Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Don't You Eat That Man's Biscuit

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. 
James 4:17 (ESV)

A couple of Sundays ago we opted not to try and visit a new church as we had just moved into our new house the day before. If you've ever made a big move in a short period of time, you know how long it can take to recover. The last time we did it six years ago, we didn't start driving until like 3pm on a Friday for what ended up being a 13 hour drive. We never went to sleep that night, and spent all day Saturday unpacking. Come Sunday, we woke up, ate breakfast and then had church in our living room before going promptly back to sleep. Good times.

This time around, it was our second Sunday in town, the first being the tail end of about 26 hours of driving over two days. We spent almost a week in a hotel and then moved into the house we rented on Saturday. We were exhausted, and rather than trying to face the additional stress of visiting a new church, we opted to postpone that a week. I got out to get us some breakfast, and that's when an interesting encounter started.

After buying a couple of biscuit sandwiches for myself and a burrito for Kim, I noticed a homeless guy on the street corner. I distinctly heard the Holy Spirit prompting me, "You have two sausage, egg and cheese biscuits; you need to give him one." As is so easy to do, I decided to ignore the prompting and continue driving on. Of course, God didn't leave it alone there, and I was feeling some serious conviction all the way back to the house. At one point I heard the Holy Spirit say something to the effect of, "I didn't buy that biscuit for you. Don't you eat that man's biscuit."

But it wasn't until He reminded me of James 4:17 that I finally relented. As I entered a roundabout close to my house, I heard that verse plain as day, and I kept circling around until I drove out the same point I came in. Another 4 minutes or so later, I delivered his breakfast to him and told him, "God told me to share my breakfast with you this morning."

So why did it take so long for me obey? It's not as if I wasn't really listening the first time or two. I knew what I was supposed to do. I just didn't want to. It's times like this that I can really appreciate Paul's struggle in Romans 7:

15 For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me.

Sometimes we can forget that we face a real spiritual battle inside of us. The person God is making us to be by the power of His Spirit is at war with the person we used to be. Every temptation and every conviction is an opportunity to engage in battle against our flesh. We must always be prepared to fight, and me must always be prepared to listen. If through sin and laziness we do not have the Word in our hand and our hearts, our only offensive weapon (Ephesians 6:17) is useless. On the other hand, if we fill our minds and hearts with the things of this world, then the battle can be over before we are even aware of the need to fight. I almost missed this battle because I was too concerned with satisfying my flesh.

We must strive for a state of active peacefulness before God, both ready to fight and ready to listen. Only then will we be able to slay the biscuit when it dares to oppose a soldier of God.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. 
God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, 
but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape 
so that you are able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sent But Not Yet Received

12 “Don’t be afraid, Daniel,” he said to me, “for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for 21 days. Daniel 10:12-13

This is an interesting verse, even for a prophecy passage. The context is that Daniel is seeking to understand a revelation he received. He fasted and prayed for three weeks trying to understand the revelation, after such time an angel appeared to him in a vision and spoke these words to him. The messenger goes on to say that he could not defeat the opposition on his own; he was detained until Michael the arch-angel showed up to provide backup. It's crazy to think about spiritual battles getting in the way of timely delivery of prayer answers.

Even so, I don't want to speculate about angels and spiritual warfare and the like. It's best not to try to read too much into such an obscure passage. I have heard some make the claim in a message on being persistent in prayer that had Daniel stopped praying on day 20, he would not have received his answer. That's a big leap from what the passage actually says, especially considering the angel said he was dispatched with an answer on day one. However, there is an interesting parallel here with a recent event in my life.

As I wrote in my last post, God told us we were moving, just not where. Well, three weeks after that post, He provided the answer, and nearly a month after that, I am writing this post from a completely different state having started a brand new job. During the time before the move, as I was coordinating things with my new team lead, I found out that though I was not offered the job by HR until December 29th, he had wanted them to tell me before Christmas. I spent the last half of Christmas week in a bit of a funk because I hadn't heard anything yet, only to find out later that my offer had been "sent but not yet received" more than a week earlier!

Again, I won't speculate on whether or not Daniel's three weeks of fasting was unnecessary, but here's the parallel I see: Daniel was making himself miserable and weak (if you've ever fasted for more than a day, you know what I mean) for days and days after his answer was already on its way. In the same way, I was making myself miserable emotionally for more than a week not knowing that I had already been chosen for my new job. But whereas Daniel's self-imposed affliction was in pursuit of understanding a God-given message, mine was nothing more than an expression of doubt and fear.

Even for those of us with the spiritual gift of faith, understanding and trusting a promise from God that is not black and white in scripture can be difficult. In hindsight, it is so very clear what God was doing, but in the midst of things, doubt can set in. Is He really leading me there? Did I really understand Him correctly? Looking back, while I don't know about Daniel's suffering, mine was certainly unnecessary.

I have no great insight to share, but I have learned that no matter how much faith you have, there's always room for more. And just like so many other characteristics of Christ-likeness, growing takes pain. You can't grow in self-control without temptation. You can't grow in patience without external frustrations. And you can't grow in faith without those situations that leave you no other choice but to hold on to God with all that is in you. Just remember that while you wait for God to come through in those situations, how you wait is just as important as how long you wait.

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, 
and all these things will be provided for you. 
34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. 
Each day has enough trouble of its own. 
Matthew 6:33-34