Keeping Focus On the Glory of God and His Gifts to Us

Good Morning,

You ever put a lot of time and effort building something only to see it fall flat on its face when put into action? Ever prayed, and prayed, and prayed for a deep desire to come true, only to have that moment pass without any movement, at least in the way you were hoping? Put a lot of work into a relationship only to get nothing back? I know you have, because we all have.

Taking the lead on things can give you a rush, but the buck is going to stop with you. How you handle the pressure that comes with it can be tricky, and there are some things we do at the start which can change how we go about those labors, many times for the worse. What do you do when you’ve poured a ton of time and energy into a thing that doesn’t work out? After the day has come and gone for the project, or the person, and you are left holding the bag? How are we to process failure at this point? Where can we go to find release from responsibility (which is what we are seeking in reality, if we are honest), and receive an answer to rightly deal with this particular trial? These are a lot of questions to start us in our prayer and worship help today, but sometimes it is good for us to ask in order that we might better understand.

Let’s look at a Biblical illustration we are all familiar with, at least one we think we know, to help reflect on this. Jonah’s story is seemingly a triumph, especially after his successful preaching efforts at Nineveh. Yet, never has there been a more disappointed fellow than the prophet of the whale. His desires went unfulfilled and when God comes and chastises him for it, we last see this man pouting like a little child who didn’t get his way. And why is that? Because from the beginning his desire was not to serve the LORD, but himself. This is why he runs, and this is why even after preaching repentance and faith he exhibits none of it. After Jonah’s miraculous salvation from the storm his soul is not changed, he still has no interest in fulfilling what God had intended. Notice something as well about this moment: Jehovah still gets His purposes fulfilled regardless of Jonah’s Eeyore-like countenance.

There is much we can learn, positively, from the gloomy prophet.

One of the harder emotions to know how to handle is disappointment. Partly because this often involves a type of selfishness on our part. That may again sound kind of harsh, but you know that it is true. When a spouse or child, (or church member dear Pastor), doesn’t meet the hopes we set there can be an anger which wells up inside us, eating at our spiritual heart. How dare these people, who we think we can control, not do as we ask? The boldness of it all! Don’t they know we have their best interests in heart, why aren’t they following our commands and going to the places we have prepared for them? Don’t they know this is for their best! The gall of some people. Seriously. [sarcasm]

We can find ourselves let down by family, friends, people at work, etc… Either expectations are not met, there is betrayal of some kind, or things just don’t seem to be the way they should be. It can be draining on us emotionally, spiritually, even physically. Yet, why is this the case? It is my argument in this piece that this comes about because we’ve made it about ourselves, and not about the Lord’s work in and for that person. We can learn quite a bit about who we are and, more importantly, about our God and His grace in those moments. What is our hope, our peace, our comfort? Why do these kinds of events leave us in such melancholy? It starts, as we saw with Jonah, with who we understand ourselves to be and where we think we should be. If our motivation to do anything is for our own glory then when it fails, we fail with it. But if our attitude is always grounded in the omnipotent authority and power of our Creator then “failure” takes on a whole different typology. It becomes a wholly resting and trusting in His blessed providence, and being thankful in how we walk by faith and not by sight.

Even more so if we enter into any kind of activity by thinking that we are God’s gift to humanity then even if there is achievement we fail, and when there is letdown, we feel the depth of that because we have made the measure of success our own wisdom and image. This is not the way. Joshua and his army at Ai are the avatar of this. They were about the LORD’s business in the land, but lost the battle because they thought they were the ones fighting it. In every kind of providence, we see Christ teaching us to lean on Him and find strength in the certainty of His work. That’s never “easy”, nor should it be. But there must be a remembrance in the depths of our soul that when we start with the truth that we are called to serve Him, and lean not on our own understanding, that even in the midst of what the world would name failure we have the sure blessing of the Lord and have true success. If we have been faithful in the calling given to us there is goodness and glory in it, because it is not about us, and we are to then find joy.

If we think ministry is about what we are doing then we are lost, and we will be dragged down by the ways in which we are not where we think we should be. Christian ministry must not just always be done in the manner that Jesus has described in His Word, but for the purposes He has ordained. Remember what Christ tells Peter at the end of John’s Gospel? Feed my sheep. Not your sheep. His sheep.  

As we close, these words from Hezekiah found in Isaiah 37 are fitting for our purpose today. As he responds to the terror of Sennacherib we hear once more the solution to what ails us, a remembrance that no matter our circumstances the LORD has the victory, and we will see, ultimately this comes to pass as long as we bring to mind that it is for God’s work, His purpose, and His glory that we do all things:

And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth. Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open thine eyes, O Lord, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God. Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries, and have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord, even thou only. 

– Isaiah 37:14-20

No extra today.

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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