TAG: devotional

Thy will be done.  Matthew 6:10b

As children, many of us learned simple prayers of praise and petition.  We thanked God for our food, our families, and our home.  We asked for health and safety for our loved ones and a good night’s sleep for ourselves.  We prayed and God delivered.  And then we grew up.

At some point, we noticed that God didn’t always perform as we requested.  Some of our family and friends got sick.  At the same time, we were achieving mixed results praying through our own challenges.  We asked God to smite the school bully and to make the boy sitting next to us into a new friend.  We asked for good grades and winning games.  And yet, we kept being mistreated and lonely, and earning disappointing grades, and losing.

We later learned that God is much less like Santa Clause than we hoped.  We can ask Him for all manner of things but the results are highly unpredictable.  Unless…

Unless we acknowledge that we are fools, and use prayer to seek His wisdom.

Unless we give up trying to direct God, and use prayer to offer ourselves for His direction.

Unless we cease to attempt imposing our will on the universe, and pray, “Thy will be done”.

Those simple words can be the hardest prayer in life.  It takes courage to pray that prayer in the midst of life-threatening illness.  It takes trust to pray that prayer when we are desperate for a job or for a child.  It takes great sacrifice to pray that prayer in the face of unrequited love or unappreciated work.

When those moments come, remember that our Master had the courage to pray that prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, facing death by torture.  May our own roads be less demanding.  But demanding or easy, long or short, alone or with friends, may all our roads lead to Christ.  It is God’s will that we come to Him.  Pray that will be done in your life.  Whatever road you must take to reach Him, surrender to it and have the courage to pray.

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Matthew 19:13-14

This week I went to an Evensong service in a cathedral.  It was the kind of place with a robed boys’ choir, giant stone columns and a cavernous roof.  A young couple came to sit next to me and parked their pram, with the happiest little baby boy in it, right next to me.

As the service commenced, the baby began to get loud, perhaps inspired by the choir.  His wordless, happy little sounds echoed through the building.  Some of the people worshiping turned around to look disapprovingly and I had to laugh inwardly.

I remember when I was a pastor, I used to appreciate the sounds of babies and toddlers in the church.  It meant our church was alive.  It meant that families were dedicated to passing on the faith.  And the noises those children were making may have been just as divinely inspired as what I was trying to preach.  Perhaps God was even trying to interrupt me.

God often speaks to us through the interruptions.  We prefer our lives planned, knowable, and controlled.  That life has no risks.  It is comfortable.  But that is not the life God has for us.  He wants us to live a life of dependence on Him.  He wants to call us to adventure in the unknown.  He wants us to sacrifice ourselves for His glory and the redemption of the world.

All three of those desires of God require Him to move us out of our well-controlled, comfortable lives.  Sometimes, he has to interrupt us.  Sometimes the greater good and glory are not to be found in our plans.  He may even come off like a baby calling out in the middle of a high church choir.  Listen to that call.

The young mother eventually gave in to the looks of her neighbors.  She slipped out of our pew and silently wheeled the little boy out of the service.  May it never be so with us, my friends.  May the Lord insist on interrupting us from our petty plans and pray that He has the patience to persist in that interruption until we turn our full attention to Him in joy and thankfulness.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Romans 1:21

Most of us think of greatness as something we can achieve over time.  We might study hard to be top of the class, then work tirelessly to perfect a unique set of skills.  Then we might pour our lives into making it to the top of our profession.  When you finally arrive, you are great, or at least a great… accountant, salesman, athlete, preacher… whatever.

Our text for today, however, reveals a completely different concept of greatness.  The truth is that the Lord made you great from the beginning.  You were created a little lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:7).  You were born great.

The only way you could avoid greatness was to diminish the greatness the Lord gave you.  Sadly, that is the route much of the world takes.  The first step in maintaining your greatness is to acknowledge it as a gift and be thankful to the Lord for it.  And that is where we depart from greatness and head to nothingness.  The text following our scripture today describes the downward spiral from greatness in terms of losing our gift.  It uses terms like “became futile” (v21), “became fools” (v22), “dishonoring” (v24), “exchanged” (vv25 and 26), and “debased” (v28).

The way to be great is to maintain the greatness the Lord gave you.  And the first step in maintaining that greatness is to acknowledge it as a gift from God and to thank Him for it.  Acknowledging greatness as a gift may not be the kind of greatness we desire, but it is the only meaningful kind of greatness available to us.  Greatness without God is worth less than nothing.

What if you were a great banker, lawyer, professor, or priest, only to find that you had a dishonored body, dishonorable passions, and a debased mind?  Instead of the truth and goodness God gave you, you were filled with lies, envy, murder, strife, deceit, and maliciousness.  Do not try to become great, my friends.  Simply accept the greatness God gave you and live in thankful humility for it.

The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.  Psalm 145:18

In business we work hard to sell people on our products.  We package them attractively, promote them vigorously, and distribute them widely.  Sometimes we have to sell our ideas  – persuade, demonstrate, and inspire our audience.  We even have to sell ourselves.   We can invest days and dollars in having the best resume, interview suit, and elevator pitch.

Those are great skills for any business person but when we move so frequently in that world, we can tend to approach God the same way.  We may start with explaining our problems to ensure His sympathy.  Then request His help to gain the advantages we need.  We may render some promises on how we will conform to His requirements, based of course on His delivering on His part of the deal.  We will give the Lord our best pitch for how He should support and reward us based on our good performance.

But God doesn’t want to hear our hype.  He has no interest in our promotional material.  He wants the raw, embarrassing reality of our failure and weakness.  God will meet you at the point of your truth, not the point of your propaganda.

In our text for today, the Lord states that He is near those who call on Him in truth.  Those of us who try to whitewash our story for God don’t receive this promise.  The payoff for our honesty is the presence of God.  The whole goodness and greatness of God comes to bear upon us.  The life, truth, salvation, healing, forgiveness and mercy of God all become available to us when we come to Him in humility.

We don’t have to sell God on our needs or attempt to buy His love.  All we have to do is come to Him in our poverty.  He is listening intently for us to call on Him.  Call my friends.  Call on Him in truth and receive Him.

When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust;
I shall not be afraid.  Psalm 56:3-4a.

A working person’s days are filled with highs and lows.  Sometimes you make the sale, sometimes you lose the bid.  You might get a phone call inviting you back for a second interview because the management team was impressed and wants to seriously consider you for a new position.  Sometimes you get an email starting with “Dear Candidate” that thanks you for your interest.

The highs can be exhilarating but the lows can be devastating.  The worst are the ones we were counting on.  Many other areas of our lives can depend on how things go at the workplace.  You might really have needed that sale to make your quota or even hold onto your job.  You might need that new position to pay the rent.  The lows can leave us in a state of desperate confusion and dread.

I have always loved our scripture for today.  The way it takes you on an arc from being afraid to not being afraid in a verse and a half is pretty amazing.  The climbing and falling action of the arc are also both the same – trusting in God.  But the high point of the arc is our praise for His word.

The word of God has what we need for the lows as well as for the highs.  Even when we think we are worthless failures, the Lord has provided us with comfort, support, hope, encouragement, reassurance, and anything else our hearts might lack during those dark times.  The higher regard we have for the Bible, the more we can draw from it during our times of need.  Treasure those words my friends.  They are true, even when all the fear inside us says they are not.