“And the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.”
Where did I go wrong, Lord? Wasn’t it Your voice I heard? How could this have ended so badly? I have asked myself these questions, or ones like it, many times when things did not go as I expected. After sharing with someone what I thought the Holy Spirit was leading me to say or teaching a lesson that I had poured my time and heart into preparing or serving in an area that required discomfort or sacrifice, many times I have left feeling confused, disappointed and even hurt by the responses I received.
Recently, I had a very defeating ministry experience. Lord, why do things keep ending up this way? Haven’t I obeyed you? Didn’t I commit this work to You? I thought this is what You wanted? Questions . . . My mind was spinning with them. And like I always do in discouraging circumstances, I think about quitting. Maybe this isn’t where I am supposed to be serving. Maybe God wants me somewhere else. Maybe I should just help where I am needed more and save this for later. I tried to focus on what was true and right (see Philippians 4:8), but my mind was so full of defeat and frustration, that I went to bed simply begging God for wisdom.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
The next morning, I rose early to glorious, beautiful sunshine pouring over the horizon on a frozen ground. Already, after a good night’s rest, my mind felt a little clearer. I slipped on my shoes, stepped on my treadmill and filled my ears with praise and worship. And I remembered . . . His mercies are new every morning (see Lamentations 3). Today was full of grace. He had seen my ugliness and heard my frustrations and answered with “one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift” (John 1:16 AMP). I did not yet know the answer to all my questions, but He had responded to my groaning’s with peace—a calm assurance that despite all my imperfections and hiccups, it was (and will stay that way) well with my soul.
Another translation of that verse says, “Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of the dawn or the coming of rains in early spring” (Hosea 6:3 NLT, emphasis mine). And that is what I read that same morning during my quiet time. I began to understand. My striving should be to know Him not to please others. Why do I always forget this? “He will respond as surely as the arrival of dawn.” Just as sure as the sun rising, the Lord had certainly heard my pleas and responded. I read a little further and then I paused longer on this verse:
“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”
Hosea 6:6 NLT
God wants my heart more than He wants my hands. He desires obedience not sacrifice (see 1 Samuel 15:22). All my serving, even in the ministry, is meaningless if my heart isn’t in the right place. Yes, it’s true that I had good intentions and even a godly, scriptural based goal in mind. But I had expected that my good intentions and diligent service would merit God’s favor and guarantee results. The truth is He called me to obey and leave the fruit bearing up to Him. He called me to obey even when it doesn’t go my way.
King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote an entire book trying to tackle the age old question: What is the meaning of life? But in fact, Ecclesiastes goes into great detail about all the things we strive after but are actually the opposite of meaningful. However, Solomon came to one conclusion:
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
I think that it’s good that I spend some days questioning . . . if it leads me to seek the truth. And sometimes the truth means that I am doing something wrong or I am in the wrong place and need to change. But sometimes, the truth is that I need to obey with a heart eager to serve the Lord. Period. Because He doesn’t desire my service near as much as He desires my heart.
March 6, 2016
*Scripture Illustration came from NIV Beautiful Word Bible ©2015 by Zondervan.