Obedience

Strength to Submit

Last year around this time, I became convinced that our son, Tijge, had lymphoma. Okay, not entirely convinced, but well aware of that possibility. You have to understand—I’m the kind of person who has not only contingency plans, but contingency plans for contingency plans, almost contingency flowcharts. My mind operates kind of like a “choose your own adventure” plot map. I know it sounds like a tedious exercise to some, but for me, it’s a way to prepare myself to always accept and submit to God’s will, whatever that may entail.
Tj Tonsils 10-Hospital

But somehow, this felt different. Even though I could see countless good things—Kingdom things—coming from any outcome, it seemed wrong for me to accept those outcomes on behalf of a 3-year old boy who couldn’t begin to understand the why behindany of it. I thought about the Bible and about the many examples that Scripture gives of people who were given strength to submit to God’s will. For example, in Genesis22:9, we’re told that Abraham “bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.” Most of us picture a young boy in this story, but scholars estimate that Isaac was at least a teenager, and possibly as old as 25. Surely, he was capable of overtaking his aging father, if he had chosen to do so. But he chose to submit instead (thankfully, God intervened just in time to prevent his sacrifice).

And then in Luke 22:41-43, we read that, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus “knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’” and that “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Of course, in this case, Jesus knew the reason for his suffering, but still pleaded that there might be any other way to redeem the world. As we know, there was not, and He obeyed.

I could recount example after example from Scripture of believers given supernatural strength to submit to God’s will, even when it seems like too much to ask and too much to bear (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace; Daniel in the lions’ den,; and David and Goliath, to name a few). But one thing struck me about all of these examples—consent. These individuals all made a cognitive decision to submit to God. So what about when we’re asked to, in essence, choose submission on someone else’s behalf? Where is our precedent for that?

Well, having pondered it for weeks leading up to Tijge’s diagnosis, I came up with the answer. WE are the precedent. We are God’s children, and He sometimes chooses hardship for us in the interest of the greater good. Sometimes the only thing in our control is our response to our circumstances. And just as in the Garden, where an angel appeared to strengthen Jesus, God will grant us strength to submit to his will.

Ultimately, I chose to believe that a God who could help me to see past pain and suffering to His greater glory could surely also strengthen a little boy to do the same. In this case, it didn’t come to that. But the deeper faith that came through this time of wrestling will surely strengthen me when God’s plans for me call for submission.

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A New Look at Lent

“What are you giving up for Lent?” This seems to be a common greeting among believers during this season. It’s assumed that we will be observing a sustained period of sacrifice, in observance and remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made so long ago on our behalf. But on the cross, as Jesus breathed His last, He declared with all of heaven’s authority, “It is finished!” As I rest in the completed work of Christ on the cross, a season of sacrifice seems out of place. Instead, this should be a season of joy and gratitude (“celebrated as a festival to the Lord” (Exodus 12:14)), and one in which we embrace our roles as co-heirs with Christ in the kingdom of heaven.

In this spirit, it occurs to me that God may not necessarily be calling all of us to “give something up” for Lent. What if, instead, He’s calling us into a deeper fellowship with Him? What might that look like? A few ideas come to mind:

  • You could commit to beginning each day with a time of praise and worship—thanking God for His love and faithfulness.
  • You could make a point of interceding on behalf of someone whose need resonates strongly with you.
  • You could learn something about some of the foreign lands that may not have the freedom to worship as we do. Then you can pray for the specific struggles, challenges, and needs of the people living in those far-away places.
  • You could begin to mend a broken or strained relationship in your life, through either seeking or offering forgiveness.
  • You could send notes of encouragement to the people that God has divinely placed in your life and in your path.

In short, rather than giving something up, why not try something new? In so doing, you will surely allow God to begin a new work in and through you.

Just As…

Joshua 1:16-18

They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do,
and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things,
so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses.
Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words
in all that you command him, shall be put to death;
only be strong and courageous.”

We’ve been studying Joshua lately, and I’ve been trying to focus on new angles that I may not have noticed before. In the passage above, that angle came as I read “Just as we obeyed Moses…” I quickly flipped back to the preceding verses to make sure that I was properly attributing the quote. And I was—it was the Israelites that made this claim, without batting an eye. I wanted to yell, “Blasphemy!” Seriously?! Just as you obeyed Moses?

And how was that, exactly? By building and worshipping a golden calf? By whining and moaning all through the desert? By questioning Moses and God at every turn? By threatening to have Moses replaced as your leader? By refusing to enter the Promised Land for fear of its inhabitants? By failing to put your trust in God, no matter how many times He proved himself faithful?

Just like that, huh? I can only imagine Joshua’s response to that.

I could sit in judgment of the Israelites all day long, but you know what? God chose them as an illustration of humanity. And that means that many times, the way that I obey God turns out to be just as the Israelites obeyed Moses, which is not very well. So, to me, this passage was a reminder of grace—the grace God had for the Israelites and the grace that He continues to show me. Grace is often described as unmerited favor. And it is just as unmerited for me, and for you, as it is for anyone else. When we forget that is when we begin to place ourselves in a judgment seat that belongs to God alone.

May we view ourselves rightly, that we may also rightly view those around us.