Phil Wickham “Divine Romance”
Though I too often let the business of life crowd out the mindset God has laid out for me, the deepest feeling of satisfaction for me comes from time spent in the Word because God never fails to reveal things to me and because His presence is a great comfort and guide in this life full of trials and temptations.
It’s natural for us to try to find comforting things that make us feel happy and I certainly have my favorites: a cup of coffee (even better a latte), a pile of books, family times, a close friend, a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, and dark chocolate to name a few. But I’ve found that nothing can bring the satisfaction I long for except time spent in the Word and worship. Beth Moore says in her “Living Free” Bible study, “I believe God creates and activates a nagging dissatisfaction in every person for an excellent reason….God purposely created us with a need only He can meet…. Unfortunately, salvation alone does not completely fill the need…Christians can be miserably dissatisfied if they accept Christ’s salvation yet reject the fullness of a daily relationship that satisfies…He wants us to find the only things that will truly satiate our thirsty and hungry hearts.”
Sometimes too much of a good thing is gluttony and runaway expectations are hurtful. Beth goes on to say, “I am not minimizing the difficulty, but I am suggesting the obstacles are removed by volition. Some of the idols in our lives – things or people we have put in God’s place – can take much longer to remove. Some of them have been in those places for years and only the power of God can make them budge. We must begin to remove idols by choosing to recognize their existence and admitting their inability to keep us satisfied.”
The Rolling Stones captured the age old problem of dissatisfaction in their song, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, ‘I can’t get no satisfaction, cause I try and I try and I try and I try.’ As long as our misguided hearts cause us to seek satisfaction in the wrong places permanent satisfaction will continue to elude us. Not only will it elude us, but our efforts to chase it down and have it can become dangerous to ourselves or those around us. To continue to indulge makes that thing an idol and/or a stronghold. Isaiah knew exactly what happens to an individual caught in such a trap, “He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’ (44:20)” This is where intercession with all sorts of prayers for ourselves and others entrapped can be like a spiritual life raft for the soul. God can and does open the blind eye and set free the captive when we pray with tenacity and faith.
Beth Moore confides in her personal experience of having her eyes opened to a lie she once held tightly in her hand, “I also remember the harrowing moment God opened my eyes to see what a lie I had believed. I cried for days. I originally thought this lie was a good thing…My heart, handicapped in childhood, had deluded me….My only consolation in my idolatry is that I finally allowed God to peel away my fingers…I am very aware that Satan will constantly cast idols before me.”
Chris Tomlin expresses well the delightful satisfaction in choosing what’s true in his song, “Satisfied”.
The most satisfying time of my day is the time in Bible study each morning with my husband. God’s Word never fails to comfort and exhort me. I am grateful for those who have prayed for me, because at times in my life I have blindly fed on ashes and grasped at lies. Have you? Do you know someone was praying for you? I also know some who have or are feeding on ashes and “cannot save themselves”, as Isaiah says, because they don’t recognize the lie. They need and get my prayers! Have you went to war in prayer lately for yourself and others in order to peel a lie from the hand and pull back a friend from a meal of ashes?
Today I contemplate Who I am dependent on, not what I’m dependent on Him to make me or do for me. He can change that as often as the wind shifts direction if He chooses. And it’s not my business to hole up at any given “stop” and sing the praises of how used of Him I may be in that stage. Nothing’s more boring and uncomfortable then hearing someone sing the arrogant praises of their usefulness to God, which can be a lengthy delusion.
To truly take stock of His leading and “nudging”, especially in retrospect, can bring me to stark realizations of my failure to follow. I become keenly aware of His gentle tugs and my reasoning to the contrary. Of course, if I haven’t spent much time in prayer, meditation and Bible study, then I’m not as likely to have experienced His personal comfort, exhortations, nudging, and yes, even discipline.
But once the soul searching has commenced, I fasten my eyes on Him and take a deep breath before “marching on”. It doesn’t matter what others judgement of my walk is (within the guidelines of the Word). “Theirs” is to take stock of His leading, which may be very different then mine. “Mine” is to take His personal instructions and proceed, keeping my eyes on Him, without heed for the judgment, which some are sure to issue, and without indulging in judging or bitterness myself. “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold…” Ps. 62:2 HCSB.
