It is indeed an extraordinary experience to be arrested by an idea; to be stopped dead in your tracks, captivated by a truth that slaps handcuffs on your mind, restricting the movement of your thoughts to any other subject, and temporarily confines you to a moment on the time-space continuum where your life changes direction, sometimes without you even being fully aware of what just happened.
“He could be the one.” “She completes me.” “We were meant to be.” “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” If your reaction to that last sentence was some variation of, “Hold up! Wait a minute! Whaaaaaa…t?!”, then welcome to my first arrest.
I was in my early teens, minding my own business, and reading through the book of Job and there it was; Job13:15! In all my thirteen years of going to church almost every Sunday, I could not recall ever having read that before. Who says that?! How does an ordinary human being ever get to such a place in their relationship with God that they would say of Him, “No matter what happens, no matter what He allows to come to my life, even if He chooses to ‘kill me dead’ (classic Jamaican), “yet will I trust Him”?
You have to wonder if Isaac felt that same level of trust as he lay tied-up on that make-shift altar on Mount Moriah with his father Abraham over him, knife raised, about to sacrifice his only son in a life-altering test of faith (Genesis 22:1-19). Or was Isaac terrified and screaming bloody murder, hoping the servants would hear and come rescue him from his crazy daddy?! Either way, there is every indication that Isaac remained devoted to his father and to God even after that episode, possibly because he too saw the lamb that appeared miraculously to take his place and heard the voice out of heaven say,
“‘By Myself I have sworn,’ says the Lord, ‘because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son – I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.’” Genesis 22:15-18 (emphasis mine)
To this day, I remain captivated by the ideal of having such a relationship with God that I do trust Him, no matter what, and will always choose to do what He says is the next right thing to do, never giving in to fear. There is nothing blind about that kind of faith which commits to relationship with God knowing that you may find yourself in terrifying situations, but He will never abandon you, and if you are willing to stay the course, you are guaranteed to experience the unequalled thrill of fulfilling the plan and purpose for which you were placed on this planet.
Which brings me to my second arrest…
“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation…” Acts 13:36
How does an ordinary human being ever get to such a place in their relationship with God that, in the midst of planning for college, career, family, life insurance, 401k, retirement and all such sensible and legitimate things, they deliberately choose to put ‘serve the purpose of God in my generation’ as the primary, predominant and preeminent plan?
I may be in the middle of living that thing (see February 25th blog, ‘Not Disjecta Membra’), but recently I have been more captivated by the life stories of George Müeller, Dwight L. Moody, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, William Carey, Mother Teresa, and Jim Cymbala, all of whom, at some point in their lives, deliberately decided to choose God’s revealed plan for their lives over their own, often perfectly legitimate, stable, comfortable plan. God always has a plan, and the plan has always included meaningful work and purpose:
“And the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being… Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Genesis 2:7,15
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In Your book were written off the days that were formed for me, when none of them yet existed.” Psalm 139:14-16
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations…for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.” Jeremiah 1:5-7
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
We each only get one lifetime to invest, risking our resources of time, energy and assets based on our anticipation and expectation of what will happen in the future. What if you knew for sure what the future holds and your part in it? What if based on historical evidence you come to the conclusion that God is indeed powerfully orchestrating and guiding the world toward His planned and pre-determined end?
And, what if you read the back of the book and discover that in the end, the purpose and plan of God Almighty trumps every other plan? Then wouldn’t it make perfect sense to sign up for the guaranteed plan now, before you life resources are all gone? Yes. Yes it would.
“ I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2
The kingdom of God is not a democracy. Like it or not, it is an autocracy. The Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Covenant-making, Covenant-keeping God rules over all, so if ever I am tempted to get all uppity, presumptuous and demanding, it behooves me to remember that I’m lucky He loves me unconditionally and permanently. One third of the angels He created, including satan himself know for a fact that if you decide to fight against God, sooner or later you are going to lose…big time! He is who He is and does not change Himself to be accommodating or tolerant of our sin or rebellion.
Which brings me to my latest arrest; a simple six-word prayer a gem in a treasure trove of truth that stopped me dead in my tracks and still has me under arrest.
“Come, holy God, and be Thyself.” Believing God by Beth Moore, p. 200
Just to keep it real; my prayers more often than not sound something like this:
“Come, holy God, and be whom I desire, expect, need, believe in my hopelessly self-seeking way, and sure hope you are. Amen!”
How does an ordinary human being ever get to such a place in their relationship with God that we would dare to utter such a humble, daring and spectacularly courageous prayer and mean it? You don’t have to read very far into the Bible to come across aspects of God’s character that are overwhelming, awe-inspiring and sometimes downright frightening! He is as much loving Father, faithful Provider and strong Defender, as He is disciplinarian, Judge and Executioner, and I don’t get to decide which role is necessary in my current situation. Of course I would always pick the soft, cuddly side of Him that dispenses comfort and blessing like candy; which would eventually destroy me and any hope of a healthy, mature relationship with God.
So here’s the thing, God has His finger in every pie and His nose in everybody’s business and His highest priority always has been, and always will be, the state of our relationship with Him. His primary course of action always has been and always will be to do whatever needs to be done to continually change the DNA of this relationship till we truly love Him for Himself, and not just for what He can do for us. In His pursuit of that goal we may find ourselves captured by a particular truth designed to change the direction of our lives in order to change the nature of our relationship with Him, and the wisest course of action is not to resist arrest, but to surrender completely to …just living the thing.