Knowing enough to really know better.
Clinging, trembling, in the space between where we’ve been and where we should be. We can’t stay here long; we have to make a choice. We can, by sheer negligence or succumbing to the paralysis brought on by indecision or fear, allow ourselves to be pulled back to the temporal comfort of the familiar; the crumbling ledge below our feet.
Or, we can leap.
Baptized or not, you will face this if God is working with you. Depending on where you are on the spiritual continuum that God has customized for you, this moment of choice will happen infrequently at crossroads of crisis, or perhaps it will happen multiple times a day, hundreds or thousands of times a year with relatively smaller matters. We may even be faced with the same choice over and over again until it becomes a habit—for good or bad.
If we know enough to recognize our own fears of truly submitting to God and seeking Him, we have a choice to make. Do I cling to the emotional safety of my crumbling ledge? Or do I let go and leap toward the other side? Fear overwhelms us: the fear of letting go of the fingerhold that connects us with our world. The world.
Putting our attention on those tenuous connections can blind us to the infinitely better things God has prepared for us. We know the prophet Daniel became a great tool in God’s hand, but consider how the story of his life in Babylon began. Imagine what it might have been like to have friends and relatives killed in a conquest, to be yourself captured and taken away from home to live in Babylon and to serve the very king who was responsible for the aforementioned. How alone and defiled Daniel might have felt! He was truly surrounded by pagan society and it would have been so very easy for him to just do whatever his captors said, while reasoning that God could not expect him to do otherwise in the face of such impossible odds.
However, Daniel “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8).
Daniel did two things: He made the decision internally to do what he knew to be right, and then he took a physical action to show God he meant it. Can we remember this, when we’re caught between choices? To God, Daniel was “a man greatly beloved.” And when Daniel was making one of his leaps, and looking to God for his salvation, he was sent a messenger from God who said, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come because of your words” (Daniel 10:11-12). How encouraging this is to see that God is faithful if we make better choices.
Jehoshaphat is known as a king who made big mistakes, and he was told by the prophet Jehu that the Lord was angry at him, but “nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God” (2 Chronicles 19:3). In his example we again see two layers that are important to God: a physical action and a spiritual action. God requires both.
We have to purpose in our hearts to not only obey God’s commands (the law), but to also heed His guidance, which may not be listed specifically in any scripture, but is given to us through His Holy Spirit daily, as long as we are willing to accept His help.
The Holy Spirit and You
So how do we really know when God is trying to work with us through His Spirit? If we are living on the edge of commitment, it could be an annoyingly persistent thread of doubt winding around areas of our lives. Should I really be watching these kinds of movies? Did it really happen like I just said it did? I probably should have done something better with my time. I forgot to pray today! Again!
It could be a niggling question that we quickly brush aside. Is this really good for my mind to have access to? Should I really be talking about this? Should I really be here? Am I putting myself in a situation where it will be easier to do wrong than right?
What questions keep popping up that you really don’t want to know the answer to? What seemingly small prickles of conscience keep pinging you throughout your daily life? These are usually not just random, but are frequently how God works with us through the Holy Spirit! (See 1 Samuel 24:5, John 14:26).
If addressed quickly and with open, honest prayer, these kinds of questions will serve to draw us closer to God, which in turn will help us avoid much heartache and struggle. Brushing them off may be more convenient for the moment, but really means that we are brushing off God’s helping hand! We’re in effect saying to God: “No, thanks. I’d rather keep hanging on to this fraying rope than trust You completely.”
I speak from experience, as I have done it myself, many times. I have been unwilling to give up things I wanted, and went through the mental gymnastics routine required to make those things seem as though they were “probably okay” with God. Probably. God didn’t say specifically not to do that, so...
I have many times been caught up in a world in which either I was the center, or my family, or my secular education. God was around...well, somewhere. At least I thought He was because I went to church every week, and read the Bible at least semi-regularly, and prayed for God to forgive me for my sins (at least the ones I would admit to). But my life at these points was much more focused on not technically breaking God’s law in the black-and-white, and less focused on drawing closer to God by seeking His preference in gray areas.
But God has helped me realize that allowing such flimsy reasoning to guide my behavior and attitudes was leading me away from the Kingdom of God, not toward it. That Kingdom-of-God compass can be a huge help when facing any choice we have as Christians. In the gray areas, where discerning right and wrong seems much more complex, we must ask where we are being led, and by whom ?
Forgetting Those Things Which Are Behind
For most of us, a road-to-Damascus kind of intervention is pretty rare. Our calling is quiet but persistent for a time. Our Father is waiting for a response from us before He comes closer. He’s waiting for us to take that deep breath and say something like: “Yes, Father, I want You more than I want any of the temporary satisfaction that comes from putting other things first. I am going to do something about it right now and I’m asking you to please help me, because it’s really hard to let go!”
We have to let go of all our pretence, all our self-deceit in order to let God work wonders in us (John 4:21-24). Once we do, God allows us into another level of closeness with Him, and nothing else can compare to the beauty and pleasure of that relationship! It’s the euphoria of first love, multiplied by a hundred (Hosea 10:12).
We also have to talk ourselves down from the unhealthy fears that keep us separated from God. Once, when Jesus’ disciples saw Him walking on the sea to their boat, they were understandably afraid of what their eyes were seeing! But after He told them, “It is I; do not be afraid,” they welcomed Him into the boat. Jesus then had a miracle for them: Their vessel was immediately at their destination (John 6:19-21).
In our lives, too, accepting how God may change our lives can be frightening at first, because it means giving up the familiar. But our fears begin to melt away as we invest ourselves in this most important relationship and realize that we didn’t actually give up anything valuable. Once we make a real commitment, no matter how small, God gives us a boost! Try to remember the encouraging message that God had for Daniel: “O man greatly beloved, fear not: Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!“ (Daniel 10:19).
As we make finer and finer tunings in the details of our lives in an effort to not only do His will but to love His will and seek it above all else , He draws us ever nearer. The things we once thought were so important pale in comparison to this personal relationship with our Father in heaven! “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14). It’s hard to forget about the things of our world when our eyes are on them constantly. We have to actually make a conscious effort to pull our gaze away from those distractions and look intently for God’s instruction.
A Gift Is Offered
Can we appreciate the awesome opportunity we have, right now? When we read God’s inspired words: “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:34), this should be a wake-up call. Not everyone has been offered this gift right now. And not everyone offered the gift has an ear to hear, but if you do, please consider: What can the Father say about us right now? What about tomorrow? What will Jesus Christ our Brother say about our physical and spiritual behaviors, attitudes and actions? What words will God use to describe our journey? Will our hearts, minds and actions reflect a commitment to righteousness?
How wonderful if our Father could say, “Yes, you’ve struggled with x, y and z, but I have found good things in you, greatly beloved child of mine, and you have prepared your heart to seek Me. You have accepted with joy and gratitude the beautiful gift I have offered you.”
So leap, with eyes open and with all your might, into God’s waiting arms.