My wife is going overseas for ten days to visit her family. As she nears the departure date, the frenzy of packing and preparing for international travel is upon us. Do you recall the movie Braveheart where William Wallace is on his trusty steed and he holds out his arms as he heads into battle and yells, “Freeeeedoooommmm!” Do you remember that? I go around the house with my arms spread wide yelling “freedom.” I receive the look of disgust. But truth be told, the closer her departure date presses in on us, the more I dread her leaving. She is my best friend; and though she will be gone only a short while, there is a sadness within me, knowing I will be empty for a few days without her. I even checked my cell phone provider’s website regarding an upgrade for international phone service so I can hear her voice while she’s gone.
We live in a world that is absent of much depth. And I realize I am just as much guilty as the next person. What is the saying? “We are a mile wide and an inch deep.” In this Christian culture of emotional songs and music that moves us to the heart of worship, have we missed some depth in our Christian walk? Peter wrote; “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you….” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV, emphasis added). Do we know why we believe and can we explain that belief to someone who asks?
I thought I could, until Duane stopped in my office last week. I had never met Duane. He is 79 and he is scared because he does not believe the truth of God’s Word. I failed to convince him. I hope I helped. But I was reminded that I need to improve my defense for the logical conclusions I have come to about my faith. What is the reason for my faith? What could I have said differently? I did point out to him that he already had faith, because he believed in good and bad and good can only come from God. I don’t want a faith that wavers. I want to be sure of what I believe.
I have been reading Hebrews. The writer of Hebrews says often throughout his letter; “don’t throw away your confidence,” “you have need of endurance,” “have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish” and “let us hold fast our confession.” He writes in Hebrews 10:39, the verse right before the “hall of faith” in chapter 11; “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” (ESV)
We tend to think that if there is not an emotional connection with God that it isn’t authentic. But we must press on and not shrink back so that we won’t be sluggish regarding our hope in Christ. I wonder, if we offer pseudo-responses to God sometimes trying to force a connection with Him. I wonder, if we actually know what we believe and why. I wonder, if anticipating my wife’s phone call from Malaysia is due to the depth of love and friendship we find in each other. I wonder, if missing her is because of the time we spend together. And I wonder, I wonder, if I would become a friend of God, connected deeply with Him, if I would spend more time listening to Him through His Word. I would imagine I would grow very close to God, and I would figure out what I believed, if I would spend more time in His Word…so I wonder.
Have you ever considered Job…not where you work but the man in the Bible. Job had it all. He had wealth, health, a large family and friends. He was respected. People looked to him for advice. He had a close knit relationship with His Creator, God. He prayed often. Lived blameless and upright. Then tragedy struck. Everything was taken from him. EVERYTHING. Yet he refused to sin in his pain and heartache. He questioned God. He requested meetings with God to see what he had done to deserve this.
Do you know what God’s response to Job was?
Job 38:2-41 (NIV)
2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone–
7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?
12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?
16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.
19 “What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!
22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?
31 “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up [God’s] dominion over the earth?
34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard and the clods of earth stick together?
God told Job, “I am God.” “I am the Creator.” “Who are you?”
No matter what pain you might be experiencing, whether it is loneliness or rejection, whether it is a sense of abandonment or a feeling of insignificance, God is still in control. Maybe you’re struggling with a health issue, a sick spouse, a difficult job situation, or maybe your relationships are not the best. God is still God. You have been faithful and have found pain. You have prayed and heard emptiness. Job did to and in the end this is how he responded:
Job 42:2-3 (NIV)
2 “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
Know this, no matter your challenges, no plan of God’s can be swayed. He has a plan and He is working out His plan for His glory…you might just be blessed enough to be part of it!
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:1-2
May the Body of Believers at BCC have a growing, contagious desire for more and more of Jesus Christ…. and may they find themselves more than satisfied in Him and Him alone. Go change your world on the boulevard!