Friday, July 22, 2011

God's Will and Our Dreams and Prayers

I love being a pastor. I love leading a group of friends to accomplish more together than we ever could separately. I love teaching, and the constant state of humble learning that it requires. I love guiding people as they develop their God given gifts. And I'm honored to walk with people as they go through the challenging times of life; I would never say that this is a part of the job that I "enjoy," but I definitely feel the weight of it. And so because I love what I do and I'm a bit ambitious (that is the nice word, when I'm apart from God it's called arrogance) I have dreams for the future. I'll spare you the details, but my dreams include being a pastor well into the foreseeable future.

What are your greatest dreams? I've learned the hard way that while the heart's desire for some particular object is breakable, the heart's need to have an ultimate desire is unconquerable. So perhaps you've set your heart of having a great family, or your kids wanting to hang around with you, or to be at the top of your profession, or to make enough money to retire by 50, or to make it as an artist, or to be needed by someone, or to have a good time while your alive, or to have the most facebook friends of anyone you know. I don't know what your dreams entail, but for the sake of this post please engage with the discipline of actually thinking to yourself, what would make you extremely happy if you obtained it? Or what is your greatest dream?

Recently a mentor of mine challenged me in a profound way.
He said to me, "What would you do if God called you to move to Topeka and become a used-car salesman?"
I paused. For a very long time. "Well... I guess I would talk to Heather about it and figure out a way to make it happen." It was clear to both him and I that, whatever I did, I wouldn't be very happy about it.
"That's not a bad response," he replied. "But you know what would be an even better response? I want what God wants."
It hit me like a punch in the stomach. I didn't want what God wanted, I wanted what I wanted. And I was viewing God as either a springboard or an obstacle to getting what I wanted. And in chasing down my own desires (in a very "religious" guise I might add) I had neglected wanting the one thing that could really fulfill me. God. God! Because he is beautiful in and of himself. Because he is Wisdom itself. Because he knows what will truly fulfill me and not leave me wanting more. Because he has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he loves me.

What container could hold the sorrows of Christ? Could you find a bucket or a barrel big enough to contain the pain, the anguish, the torment, and the infinite sacrifice of the man of sorrows. No one could dare try, the container would simply run over. And as the sorrow and the affliction of Christ splashed upon you, then you would find yourself cut to the quick, and in love with Christ for his own sake, and his own glory, and because his faithfulness cannot be measured, nor seen, nor contained, nor understood by a mortal man. And as his blood has washed away our sins, we shall find that his sorrows wash away our doubts. When you see the cross and know that he marched up the hill of calvary for you, then you will no longer doubt his love.

A couple of days after this encounter with my mentor. I was reading through the gospel of Matthew. You know what Jesus says? "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me... My Father if it is possible may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

When we have learned that Jesus followed his Father's will even unto death, we will put to death our own desires and learn to follow Jesus. Then our unanswered prayers blow like chaff in the wind, for our "present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Because we know that we have a God in heaven who suffered and died for us, so will he not also give us every good gift that is for our benefit. He hears us no doubt. But more than he hears us:
He loves us,
Oh how he loves us,
Oh how he loves.

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