellion, is the essence of sin. In Christ, God has forgiven our sin, but there’s another step. Repentance. In Mark 1:15, Jesus said: “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
To repent means “to change one’s mind.” Do you need to change your mind today?
God is full of grace, but remember that He’s also holy and righteous. We exist for His pleasure, not our own. Directing our own lives and living for ourselves is pride. James wrote, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Turn from the self-directed life. Turn back to God. Humble yourself before Him and experience more of His grace.
Do you ever feel like God isn’t listening? Like you’re praying, but not much is happening?
It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
Now imagine for a moment a living room with two chairs turned toward each other. It’s quiet with nothing to distract you. You sit down, close your eyes and begin to pray.
After a few minutes, you pause, and open your eyes. Jesus is seated across from you. He’s leaning forward with His elbows on His knees. His eyes are locked in on you. You can tell He was listening to your every word.
As you continue to pray, He smiles and begins to nod His head.
Is it possible to feel like Jesus is that attentive to your prayers?
I think it is.
2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
God is looking for those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. He’s looking right now.
Isaiah 66:2 says, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”
The word “esteem” in this verse means “to regard or look to.” God is looking to those who are humble and contrite in spirit. The humble are those who are living in submission to Him. Their lives are surrendered to Him. They are contrite or broken in spirit. In other words, their lives are under His control and authority. It doesn’t mean they are perfect, but there is genuine remorse when they sin.
They also tremble at His word, meaning there’s reverence and respect for His commands. They read the Bible to obey it and be conformed to it, not to be entertained by it.
Do you want to feel like you really have God’s full attention?
Then check your heart.
Are you fully committed to Him? Or are there areas of your life you’re holding onto?
Have you humbled yourself by submitting to Him? Or are you more concerned with your goals, your plans and your desires?
Do you tremble at His word? Even a little? Is there any fear of not obeying Him?
This isn’t a formula. And I’m not suggesting God never answers prayer if there’s sin in your life. I’m also not saying you can expect God to say “yes” to all your prayers if you’re fully committed to Him. We’re too selfish to expect our motives are always pure.
What I am saying is this: God is looking.
He’s looking for fully committed hearts who want to obey Him.
After Jesus was baptized by John, Matthew writes, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”
After Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he preached there, but then went into Arabia for several years. Did you know Arabia means “desert or barren?”
After Moses killed an Egyptian, he fled to the land of Midian where he stayed for 40 years. Midian? It’s right next to Arabia.
Right before God led the Israelites into the Promised Land, Moses spoke to them and said:
“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.” (Deuteronomy 8:1-5)
We know that after Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, He went on to call His first disciples and began His public ministry.
After Paul’s season in the desert, he began his ministry–taking the gospel to the gentiles.
Moses spent 40 years in the desert before God called him back to Egypt to lead His people into the land He’d promised to them.
I don’t think Jesus, Paul, Moses or the nation of Israel necessarily loved the desert. It seems to be a prerequisite though for effective ministry.
You may find yourself in your own desert today. It’s hard. It’s painful. You’d just like some relief. I know…I’ve been in the desert, too. It’s not any fun.
God is up to something though. He has you in the desert for a reason. He wants to reveal Himself to you. He wants to teach you. He wants to humble you. He wants you to know that you don’t live on bread alone, but on every Word of His. He is the One who is causing you to hunger and He is the One who is feeding you.
The desert won’t last forever. God uses it for a season and then brings you into a land of fruitfulness. Keep in mind–the desert is not only about you. God is teaching you and preparing you to enter a season of greater usefulness in His kingdom. Others will be blessed because you endured the desert.
If you don’t experience the desert, then You will not be prepared for how He will bless you and use you in the future. Just hold on. God is at work. He will lead you out at just the right time. Keep your eyes on Him and trust Him.
The desert must come first…then the Promised Land.
Gregg Stutts - Gregg is a pastor at The Church at Arkansas in Fayetteville. He is married to Robyn, the Young Life director in Northwest Arkansas. They have four children: Rachel, Erica, Amy and Rob. Gregg has authored two books and often teaches on marriage.