The only definite thing we believers have in common, other than Christ and Him crucified, is whether we are striving to obey His individual calling in our lives; not whether our individual instructions look similar.
Oswald Chambers set the bar high in his November 15 “My Utmost for His Highest” devotional, ‘When we are consciously being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, there is another stage to be reached, where all consciousness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is eliminated. A saint is never consciously a saint; a saint is consciously dependent on God.’
There is something about a good posture that can make us or undo us. Recently our youngest daughter competed in a couple of queen pageants. In the first competition (last spring), the parade car she had arranged broke down and she ended up walking in the parade separate from the other contestants. For a while, we were unaware and were left to wonder what had happened when the queen candidates went by in there cars and there was no Hannah. Then, at the recent talent contest of her second queen pageant, the curtains were drawn back on the stage and we, her family, did not see her in the row of girls sitting on the stage. We wondered what had happened this time, as their entertainment began. After a minute that seemed much longer, someone spotted her in the center of the row of girls. The difference was her posture. Being a typical tall girl, she often unconsciously slumps her shoulders; however, that night she had beautiful posture and carried herself very elegantly.
Similarly, when we “stand firm” in God’s truths, the enemy doesn’t see us, but God. Though his roar may be deafening in our ears, he can’t have the victory over us as long as we are standing firm in the truth of God’s Word. He may wreak serious havoc in our lives, but he can’t mess with our souls. As Jack Graham says in his book “Unseen”, ‘When we feel helpless, standing in the face of too-big, too-daunting circumstances, we must remember that it is actually God who does our fighting for us.’ We need to be on guard and watch ourselves, but know Satan’s days are numbered. As long as we stay with God and stand believing his Word, ours are not. As Moses told the Israelites when Pharoah’s army was upon them “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet.” (Ex. 14:13-14 HCSB)
The first important accessory to wear while standing firm is the Belt of Truth. In Bible days belts were worn to keep the robes pulled in and to hang weaponry on. Now days we wear them to keep things up and in as well, and sometimes we hang an important key ring on a belt or belt loop. It is imperative that we live a life bound up in God’s truths while pursuing holiness and honesty and keeping our eyes trained on Christ. The Breastplate of Righteousness was made of heavy material and designed to protect the vital organs. Our vitality is protected by Christ’s righteousness, which is purity and living rightly, made possible only in Christ. To continue to walk in sin obliterates the breastplate and leaves us dangerously vulnerable. Our footwear is the peaceful submission we have in knowing that God is our Savior and, though we are going to have trials and hardships, we will have His presence and power in them and on through eternity and this is the good news we must keep telling. Our footwear should mobilize us to keep testifying to God’s goodness, first in saving us to eternity and always in His presence and guidance in our daily lives. Like the author of “Unseen”, I absolutely treasure the steps taken toward me by friends, mentors and Bible teachers along the way. The steps of encouragement, reconciliation and counsel take time, prayer, humility and thoughtfulness, sometimes rare commodities these days. “How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!” (Romans 10:15 HCSB)
Another mandatory accessory is The Shield of Faith. Ephesians 6:16 says, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one”. In Bible days the battle shields curved back on the sides and were designed to cover the front and sides of the body. They were not designed to cover the back, since soldiers advanced in a forward direction only. Our shield coverage is in believing God’s promises, of which there are thousands, and in not taking one step backward into unbelief, doubt or the discouragement that we are often surrounded with and sometimes indulge in. Relying solely on God’s truth is how we fend off the fiery darts of Satan. When soldiers were under attack, they not only used their shields in defense, but would link their shields together in order to make progression. As Jack Graham said, “Sometimes when our faith is flagging, we need to link our shield with another whose faith is flying high. It is often only in the context of such unity that we find protection from the enemy’s assault.”
