Here’s one amazing promise Jesus made to someone that I wish we could all claim today during this COVID pandemic: “And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (Matthew 8:13).
Of course, the mighty military leader didn’t demand that Jesus heal his beloved servant, he humbly “beseeched” (earnestly begged) Jesus. In fact, it doesn’t actually say that the centurion even asked Jesus to heal his servant! He only got so far as to explain his predicament—that his servant was suffering terribly, and Jesus intervened, offering to come and heal him. The centurion, however, was so respectful of Jesus’s time that he quickly asked simply for Jesus to “speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8).
This seems like the perfect example for us as we pray for our loved ones. I think our natural tendency is to ask for a miraculous healing on the spot, or an end to COVID world-wide (which I definitely find myself doing), but perhaps the better way is simply to bring the situation to Jesus. What do we want? Relief for our loved ones (and frankly, for those who are suffering everywhere). Like all our burdens, Jesus wants us to bring them to him and let him deal with them as He sees fit. Do we have enough faith in Jesus and in his wisdom to simply bring our troubles to him without demanding a particular solution?
Of course, Jesus went above and beyond what the centurion was hoping for in providing relief, but Jesus did give the centurion this imperative: “Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee” (Matthew 8:13). If we are to follow the centurion’s example, this puts significant pressure on us! Our job is to “carry on and keep believing.”
What does this look like? I think it incorporates a lot of the “Carry On and Keep . . .” ideas—keep calm for sure, but perhaps even more. As we are carrying on, I think Jesus also wants us to be strong in our faith and never give up hope!
To be patient and prayerful.
To be happy because we believe that God is good and will work everthing out in the end for good—not only in our lives, but also in the lives of all who love him.
Finally, Jesus came so that we could live an abundant life even in the midst of suffering . . . casting all our cares on him, knowing that he will take care of us (1 Peter 5:7). This may be relatively hard or easy for each of us, depending on the depth of our sufferings and the strength of our faith, but this is what God wants for each of us, and He is worthy of our trust!
Text for this meditation: “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (Matthew 8:5-13).
Although this Covid crisis is the greatest global challenge of my lifetime, I think it helps to remember that our world has suffered more deeply—and recovered. It’s just that we weren’t around during the Spanish Flu of 1917-18. We didn’t personally survive World War 1—or the Great Depression at the end of the 30’s, nor did we live through the horrors of World War 2. Now we are facing the possibility of our world—as we’ve known it for our lifetime—coming to an end.
Not long ago, I memorized Psalm 91, and in the process, I came across this reassuring story by Charles Spurgeon (known as “The Prince of Preachers” among western European Protestants):
“In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighbourhood in which I laboured was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it. As God would have it, I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore in a good bold handwriting these words: ‘Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.’ The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passages as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvelous power I adore the Lord my God.” (The Treasury of David by C.H. Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 91:9-10.)
“Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” (Psalm 91:9-10.)
It’s almost springtime, and although our woods won’t really be filled with apple blossoms for another two months, I can almost smell their fragrance. Have you ever looked forward to something that never came to be? Have you ever trusted someone who bitterly disappointed you?
Jesus gave us a stern warning in Matthew 7:15-20, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.“
I would like to tackle this issue today: How can we discern between true and false prophets (and friends!) so we aren’t misled, disappointed, and possibly destroyed?
True prophets were men appointed by God to receive divine revelations and communicate them to people. God often gave these prophets information concerning future events, and in a few rare instances also endowed them with miraculous powers to establish their credibility. Moses is the perfect example of a true prophet. Moses was not seeking enlightenment or special revelation (and he didn’t solicit for funds to operate his “ministy”). Rather, God appeared to him and commissioned him to lead the Israelites back to the Promised Land. Moses led an extremely difficult life of self-sacrificing service, never amassed money or property, and died humbly.
Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, and Samuel are other prime examples of true prophets in the Old Testament. When Samuel died, he asked the people: “Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you” (1 Samuel 12:3). True prophets were paid by God (usually via tithes and offerings) to do God’s work, and there is not one time recorded in the Bible where the prophets asked for financial help. On the contrary, prophets refused all gifts from individuals so there would be no conflict of interest (see 2 Kings 5:15-16, “But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused“; Acts 8:18-20, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money”).
Jesus was not only the Son of God, he was also the greatest prophet who ever lived and is the best example to us of a true prophet. He only spoke the truths he heard from God, always did His Father (God’s) will, and died after bearing our sins on the cross. He lived and died a selfless (and I suspect penniless) life.
