The Hard Edge of the Good News

Last week, a delay by God disappointed me. It also shocked me awake like smelling salts.

Missing the bus

For ten years, I’ve wanted (and waited) to write a book on hearing God. Last month, I finally finished it. And I’ve paid a professional to edit it, commissioned an artist to design it, and found a proofreader to fine-tune it and a marketing expert to promote it.

I originally planned to publish Hearing God in Conversation last May, but I was hindered by a month-long bout with pneumonia, friends with unexpected needs, and my first ever (hopefully my last ever) IRS audit.

After months (and years) of postponements, my book was finally ready for release September 1st.

Then a friend slipped a copy of my manuscript to a publisher. The publisher invited me to meet their management team. And the team offered me a contract last week. But a contract with a hitch (because we missed an important publishing industry window). If I sign their agreement, my book’s release date will be deferred by yet another year. Argh!

I was disappointed, dismayed by another delay (though thrilled that they liked the book). I asked myself: Should I publish it myself in three weeks or wait another twelve, long months?

And then one of my smart-aleck kids (never mind which one) commented, “Gee Dad, you’re writing a book about hearing God; have you asked him what you should do?”

The thing is, God has been speaking to me

When I talk about God, my temperament is to tell people of his wonderful, soul-restoring love. That’s why I wrote my first book, Is Sunday School Destroying our Kids?, to reveal how legalism—trying to gain God’s favor by good deeds—destroys our sense of his love. I want people to hear, know, and experience the life-changing love of God.

But recently God is speaking to me about something else, and it isn’t the sweetness and delight that I prefer. He is teaching me about the hard edge of the good news.

I’m re-learning what it means to give my life to God. It means this: I give my life to God! Sure, it begins when I receive his undeserved love, but I receive it only when I call him, “Lord.”

Who’s in charge anyway?

I rarely think of God in terms of “Lord” and “Master.” (Who even uses those labels anymore?) I tend to picture him more as a benevolent Santa Claus who chuckles Ho Ho Ho as he parcels out neatly wrapped presents. But: Lord? He is completely in charge? Obedience?

I agree that obedience is important. No more theft, adultery, or snobbery; and let’s smile at the bus driver and tip the cabbie. But the operative phrase is, “I agree.” Many of God’s commands make sense; the world will be a better place if everyone loved their neighbor.

But if I base my decisions on agreeing with God, then I’m not obeying. I’m just concurring. If I only do what makes sense to me, the person in charge is still me. But what if he really is my Lord? Then:

  • He can allow events in my life that I don’t understand;
  • He can issue commands that makes no sense to me, commands I may loathe;
  • I have to move beyond just agreement and learn to obey, even when I disagree;
  • And I have to learn to wait.

Because waiting often makes no sense

As a kid, I never once peeked at my Christmas presents. I loved the anticipation, holding off until Christmas morning. The beautiful wait made wonderful sense.

But I hate delays that I don’t understand, when things don’t happen according to my (brilliant) schedule: I think I’ve blown it, or someone else has. Maybe God has. So I struggle to bring “it” about according to my sense of timing. And I’m not alone:

  • Adam and Eve ate the apple because it didn’t make sense to them not to.
  • Abraham had Ishmael because he thought God needed help with timing.
  • All the disciples abandoned Jesus because the cross was sheer nonsense.

When I ask God about publishing my book, I hear him ask me a question in return: Who is Lord? Elisabeth Elliott once wrote,

God is God, and since He is God, He is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere else but in His will, and that will is necessarily infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.

Sam

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21 thoughts on “The Hard Edge of the Good News

  1. Love it.

    John 14:21Amplified Bible (AMP)

    21 The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I [too] will love him and will show (reveal, manifest) Myself to him. [I will let Myself be clearly seen by him and make Myself real to him.]

    • Alissa,

      Great passage, especially as the Amplified explains it.

      The thing is weird: we are to give EVERYTHING to God, to throw ourselves on him completely, even when his wisdom makes no sense to us or to our cultural generation.