The Helmet of Salvation is extremely important. It is simply deciding to let God’s truth override any of the lies of the enemy that come into our heads. It may take a little time to dislodge a lie of the enemy that is tailor made for our situation or our weakness, but it is imperative. Again quoting Jack Graham, “….every sin we’ll ever know can be traced back to a single, errant thought….all ground given to Satan is given first and foremost between our ears.” He says there are five key danger zones for these errant thoughts to occur: 1) on the heels of spiritual victory; 2) when we’re alone (because we are built for community); 3) when we’re tired; 4) when we’re in church (Satan loves to cause misunderstandings, unfulfilled expectations, disappointments, complaining, gossip, backbiting, pride, etc. to flare up in the body); 5) when we’re attempting something great for God. Oswald Chambers refers to entertaining thoughts that don’t line up with the Word as “wool gathering”. Satan may not take us out of the game and that may not even be his goal, but if he can cripple us up, even with just one errant thought that festers, he has accomplished much. Instead, “We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:4b-5) How I love the friends and mentors who are humble and who value friendship over pride by forbearing and persisting in good communication.
The last “accessory”, which is indispensable for defense, is the Sword of the Spirit. Ephesians 6:17 refers to the Word of God as the Sword of the Spirit. The Word is living and active, sharper then any two edged sword. (Heb. 4) Though a sword is a weapon both for offense and defense, because of the victory Christ’s blood shed for us on the cross, all we have to do is stand firm and protect the ground Christ already gained for us. Our challenge is to gain an appreciation for the Word as our two edged sword of defense. We can do this by reading it daily, thinking about what we have read, writing and sharing about it, praying the promises and truths personally into our lives, and living according to it.
Visual distortion can be an issue for me. Physically, I have post radial keratotomy complications, which I now realize are quite common due to not well researched optometrist claims made back in the 80’s and 90’s. As frustrating as this condition is increasingly becoming, it is not these visual distortions and fluctuations that can cause me the most grief. The most critical visual malady I suffer from on occasion is when I focus on the perspective most easily seen by my circumstances, negative or otherwise, rather than God’s perspective. When I submit to God and refocus to His point of view I am enveloped in a spiritual bubble of truths and promises, often revolutionary, that I couldn’t see before or had temporarily lost sight of.
Refocusing gets easier with practice. It comes about by time spent in the Word, in prayer, in worship and seeking out those who give Godly and encouraging words and counsel and who will help identify the negative lies of the enemy to toss out and replace with truths. I know why Fanny Crosby, the blind hymn writer, wrote in “Blessed Assurance”, ‘Perfect submission, perfect delight! Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; Angels descending bring from above Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.’
To our detriment, we often don’t see what God knows and sees. Elisha’s servant had this problem and was overcome with fear, as anyone might be, when he saw the enemy armies surrounding them. Elisha, who was seeing a spiritual realm, prayed for God to open his servant’s eyes to see the deliverance at hand. Ps. 34:7 promises, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” Have you ever spent time with someone who so bolstered your “faith” perspective that you walked away feeling squished between the Christ beside you, behind you, and ahead of you? I have and I am thankful God uses brothers and sisters in Christ to provide just the medicinal spiritual boost we need on occasion.
In Zechariah we are told of unseen angels that patrol the earth and go before the throne to inquire on our behalf. We also know, but may forget, that Christ is there to intercede for us day and night. Balaam was initially unable to see things quite from God’s perspective, yet God allowed Balaam’s donkey to see the warning angel. Balaam later repented for not realizing this invisible spiritual realm and the urgency of God’s will in the matter. Daniel may have thought his prayers were slow in being answered but eventually an angel arrived with the answer and chalked the delay up to a strange but unseen struggle in the spiritual realm. Joseph’s view of the bad that happened to him was summed up in the spiritual perspective he acquired during his years of trials, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good..” (Gen. 50:20). This is the promise we have when we love God. This is why we can have a peace even when evil seems abundant in high places. God is still ultimately in charge and His plan has not changed.
In stressful situations when I have trouble with keeping my perspective on the faith filled focus I know to be true, I pray for help (Mark 9:24). Then I attempt to press on with Hebrews 12:1-2 in mind, “ Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus….” Those invisible witnesses are martyrs, loved ones who have gone before us to Heaven and angels watching our spiritual progress with great interest. Though curiously mysterious, we are being watched by an invisible crowd, we have angels to watch and attend us, and Christ is constantly interceding for us. We serve a God who not only sacrificed His Son for us, but who stands with us in all of our circumstances and uses every one of them for our good when we believe Him. I have learned to cope with fluctuating distortions in my vision and may even find a remedy soon, but I do not want to be spiritually nearsighted. Visions of rapture are too good to miss! What are your most recent visions of rapture that took a second look to “see”?