There are at least 62 named male and female prophets in the Bible, another 15 who had prophetic experience, seven unnamed prophets, and 11 named false prophets. The Bible makes it clear that the difference between a true prophet and a false prophet is whether or not they have been truly commissioned by God and are speaking God’s truths by His command.
The Bible has many warnings about false prophets. Jesus taught that false prophets “shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect” (Mark 13:22). So, having miraculous powers does not prove that a person is a true prophet. Nor does the ability to know secrets, as we see illustrated at various times in the New Testament, where people under the influence of Satan could prophesy (see Acts 16:16-23).
False prophets can imitate true prophets both by (at times) performing miraculous signs and (at times) knowing information that is not common knowledge, so we cannot equate the use of supernatural powers with validity. Still, we must learn to discern false prophets and avoid them: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
For a starter, if anybody is making a profit from their prophecies, you can be sure they are false prophets just out to make a profit: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13). But, greed and extortion is still not the acid test. 2 Peter 2:1 adds: “There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” False prophets do not believe in Jesus Christ as the LORD God. They may profess that he is a good man, or a good prophet, but they will not confess that He alone is the Lord and Savior who was sent by God to redeem the world. They will not worship Christ as the Messiah or bow before him as Doubting Thomas did, who came to the realization that Jesus was, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:27-28, emphasis mine).
However, here is the acid test that Jesus gave us: These ravening wolves who come to us in sheep’s clothing are corrupt, barren, and cannot produce good fruit. “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16).
What are the good fruits by which you will know those who are likely to be speaking the truth? The fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:22-23). “The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9). Where we see pride, greed, arrogance and sensuality, we can know that we are listening to the words of false prophets and false friends who are selfishly motivated and producing “corrupt” fruit: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
So the “acid test” if you will is this: It has to not only look like an apple and smell like an apple, but it has to taste like an apple, and not a dark, rotten, mushy, holey, worm-infested, sour apple! Those who are led by the Holy Spirit will not strike you as acidic and bitter; they will be firm, but they will be holy, health-giving, and sweet. Their fruit will be good!
Beloved, let’s be discerning ourselves, and let’s help others discern good from bad and truth from falsehood.
Matthew 7:15-20, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.“
I cannot read Jesus’ admonition to enter the “strait gate” without thinking of “every man” from Pilgrim’s Progress.
This man was so burdened by what he’d read in the Book that he left his hometown in search of the Celestial City.
However, he quickly discovered that he had to enter through a special gate before he could find the narrow path that would actually lead him to the great city.
In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus explained it this way, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Have you found and entered the Strait Gate that leads to heaven?
In Pilgrim’s Progress, a man named Evangelist points “every man” to the gate where he can be relieved from his burden.
But, it’s a difficult climb to get to the gate, and along the way, he meets a man named Obstinate, who refuses to make the climb, choosing rather to attempt reaching the Celestial City by traveling one of the many easier, wider, less restrictive paths.
This part of the story is very sad, of course, because no one can actually get to the Celestial City unless they are willing to pass through the Strait Gate first. It’s not that the gate is hard to find, or that people won’t be allowed in after they find it. All they have to do is knock, and the gate door will be opened, but most people are too proud to ask, and so they wander off trying to find some other way across the chasm of death to everlasting life.
My father became a believer shortly before he died, but for most of his life, he preferred quoting this poem:
Invictus —William Ernest Henley, 1875
“Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.
“In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.
“Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
“It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
It is with great relief and joy I can share with you that just a few years before he died, my father decided to enter in through the Strait Gate, drop his burden of sin at the foot of the cross, and begin his journey to the Celestial City. As his youngest daughter, and the one who had the privilege of pilgriming beside him during those last years, I observed that he was a much more peaceful, pleasant companion after he gave up trying to be the captain of his own soul.
Is your head still “bloody, but unbowed”? If so, will you bow your head today and let Jesus forgive your sins and heal your heart? Will you join with the millions of us who are pilgrims on the narrow road that leads to life everlasting? Don’t be angry with God! He loves us. He provided a way for us to be reconciled to him through the blood of Christ. He offers eternal life for “whosoever will” believe. Will you take him at his word and begin your journey through the Strait Gate to the Celestial City?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
Text for today’s meditation: Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.“
Did you know the “Golden Rule” wasn’t just taught by Christ but is a maxim of almost every religion and ethical tradition around the world? Most of us have known the principle behind the Golden Rule for so long that we can’t remember ever learning the concept—it was just always deep within us: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In fact, Romans 2:13-15 states that the laws of God are written within the hearts of all men, so that whether or not we receive specific teaching, we have been created with a conscience and the ability to discern good from evil: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.“
Here are quotes from sources around the world, confirming global assent to the rightness of the Golden Rule:
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (From ancient Judaism, the Bible, Leviticus 19:18, 1490 BC).