      But: he doesn’t ask us to do something that he himself hasn’t done. He first gave himself–everything–to us. So, we can trust him. We’ve seen him. We know he is good.

      So, let’s give our lives to God.

      Thanks,

      • Great post, Sam. It can be challenging to not merely “let” Jesus be Lord but to actually embrace his lordship. “The spirit is willing,” but my flesh is messy stuff. These past few years, storm chasing has been my own catalyst for saying, “Lord, you get to call the shots.” Re your book, whichever direction you take, this I know: the Lord will be waiting for you up ahead, even as he is walking with you. You’re a gift, brother.

        • By the way everyone, Bob Hartig (the commentor above) is the professional I hired to edit my book. HE IS GREAT. He understood what I was saying and he helped me say it better. I cannot recommend him highly enough.

  2. I see you’re writing cliff-hangers now, Sam. So are you self-publishing or not? You mean you don’t KNOW yet? I don’t know if I can take the wait!!!

    • Well, I don’t know yet. One of the things I OFTEN find when I ask God for direction: he answers a different question. I ask God if I should self-publish, and God says I need to recognize the HE is God (and not me).

      I currently lean toward waiting a year and going with the established publisher, I lean partly because I think it good to exercise patience, the art of waiting. I also lean that way because the process of the publisher finding me (without me even considering a publisher) seems sort of like a divine moment.

  3. This is really a hard place for those of us who like to “know” the answer and move forward. But, that would be me not God. I remember asking a good friend not long ago who was going through something like this, “is patience something that should be exercised?” That’s the rub isn’t it! He may steer you down what seems like a meandering stream going nowhere, but with Him the ride will certainly be scenic and interesting and the destination will be so much more that we could ever imagine or try to bring about ourselves! Our prayers continue to be with you!!

    • Your comment about exercising patience rings a bell.

      In our modern world, we actually exercise the opposite: fast food, instant movies (we don’t even have to go to Blockbuster), and credit cards. We can have everything, now.

      So, it’s a great idea of yours to figure ways to practice waiting.

  4. Exercise patience? Just pray for patience and our Lord will take you through the gauntlet. Sam I love what one of your kids told you. I often come down from my office frustrated over a wall I’ve ran into and the first thing I’m asked is did I pray and ask for God’s help. I always wish I could get back the few frustrating hours I spent trying to push through on my own. Jesus knows even when a semi-colon is missing in thousands of lines of code. 🙂
    And for you my friend, His timing will be perfect! God bless..

    • Hey Russell,

      You bet; sometimes we have to watch out what we pray for! Just joking, of course. But God always knows what we need, and almost never get it right.

      John Newton, converted slave trader and author of Amazing Grace, wrote a poem called, These Inward Trials. It begins:

      I asked the Lord that I might grow
      In faith, and love, and every grace;
      Might more of His salvation know,
      And seek, more earnestly, His face.

      I hoped that in some favored hour,
      At once He’d answer my request;
      And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
      Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

      [Pretty good prayer, right? Then he says,]

      Instead of this, He made me feel
      The hidden evils of my heart;
      And let the angry pow’rs of hell
      Assault my soul in every part.

      Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
      Intent to aggravate my woe;
      Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
      Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

      [God is doing something he doesn’t understand! But the poem ends with grace and hope.]

      Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
      Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
      “’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
      I answer prayer for grace and faith.

      These inward trials I employ,
      From self, and pride, to set thee free;
      And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
      That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

      That’s what we want–to find our all in Him–but the road is often rocky.

      Sam

  5. Amen! And to tack on to that from some study I have been doing, we must “test the spirits” and see if every thought is from God or if the thought is coming from elsewhere. We must discern our thoughts and daily, sometimes drudgingly, sift through and discard our wrong thoughts that may even be coming from the dark world, trying to lodge in our heads because Satan is king of this world and he will do what he can to keep our eyes off the Lord and wants to discourage us. Thanks US!

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