Wednesday, February 22, 2012
In Search Of Truth, The "Living" Word
Hebrews 4:12- For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.(ESV)
This is a bit of an odd concept, isn't it? "What do you mean the Bible is 'alive' and reading my thoughts?"
Usually, in this weekly post, I take a look at a specific portion of scripture and give background and insight line-by-line through the text. That pattern isn't going to change, but I realize it may be helpful now and then to come out of what might seem like a more "clinical" mode and share my personal experiences with God's word.
Personal, subjective experiences should not be our benchmark for determining what is true, but provided they don't conflict with the teaching of scripture, our personal experiences can be a powerful mouthpiece for God to speak through in ways that are specifically intended for you and me as individuals.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, as some of you know, I ran into some technical problems with the podcast. And trying to solve the problem started a chain reaction of other problems I suddenly had to solve very quickly! And I am the least tech-savvy of nearly everyone I know. (Yep. I'm probably in the wrong line of work.)
I'd compare this particular problem to a certain kind of car trouble.
Imagine that you've got a car that spends the year in the northern US where the roads must be constantly salted to prevent dangerous ice slicks. As a result, everything on the underside of the car builds up more and more rust over the years. Then one day you realize that something under there has to be replaced, but when you attempt to do so, about 6 other things fall out or break and have to be replaced as well! THAT is almost exactly the kind of problem I was experiencing, except with computer/internet type stuff that my business heavily relies on. Yikes!
So a few days after it all hit the fan, near the end of my Bible study time one evening, I was just praying that God would help me to let go of this stress and my need to be in control of this situation. Just moments after that, we heard my oldest son crying in his room. He had vomited in his bed, the first of several times that night and the next morning.
So it looked like God wasn't giving me relief just yet. In fact, he was about to turn on the heat even more! By lunch the next day, both my wife and I were sick and vomiting, neither able to help the other. My parents came and took our younger son out of the house for the afternoon (he thankfully never did get sick) while our older stayed home and mostly played by himself all day while his mom and I lay helpless on our couches.
Add to all of this misery the fact that I STILL had all of these technical issues that needed to be fixed as soon as possible, and I was powerless to do ANYTHING to work on them!
Eventually, we both stopped vomiting and spent the next day getting our energy back. By the end of that day I was well enough to get back to my nightly time in the Bible, where I just so happened to arrive at Matthew 16 in my reading.
In the second half of this chapter, Peter passionately tells Jesus that he believes he really is God's unique Son, the Messiah they'd been waiting for. Just a few lines later, Jesus tells his disciples that he will soon go through torture and death. Peter effectively says, "No! We can't let that happen!" And Jesus surprisingly attributes Peter's attitude to Satan, saying "You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
After reading that I was struck with the realization that my stress over the problems I was having with work was because I thought I knew what needed to be done to most effectively serve God and his plan for my life. More than that, I was clinging to my idea of what "success" in life means without leaving room for God to correct my ideas when they are wrong.
Peter thought the same thing. He thought that for Jesus to be successful, he would need to avoid the horrible difficulties he predicted were coming. But Jesus knew that only THROUGH his own torture and death could our failures be compensated for. In the case of Jesus, success meant something that looked not just like FAILURE from a human perspective, but looked like absolute TRAGEDY.
So the rest of that week and since then I've been praying that God will help me put forth my absolute best effort for him, but also trust that his plan, which is better than any I could dream up, may be served better by things appearing to go very wrong in life.
I hope I can keep that perspective, though I'm sure God will need to teach it to me again more than once. I also hope in some way it's encouraging to you when you find things to be difficult or painful.