The symptoms are familiar. A sense of being restless, irritable and discontented begins to churn inside me. The solution is also familiar. It is more than my unwillingness to live life on life’s terms. It is my failure to surrender to God’s will – I’m more and more living on my terms, rather than God’s terms. The promises God makes are conditional and always come down to an essential choice which IS the proverbial fork in the road. Once upon a time, I was led to believe that this was a BIG choice that was made once, and if done right, would take care of it. I no longer believe that. Yes, there is an overarching choice of whether or not to “follow Jesus” at a strategic level, but every day the tactical decision is put before me in every circumstance and situation of the day. Yes, my desire is to live God’s way. The challenge is making that choice when that choice is not providing immediate results, getting me what I want that moment, makes me uncomfortable, requires a price tag I consider too high (time, money, energy), and/or in any way calls for me to be vulnerable and risk failure.
The promises of God’s kingdom are free, but cost us everything. By giving up our way, we’re given our lives back in ways we could never imagine. Last Monday night in my twelve-step meeting we were wrestling with the third step: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” The power of that decision, made over and over again on a daily basis resulted in testimony after testimony that lives had been turned around and given the gifts of “a new freedom and a new happiness”. The men and women in that room Monday night were not spared the worst that life can dish out, but they carried these challenges in a way that did not crush their love, hope, joy, and serenity. I hear the same stories Thursday night during our St. Andrew healing meetings.
Read these two passages carefully. Note that both ask us to “come”. The promises of God are invitational in nature. We’re never forced to “come”, but always invited to leave the familiar and “safe”, even though familiar and safe don’t satisfy our soul’s deepest longings, and trust God’s presence and promise of new life.
The LORD says, “Come, everyone who is thirsty— here is water! Come, you that have no money— buy grain and eat! Come! Buy wine and milk— it will cost you nothing! Why spend money on what does not satisfy? Why spend your wages and still be hungry? Listen to me and do what I say, and you will enjoy the best food of all. Listen now, my people, and come to me; come to me, and you will have life!” (Isaiah 55:1-3)
“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
What are the forces that keep us trapped in lives that don’t satisfy nor produce the loving, hopeful lives we’re created to live? As we start Lent this Sunday, we’ll take a look at the temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness and see if there aren’t some similarities to the temptations in our lives that drag us off course and into living life on our terms instead of God’s.
Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.” But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.'”
Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said to him, “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says, ‘God will give orders to his angels about you; they will hold you up with their hands, so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’” Jesus answered, “But the scripture also says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.” Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!'” Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him.
Hope to see you Sunday. Remember, the challenge I invited us to accept last week is the challenge to be in a church every Sunday during Lent. If you’re unable to join us this Sunday, find a fellowship of brother and sisters and worship with them wherever you are.