Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When God whispers will you hear Him?

"The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation."  C.S. Lewis

One of the things I love most about the Bible is when complete connections between the Old and New Testaments and the fulfillment of God's promises and purposes are shown clearly to us.  No matter how much you have grown up in the Word or read your Bible there is always so much more new truth to mine.  My dear friend sent me a message to listen to from the "Together for the Gospel" conference held recently at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  I am providing the link here and encourage you to find a quiet hour to listen and be fed with the truths in this sermon titled The Underestimated God: God’s ruthless, compassionate grace in the pursuit of his own glory and his ministers’ joy. : Together for the Gospel.

The story of God's provision for Elijah in chapter eighteen of 1 Kings has often encouraged my heart.  I love how God continues to feed the widow, her son and the prophet with just a little flour and oil.  When the son becomes ill to the point of not breathing Elijah pleads with God about the "unfairness" of bringing this calamity upon a woman who had so faithfully obeyed.  God allows Elijah to heal the boy through His power.  I think if you or I had witnessed one or both of these miracles we would boast there is no way we would soon forget God's faithfulness and certainly would trust Him with any new challenges that might crop up. 

Then we get to chapter 19.  Elijah was on the war path.  Full of the Spirit he killed all the false prophets with a sword and the words came to him that Jezebel was plenty mad and out for his blood.  Just like that Elijah was overtaken with fear and ran for his life.  He travels out in the desert and leaves his servant and goes a day further.  He finds some shade and gets real with God.  "He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”  Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep." 

This despair came from the euphoria of a battle won being followed immediately by a hardship that seemed to close the door on everything he had prayed for, hoped for, drempt of and lived for.  This is exactly where God brings His children to understand what they REALLY believe.  Pastor Ligon so poignantly asks, "What are your greatest losses in life?  What are your unsatisfied dreams?  How we respond HERE may be the most important thing in life!"

Once again we see the compassion of God as He sends an angel to care for Elijah's physical needs.  He ministered to him with several meals between naps until Elijah's strength begins to return as well as his resolve.  He makes the forty day journey to Mt. Horeb and then sets up camp inside a cave.  When he wakes God confronts Him about His complacency and discouragement.  I love how God says so bluntly to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  I know God has woken me up and said this to me before.  "Seriously, Monica, What are you doing here?  Why are you so afraid?  Don't you remember my compassion and lovingkindness?  Don't you think I have this plan worked out for my glory and your joy???"  Elijah's answer makes me chuckle a little.  It's like a child to answer the way he does not remembering God's question was rhetorical.  He knows all.  It wasn't an information seeking question at all.  Still he says, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 

God answers with a request, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”

As if food out of nothing was not enough, the power to raise a child from the dead, strength to slay soldiers and just having his own personal angel minister to him God lets him know He is going to show Him something only one other man, Moses, had ever seen, a real glimpse of the God of Heaven and earth. 

Here's the best part.

 I can completely feel Elijah's heart beating out of his chest as he waits.   

"Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave."

A gentle whisper. 

Not in the wind.

Not in the earthquake.

Not in the fire.

A gentle whisper.

God asks him again, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

The realization set in.  Elijah knows now what God is trying to say.  It's not going to happen the way he drempt.  God's plan was different all along. 

Elijah wanted a spectacular showing of God.  Instead God literally crushed Elijah's own idolatry of needing his ministry to play out his way because He wanted him to have greater joy.  For all intents and purposes God ends Elijah's ministry and passes on his legacy to someone else. 

God seems harsh.  Or does he?  His provision for Elijah had been RELENTLESS.  God's purposes for his life were clear cut. 

God's glory.

Elijah's greater good and ultimate joy.

Fast forward to the New Testament and Luke 9.  Read the entire chapter.  Wow, it's good.  But beginning in verse 28 it begins to tell the story of the transfiguration of Christ. 

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

WHAT?  How did I miss this all these years?  The two men who had been granted a glimpse of God's glory in their earthly ministries and both denied their deepest earthly dreams, literally as if God held out their greatest treasure to them in His almighty hand and then said, "Do you see it?  You can't have it now."  They appeared in glorious splendor talking with Jesus.  Elijah was finally shown "the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ."  (II Corinthians 4:6)

It all makes sense.  This is how God works.  He often chooses to go after our greatest treasures and leave us with nothing else but a quiet whisper.  I have to admit.  I am often pitching a fit too loudly to even remotely hear His voice.  I said to my husband just the other night, "I'd rather die than live like this any longer."  It's just not fair to obey Him and fight so hard for so long for my Danica and then not be allowed to enjoy or even watch her in most cases live out her healing.  I'm in bed.  My surgeries have brought me so very far, but I am a very sick woman.  My mast cell attacks are getting closer together, more unpredictable and very scary.  I can't go anywhere or do anything because the entire world is my enemy.  Even this dark room where I lay in pain is making me sick.  Is it the carpet, the dampness only I seem to notice or be bothered by, the lack of ventilation . . .?  Is it the soul wrenching fact I am here at all?  God took my last big idol from me last summer.  He took my home.  I'm looking for some crazy answer to come in on wind or an earthquake or a burning fire.  He's showing Himself daily in provision and healing and strength to fight and even angels who care for me with earthly graces.  What if He's holding out in His hand this thing, my health, the ability to ever really function normally again or have my own home, and then telling me, "You can't have it now."

This is where God has brought me to understand what I REALLY believe.  What I do in these moments means everything.

My life isn't this cheap.  God will not leave me here in these disappointments.  I have a sure and certain HOPE.  I will see Him face to face.  He has gone to prepare a place for me.  He already has my floorplan picked out.  Home.  Health.  Enjoyment forever.  Exceeding, abundantly more than I could ever ask or think.

God is relentlessly pursuing me and whispering in my ear.  "Do not lose heart.  He that endures to the end will be saved.  My strength is made perfect in your increasing weakness.  I will be glorified the most and your joy will be the greatest when this is finally over." 

You are my God.  You are impossible to overestimate.  I believe.

1 comment:

  1. "You are my God. You are impossible to overestimate. I believe." And I believe along with you, dear Sister! We do have a sure and certain HOPE!