Don’t you sometimes wish Romans 8:28 read this way, “And we know that in all things God works for the ease of those who love him”?
98% of the time I desire comfort, safety, and ease more than anything else… at times even more than God. Comfort (and not just the kind that involves good food and a soft bed) can quickly become my idol. I like feeling safe, cared for, and worry free. I want everyone I love to make the best choices that lead to the greatest level of peace and harmony. Let’s shut down conflict, stay in the air conditioning, volunteer when it’s convenient, give when asked, sleep when we’re tired, purchase when and what we want to, and above all else: let’s take it easy.
None of those items are bad or wrong in and of themselves… but anything that takes the place of the Lord is a big-bold-red-flag-neon warning sign. The end goal was never ease or even heaven. The goal has always been more of Him.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:28-29, NIV
I don’t know about you, but I know that my greatest spiritual growth has occurred during some of the hardest times in my life. Seasons full of transitions, loneliness, conflict, and especially sacrifice have led me to drink deeply from the Living Water of God- His presence and His Word. During those times He caused His good to come out of seemingly bad situations. He walked with me through pain to make me more like His Son.
I know that God honors obedience and dependence upon Him. My read through the Old Testament this year finally brought me to Hosea, Joel, and Amos this past week. All three are short books that pack a powerful punch. God is faithful to use His Word to remind me of the abundance and blessing that have filled my life with joy and ease for almost two years. He has been so good to me. But rather than using this time to serve and sacrifice, I have grown inward, convincing myself that what I needed was to fill up my schedule with personal items and receive little to no input from the Lord.
“But I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me. I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.” Hosea 13:4-6
This verse in Hosea convicted me to my core. While the passage speaks of the history of the Israelites, I could sense the Spirit telling me that I was behaving just like God’s people!
The summer and fall of 2009 found me in an emotional desert- discouraged, opportunities removed, and with loneliness entering the picture in a very real and palpable way. I turned my hands out to the Lord and asked like the Israelites, “Have you brought us to the desert to die?” And yet, when I turned out my hands to the Lord He fed me, and I was satisfied. He led me gently and lovingly into a time of contentment.
But I let that contentment and ease become my idol. I confess it freely and openly. I’m selfish.
But I want to be like David when he cried out…
“I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24, NIV)
1. A surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable
More on the story of David and his sacrifice tomorrow…