“That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another” (664–323 BC Egyptian papyrus).
“Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself“ (Confucius, 551-479 BC).
Ancient Greek texts:
“Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing” (Thales, c. 624 BC – c. 546 BC).
“What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either” (Sextus the Pythagorean, referenced by Origen in the third century AD).
“Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you” (Isocrates, 436–338 BC).
“By self-control and by making dharma [right conduct] your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself” (Ancient Indian epic, — Mahābhārata Shānti-Parva, c. 3rd century B.C.).
“That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself” (Pahlavi Texts of Zoroastrianism, Dadisten-I-dinik, 300 BC-1000AD).
“Do not do to others what you know has hurt yourself” (the Tirukkural, 1st century BC, Tamil [Indian] tradition)
“Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you” (Ancient Roman statesman, Seneca the Younger, c. 4 BC–65 AD).
“What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn” (Jewish tradition, by Hillel the Elder, in the Babylonian Talmud).
“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself” (Islamic: An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith 13).
“Those acts that you consider good when done to you, do those to others, none else” (Hinduism: Taittiriya Upanidhad).
“And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself” (Bahá’í Faith,: Bahá’u’lláh).
“One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter” (Buddhism: Dhammapada).
“In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self” (Jainism: Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara).
“Precious like jewels are the minds of all. To hurt them is not at all good. If thou desirest thy Beloved, then hurt thou not anyone’s heart” (Sikhism: Guru Arjan Dev Ji 259, Guru Granth Sahib).
“Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss” (Taoism: T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien).
Furthermore, many/most non-religious ethical traditions agree, including most humanists, existentialists, and atheists. Some non-religious people explain this innate understanding as simply pragmatic . . . a type of reciprocal altruism inbuilt because it’s necessary for the survival of the species (and therefore a selfish, necessary good). You can believe that if you want to, but I do not have enough faith to be an atheist!
Looking within myself, I recognize a very deep egocentrism that makes keeping the Golden Rule a constant challenge rather than a natural practice. Being empathetic and kind does not come naturally to me at all. I am selfish at heart, and it is truly only by the grace and power of God that I have changed from utterly self-centered and self-absorbed into a “new creation” who does have some genuine love for others and concern for their well being.
Yes, I attempt to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but I do it as a conscious act of my will, engendered and empowered by the Holy Spirit, out of a desire to share the love and goodness of God with others—because I have experienced the love and kindness of God in my life. I love God because He first loved me, and I love others—not because it’s just in my nature, but because God loves others and has asked me to love them as an expression of my love for Him. How about you? Do you love others “just because,” or do you have a reason beyond the theories of neuroscience?
Text for this meditation: Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.“
Photo above is of Yongsung Kim’s painting of Jesus as Eternal Life, used by permission of http://Havenlight.com
7-Eleven stores are not only popular in America, where there are thousands of these little convenience stores attached to gas stations, but there are now more 68,000 “7-Eleven” stores in seventeen different countries around the world! The stores first used the name 7-Eleven because they were open between 7:00 am -11:00 pm, but now most locations provide 24-hour access to food, gasoline, and various small necessities you might discover a need for in the middle of the night when other stores aren’t open.
In Matthew 7 and Luke 11 (7-Eleven), Jesus gives three invitations with promises attached: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” As I pondered Jesus’s teaching, I couldn’t help but notice the 7-Eleven theme—on several counts! First, the teaching is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 7-Eleven (which makes it easy to remember)! 🙂 Second, Jesus’s seemingly carte blanche statement is so much more extravagant than what any 7-Eleven store could possibly hope to provide! Third, these promises follow Jesus’s teaching on prayer and are couched between two parables in Luke’s gospel, the first of which is a story about a man needing something in the middle of the night:
“And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 11:5-10).
Back in the time of Christ, you couldn’t just head to your local 7-Eleven store in the middle of the night if you needed something, so you had to bother your closest neighbor instead. As Jesus explains, even your favorite friend is unlikely to be thrilled if you show up on his doorstep at midnight looking for food. However, if you persist (and he doesn’t heave a rock out his window to drive you off 🙂 )—since he really is your friend—he will get up and give you what you need. He won’t actually throw stones, he will give you bread. If you ask for a fish, he’ll check out his fridge and share his leftover fish’n’chips. He won’t fish around in the dark corners of his house looking for a spare snake or scorpion to pawn off on you instead. True? Yes! Tired and cranky and selfish as we are, most of us will come to the aid of those we love if they ask.
