You’ll notice many of my posts giving credit to a sermon and the man of God who preached it as the source of inspiration. Usually the post is a mixture of what was preached and how it’s affecting my life, with maybe other scriptures that come to mind as I turn that over in my heart. God’s Word fits together perfectly and when it is rightly divided, every truth reflects every other truth in the Word. Digging deeper after a message helps plant it more solidly in my heart and creates fresh excitement for how amazing the Word of God truly is.
Pastor John Bowen, Jr.’s message Sunday morning was on our humbling ourselves, or else being humbled by God. You can pretty well guess which one we’d rather have happen, right? We will be humble either way (if not now, then at the Judgment, where “…every knee shall bow and every tongue confess…”). If we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God (2 Peter 5:6…), we will in fact be exalted. Many scriptures support this idea, including Proverbs 18:12, stating that “before honor is humility”.
Daniel 5:26 shows a very different picture, that of a pagan king who acted as though he was above the judgment of God Almighty, and called for the vessels taken from God’s holy temple in Jerusalem when the city was captured by the Babylonians to be brought into his drunken feast. He actually used them to drink wine from, and gave them to his lords, his wives, and his concubines, as together they praised the gods of silver, and gold, and brass, iron, wood, and stone, “…which see not, nor hear, nor know…” But, as Daniel told Belshazzar, “…the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, thou hast not honored.” Belshazzar’s judgment was pronounced quickly by a hand writing on the wall, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN, interpreted by the prophet Daniel as, in part, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” The scriptures tell that Belshazzar was killed that very night.
What is probably more amazing than this story, though, is the one Daniel referred to in his rebuke of Belshazzar. For a pagan king to exalt himself was not all that unusual. The mighty king Nebuchadnezzer, Belshazzar’s father, actually became like a beast and was driven from men, eating grass in the field like an ox after standing and surveying the kingdom God had elevated him to build and taking all the credit to himself. Not until he acknowledged God’s power and majesty did his reason return to him and he resumed his throne. Belshazzar had seen enough to know that God was all-powerful, but seeing it wasn’t enough to keep him humble.
God isn’t always so immediate in his judgment. He is, after all, merciful, and not willing that any should perish. His greatest desire is that we hear preaching and repent, addressing what we hear at an altar, and taking care of it once and for all by His help. My last post, Are you out of control? referenced Job’s trial, and how his efforts to raise his children to live for God were not immediately rewarded by seeing them outlive him in the fear of the LORD, nor the assurance that all was well when they left this earth. Job was not in control in that aspect, or in any other.
At the end of the message I heard on Sunday, as I was praying in the altar and searching my heart about any areas where I was less than humble, one unexpected picture came to mind. It had to do with my feelings over some things in life that haven’t gone as I expected them to. Realizing that I can’t make anything happen by trying to force it has been a revelation that has freed me. But, as God knows the thoughts and the intents of the heart, He showed me through the preaching of His word what I had not realized until that service: my believing that if I do “my part” then He is obligated do His was actually an act of pride.
In fact, for me to believe that I could do anything to make another person truly choose the right path was pride as well, even for someone who I could influence greatly. Nor is there any room for me to feel I deserved something from God because I had obeyed Him. We don’t hear much about Luke 17:7-10, but the attitude of a master toward a servant who has labored all day in the field is described. Will that master tell the servant, “Come sit down and let me get you something to drink and eat?” Hardly. Rather it’s more like, “You fix my supper and when I’m through eating, you can go take care of yourself.” A side of Jesus we don’t think of very often, but these are His very words: “So likewise ye, when ye have done all these things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10).
For example, teaching our children the ways of God, and reaching out to others with the message of the Gospel is our reasonable service, not something for which we deserve praise or even reward. I had to let that concept sink it. It’s still not about me. At the end of Job’s trial, God addressed Job much the same way: “Where was thou when I laid the foundation of the earth?…Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?…Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee. Here we are?” Though Job had not sinned — according to the Word of God — he was told where he stood, and reminded in a sense that “…every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” Psalm 39:5
The truth is, God has his way in the affairs of men. We, and our loved ones, live unto the LORD and die unto the LORD, and whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (some through relationship with Him, but we are all in His hands to do with as He will). So in my case, where my hopes are hung on loved ones desiring the things of God with passion and seeking them with all their hearts, if it should be that the happy spiritual endings I have given myself to strive for do not come to pass when I would like to see them, can I say God didn’t pay up after I did my part? Of course not. Striving for those things is not optional, but an obedience in itself to the Word of God. But that is where my ability to affect anything stops. I can support, encourage, and expect. But only He can do the work.
Humbling ourselves in prayer and fasting to acknowledge that we and our loved ones are in His hand sets things to right in our hearts. Retreating to wonder why God isn’t working for us just wastes time we can’t afford to lose. There’s an enemy who is trying to cut off the supply line of support for struggling souls who are in the midst of a battle for their eternity, those who may not have fully given up yet, but may be fighting with less and less strength against opposition that will never give up. It’s not time to take a pity party break. It’s time to come out with guns blazing and bombard Heaven for the help of the only Power that can redeem: the blood of Jesus.