Sometimes I hear God best in surprises. Seemingly unrelated circumstances suddenly unite, and their merger stirs something in my heart. Like a succession of waves on a beach, one last surge dissolves my sandcastles.
This last month I talked with:
- A despairing man whose ministry seems stagnant, and all his work seem fruitless;
- Another man who keeps a tally in the front of his Bible of all the souls he helped save;
- A group of friends who mused on our all-absorbing attraction to superhero movies;
Each discussion hinted at some deep longing for significance, expressed in meaningful ministry, “souls I helped save,” or that desire to be superhero (ish) ourselves. Wanting a life that matters doesn’t contradict Scripture. We are made in God’s image, and he is the God of all glory.
And yet. Last week I read about the baptism of Jesus. A voice from heaven cries, “You are my beloved Son; I delight in you.” My first response (and probably my second and third) was: “That’s exactly what I want, to hear the Father say to me, ‘Well done. I am pleased with you.’”
Then a thought flashed through my mind: Is it possible to have as much joy when the Father affirms Jesus as I would have if He so affirmed me? Can I simply take joy in the joy of Jesus?
I’ve Been Looking in the Rear View Mirror
It’s a brand-new idea to me: of delighting so much in Jesus that his happiness overwhelms me, whatever happens in my own life. Familiar verses take on new meaning:
- Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4). No longer to delight in God in order to get my “real” desire (a new house or better job), but that the desire of my heart is to see the Father overjoyed in Jesus.
- Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble, the Lord delivers him (Ps. 41:1). To enjoy the blessedness bestowed on Jesus that he considered the poor …
- The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth (Ps. 145:18). To rejoice in God’s nearness to Jesus who alone cried out to him with true purity.
My nature unconsciously looks to God to accomplish my own schemes: my ideas for happiness or a good name, or my plans for ministry or a retreat house. In John 15, Jesus says the branch that bears fruit abides in the vine. I find myself saying, “If I just do that, like abide a bit more, then I’ll get what I really want.
Which means my heart really abides in the fruit and not the vine.
God is inviting me to abide in him a new way: simply to delight when he is honored, whether I see results I want or not. Joy in him is undermining my sandcastles.
All It Took Was a Trip to Lowes
On an errand to Lowe’s hardware store, a phrase from an old John Newton poem snuck into my thoughts on fixing a furnace humidifier. I googled the phrase in the parking lot. In it, God speaks to Newton, and through Newton, God spoke to me:
These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may find thy all in Me.”
I keep thinking I need a home for retreats or to hear words of affirmation. Both fine things. I think, instead, God is breaking my “schemes of earthly joy,” all those fleeting castles of sand, because he is building a lasting home of unearthly joy.
There is a delight we can have simply in knowing him, in finding our “all” in him alone.
P. S. God often speaks to us in the moments we think he is silent. To nurture that conversational relationship with your Father, I suggest you read Hearing God in Conversation.
Hearing God in Conversation also makes a great Christmas present or stocking stuffer. Buy now and watch the video below.