Jesus starts by recommending perseverance in making a clamor until we get the help we need, and he ends by assuring us that our heavenly Father is a kinder, more compassionate, more capable, and more generous giver than the best earthly father. “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13).
There are two seemingly insignificant codicils at the end of Jesus’s statement that are actually immeasurably important. The first is a reminder that the best gifts are spiritual, and the second is that we must ask! If aren’t humble enough to ask, at some point, God may withhold His graces. Why? Because God loves us too much to continue showering us with his daily benefits while we blindly refuse to recognize his bounty for what it is—love gifts intended to draw us to Himself! God wants us to seek for him like we would search for hidden treasure, and if we will, He promises that He will reveal himself to us! But, if we refuse to acknowledge His existence or obey the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit, at some point He may withdraw such that we no longer recognize him for the great and wonderful God that He is! Why? Because he is better than buried treasure, and He doesn’t want us to continue callously through life without recognizing him as the source of all goodness. God wants us to knock, and knock, and knock until He answers. Why? Because He wants us to trust Him. To love Him. To wait on Him. To know that He is good, even when things are going wrong and we’re in great pain. Can you believe this? Are you willing to ask?
The second point that’s probably overlooked (at least, I’ve tended to over the years) is that God offers to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. What’s that? Who’s He? Why do we need the Holy Spirit? God gives us the Holy Spirit, but it is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we are actually born again and receive eternal life. It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive all spiritual blessings and graces! Blessed Holy Comforter and Guide! The One who seals us and insures our safe delivery to heaven! Don’t miss out! There’s something greater than even our need for daily bread, health, and security!
One last thought . . . but perhaps the most touching of all to me. In Revelation 3:20 we see Jesus reaching out to us too, knocking patiently at the door of our hearts: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:17-22). Will you ask? Will you seek? Will you knock? Will you open the door?
Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Also: Luke 11:5-13, as quoted above.
It’s easy to ask for something, but it’s a lot more work to search for something, right? Stop for a second and think with me. Is there anything you’re so passionate about that you’re willing to search for it—forever if need be? Last week we talked about asking and receiving. God invites us to ask him for many good things and says he’ll give them to us, such as guidance, grace, and strength to follow him. But, when it comes to apprehending God himself, we are told to “seek” him . . . which is a great deal harder!
Oh, to know God! Even trying to completely understand a spouse takes more than a lifetime. So, it makes perfect sense to me that finding God is not a simple “ask and receive” offer, because understanding the infinite, transcendent God is without a doubt an eternal pursuit. As Einstein posited it: “I want to know God’s thoughts—the rest are details.” I’m not sure if a love relationship with God is the one goal you’ve been spending your life seeking, but it is definitely the pursuit of my life, and God is THE love of my life!
Why? I guess because I fell in love with him the first time I heard that he loves me (and you . . . and every one of us)! Why? I don’t know! I’m not sure there’s a real answer to “why” someone loves another person . . . true love, that is! We appreciate those who do good things for us or benefit us in some way, but that’s different from loving them! To love someone is to willingly sacrifice ourselves for their benefit. It’s the energizing power to bless them apart from their benefiting us, and there’s no logical “why” to that in my mind. Still, I want to say that although I fell in love with God initially as a response to experiencing his love for me, I have been hugely benefited from his love ever since.
What are some of the blessings that I have experienced and are available to all who are willing to seek the Lord? *Salvation and faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). *Liberty. “I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts” (Psalm 119:45). *Peace. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165). *Hope. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13). *Love. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5). *Joy and strength. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). *Eternal life. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). *Goodness and other gifts given by the Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV).
Is there anybody on this earth who wouldn’t love to experience all these blessings? However, these gifts are given to “those who belong to Christ Jesus [and] have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24, ESV). Living a life crucified with Christ is a lifelong pursuit of God and his holiness! “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). It’s not an easy “ask and receive” fix; it’s a lifelong commitment to seeking God with all our hearts.
Thankfully, we don’t have to do it all on our own, because Jesus is also pursuing us! “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He loves us so much more than we will ever be able to comprehend! Do you know that? Are you responding to his love by daily seeking him with all your heart? “Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified” (Psalm 40:16). Amen? Amen!!
“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:26-28).
Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 7:7, “Seek, and ye shall find.”Matthew 7:8, “He that seeketh findeth.” Luke 11:9-10, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.“