Lesson 2 -- second quarter 2008
March 9, 2008
© Copyright 2008
"Jonah?! Isn't this lesson supposed to be about David?"
Sure. This lesson starts out being about David and his heart and his plans. Really, though, the lesson is about me and you. But as I was trying to say about Jonah....
God had a mission for Jonah. In God's heart, this was a wonderful mission, a mission warning of judgment but offering mercy in exchange for repentance. In Jonah's heart, this was a horrible mission. Sure, the judgment part sounded great to him, but knowing God's heart, he just knew those heathen enemies of his people would repent and receive mercy. So Jonah hit upon the perfect solution (he thought): He would not relay the message to the people of Nineveh, which meant they wouldn't have a chance to repent, which meant God would destroy them.
You know the account; that's what he did. "But Jonah rose up to flee...from the presence of the LORD" (Jonah 1:3). "Now there's a silly project," you may think, "especially for someone who knows God's heart and greatness." Not only did Jonah reject the mission and the Sender, he also tried to get away from God completely. Surely he knew Psalm 139:7 -- "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" Maybe he honestly thought he could evade God. Whatever he may have thought, we can learn that disobedience, as foolish as that is, leads to further foolishness and futility.
I wonder how often I have pulled a Jonah. That is, I know from God's Word and His witness in my heart that I ought to do a certain something. The matter may be as "simple" as correcting my thoughts about someone else; the issue may be bitterness, anger, lust, mistrust, envy, contempt, rebellion, or mockery. The divine order is no less clear to me now than it was to Jonah way back then. But I have other preferences, so I hatch other plans. In other words, "But Mark...."
Does the shoe ever fit you also? (Notice that in today's lesson, it didn't fit David!)
And I said, "Behold, here I am."
Sounds like pretty terrific stuff, doesn't it! But what if we consider the implications of such an exchange? When I respond to God with the presentation of myself, I am putting myself fully at His disposal. Fully! Nothing held back, as Abraham and David (and Jonah and I and you?) discovered and demonstrated. No further understanding is required, only faith and obedience. In the final analysis, nothing really matters any more but the execution of the expressed will of God.
The problem is, often there are other elements that resist this kind of all-out obedience to the Lord. This need not be a bad sign or a source of discouragement. Rather, it can be a time of reaffirming our commitment to God above all else, even above our commitment to ourselves.
Consider some items that frequently conflict with my acceptance of God's will in my life.
My Plans. After I invest so much time, effort and energy into the development of a plan, I very strongly resist shelving or ditching that plan. My plan may be of the noblest sort, but if God's will bypasses that plan...then so must I. Whether the plan is significant (career, education, travel, for examples) or mundane (a purchase, a diversion or whatever), I must turn away from it if I would follow after God. Can I do that? And do it with a ready heart and a cheerful mind?
My Hopes. Oh, how I have hoped for some things! Perhaps it was a mission assignment or a teaching job or a certain friendship. Maybe I had my eye on a specific church office or special summer activity. Whatever it was, this hope occupied a lot of my thinking, dreaming time. To have that hope dashed seemed too big a hurdle to even be likely. And just as I came to the point of seeing that hope become reality...God called to something else. What a choice!
My Self. In a way, herein lies the crux of the whole matter, right? I suspect that if I were always objective enough, I would see that all my choices involving the will of God boil down to this essence: God or me? "Well, if that's objectivity, I want none of it!" Yes, I understand all too well. We would rather think that is an over-simplification. But let's face this squarely -- nothing else in my life is big or bold enough to challenge God except my self! Can I so surrender to God and His will that even self bends before Him? Yes. But will I? Will you?
The Cost. (See all of the above.) As I consider the cost of doing God's will, let me never, ever, overlook the cost of not doing God's will! And in my considering, God forbid I lose sight of the privilege and the blessing of living life according to His will.
I want to do God's will. Readily. Joyfully. Willingly. Carefully. Unreservedly. Fully.
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