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Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Journey is the Destination! Part 1 Which Brings Him the Greatest Glory... Easy or Hard?

When everything falls into place we are instantly filled with elation and inspiration and quickly proclaim, without reservation, "Obviously, this was God's will!" "Everything, just fell right into place!" Incredible!" 

Whatever
...has come to pass, with little or no human effort, and we equate that with being God's will...without a second thought. 

But what of the path that is filled with constant struggles, trials, detours, which seemingly never ends, where there is much human effort and for an extended amount of time?  What then?  Is this route as much "God's will" as when everything falls into place?

If we experience a rough ride we are constantly second guessing our decisions, or God's plan, or both, as do others.  Wondering why me is not an uncommon thought.  Thoughts of doubt swirl around in our heads, carelessly.

The path could be challenging and dangerous!
Will it bring Him greater glory?

Some of us are fully aware of the Enemy's schemes and know full well the promises of God, but there are times when we succumb to the Enemy's ploys, at least for a time. He delights in causing us to doubt and is a master at doing so.  And for some reason his most successful plan of attack comes when God allows us, leads us, to walk the rough path.  

Why do we view these two scenarios so vastly different?  Everything falling into place vs. the road of long-suffering.  Is the first greater cause for bringing glory to God?  Or are the stories of endurance, when all odds are stacked against us, what bring Him the greatest glory?

According to the stories God shares in His Word, rarely does He choose to grant His children the easy way out for accomplishing His will in their lives.  Instead, it is most often through the tough times that must be endured, day-by-day, putting one foot in front of the other--all the while being forced to rely on Him since we are helpless within ourselves and can do nothing without Him.  Funny thing is, Jesus tell us in John 15...apart from Him, we can do nothing. 

So which of these scenarios, bring God the most glory? Or should they be considered equal in their glory of Him?

As we think of the examples God gives us, Noah comes to mind, first.  This is a man, obedient to God's call, who labored more than 100 years to build a gigantic boat, no doubt enduring continual ridicule day after day.  Noah was in his late 400's - early 500's (vs. late 40's - early 50's) while he was constructing the ark, not a spring chicken.  The rain began when he was 600 years old.  Noah's sons were born when he was 500 years old, so they spent their childhood watching their father build the ark, exactly as God commanded.  According to Peter, God waited patiently as Noah built the ark (1 Peter 3:20).  Okay, let me get this straight...God was ready to wipe-out His people because their hearts were evil all the time, but He waited patiently while Noah built the ark to do so?  Huh?  So many things to learn about our God from the life of Noah! 

Rain was not in man's vocabulary at that point in time.  No one had seen rain; much less a flood caused by rain.  Noah had to have lost his mind!  Poor man and pity on his family.  Noah never convinced any converts (except his family) to follow him into the ark, not in 100 years.  But God had already prophesied it would only be Noah's family that would board that boat along with the animals. He had also prophesied Noah's sons would bring wives with them.  Noah's obedience to God persevered day-in and day-out, working tirelessly for over 100 years.  Can you imagine faith like Noah's, today?  No doubt, you and I would certainly join in his ridicule and drown when the rain came.

100 years with not one convert...nada, zero, zilch! 
Would we, could we...persevere?

Next, comes Joseph.  His life was filled with trials, discouragement, betrayal, which started early, within his own family, at the age of 12.  This was in the midst of his knowing God's hand was on him, but it sure did not seem like it, from our perspective anyway, for a very long time.  After his brothers schemed to kill him, threw him into a pit, sold him into slavery, Joseph finds himself being falsely accused by his Egyptian master's wife.  He spends many years in prison for something he never did and was forgotten by two cellmates when they were freed because of his gift of dream interpretation, which he shared freely with each of them.  However, while in prison, Joseph allows God to use him, in spite of the rough road, and he is placed in charge of all the prisoners and all that was done there.  This had been his experience in his master's house, as well. 

All of the above, was God's hand on Joseph.  When Joseph is finally freed from prison, 13 years later, following his interpretation of the Pharaoh's dream, he is placed in charge of all of the land of Egypt.   During a famine, his brothers come face-to-face with Joseph while searching for food.  When they realize it is their long-gone and forgotten brother, they are terrified and fearful of his retribution.  Instead, Joseph forgives their hate and abuse of him and gives one of the most powerful, empowering reasons of forgiveness known.  "But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. ” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them."   

Joseph had plenty of human reasons for retribution against his brothers, his master's wife, and his ungrateful cell mates?  However, Joseph recognized God's hand on him throughout his life, even on that rough path that seemed so unfair and never-ending.  Through it all, Joseph never stopped being who God called Him to be.  Wherever God allowed Joseph to be, despite his circumstances...Joseph was God's...he was all His...no matter what!

How many of us grant Joseph's level of forgiveness for a simple insult or mistreatment by a family member or co-worker?  Suppose we looked at those actions against us through Joseph's eyes?  "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." Our perspective of our daily circumstances would certainly be much different, as would our level of stress and drama.  Our relationship with that one who had misused us would not be broken and God could continue to use us in that relationship in ways He might never could had our response been human

God receives great glory when our lives demonstrate His character.  The lush fruit of His Spirit, abundantly alive, and permeating through our lives to others, despite the unfair circumstances surrounding us, shout He is alive to the world!


Joseph embraces his youngest brother, Benjamin!

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-25




Additional Old Testament stories which share the same requirements of human perseverance clothed in God-filled character include Abraham, Job, Daniel, Jacob and Esther, just to name a few.  

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3






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