First comes faith… we have to believe that God is who He says He is and that He did what He said He did before we can go any further with Him. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him. And so we start there… with faith. But what next? How do we come to know God? He promised that if we sought Him with our whole heart, we would find Him, right? So quite naturally, we move on to the next step which is searching His word. Because within the pages of Scripture, we find Him. We learn about His character, about His nature, about His mighty acts. Through His word, we gain knowledge about God. That’s what I set my heart to do three years ago, and I pored through His word. In the fall of 2010, I veered off course for a while. But when I got back on track, I started searching His word with a fine tooth comb. I have a voracious appetite for His word, and it’s what sustains me. Jesus said that Man shall not live on bread alone, but from every word that comes from the mouth of God. He also declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
But within the past year, something has occurred to me. Oh, I have gained much knowledge, but what about my heart? Is it beginning to resemble His? If I’m going to be completely honest (and this is the truth about God & me), I have to say… “not so much.” Yes, I have a passion for His word. I love it. I want to read it, I want to share it and discuss it. I love His word. But what about Him? Do I simply love Him, as I am so commanded? And what about His people? Do I love them as He tells me to? Those are the greatest commandments. Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… that’s the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. Well, as I examine my heart, I have to say I am not quite doing this. I am trying to love God the best I can… I am loving him with my mind, with the knowledge I’ve gained. But my heart? God help me, it’s not a heart of flesh yet. It’s still somewhat stony, because there are people all around me that I can be loving in tangible ways… but unfortunately, I have not moved beyond my comfort zone to reach out. I have not truly extended my hand to those in need.
I’ve referred to darkness that surrounds me… darkness that I can fall into quite easily. Well, I guess that would be called depression and I go there at times for no apparent reason. And with my mind, and all the knowledge I’ve gained, I’ve tried to fix this problem. But to no avail. I even fasted this past January for 21 days. Not from all food, but particular foods. See, I wanted it to be a spiritual thing, and for those 21 days I purposed certain issues to God. One of those issues being my darkness. But you know… even that spiritual thing turned into something for me. Because I lost weight, and I liked that. And so, the spiritual fast turned into multiple trips to the scales. That wasn’t for God. And in hindsight, I have to wonder if God prompted the fast at all. Because the truth is He already told me how to escape this darkness. It was in the fall of 2011 when I saw a passage of Scripture that so moved me I immediately copied it onto an index card and placed it in plain view for a while. But you know, I don’t think I ever acted on it. Because I still live in darkness. And I still fail to move beyond the comfortable nest of my home and church. This is what God said through Isaiah 58:6-10:
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you: the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.”
What is apparent to me is that I have been living selfishly. I have been serving myself heaping helpings of God’s word, gobbling it down and savoring every word, but then… I am the only one nourished by it. I’ve grown fat on God’s words, and feel pretty good about all this knowledge I’ve gained. I’ve sacrificed hours of my time seeking Him, reading His word and praying. I tithe and give money to World Vision. I’m doing everything I should be, right? Wrong. I follow the rules and keep my hands clean. This makes me a Pharisee and a hypocrite. Because I have neglected the weightier matters of God’s word… justice and mercy and faith. Jesus said to go and learn what this means… “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” And I believe this is what He wants for me to learn. Because until I can learn this, healing will elude me. He tells me… extend my soul. If I could just be an extension of Him, then my healing will spring forth speedily. If I could just move my eyes off of me, and onto those that surround me, my darkness will be as the noonday. See, He doesn’t want my sacrifices of tithes and prayers and Bible study. Not unless I can attend to the most simple, and yet weightier matters, too. Because these – mercy… justice… faith – ought to have been done without leaving the others undone. And let me not forget love. If I could just love as He did…. sacrificially.
I have a love for God’s word. And it’s through the study of His word that I know, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” And because of John chapter 1, I know, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Jesus is the Word of God become flesh. If I love His Word, then I do love Him. The problem is all the self-serve I’ve been indulging in.
There’s not a thing wrong with studying God’s word. We’re commanded to. However, it should change us. And it will, if we let it. It will change us if we just do what He says to do. But what He says to do is challenging. Because it means removing ourselves from our bubbles of security. It means in addition to praying for ourselves, we pray for others. It means in addition to writing out checks, we go out there and meet with those who are in need. It means to not hide ourselves from our own flesh. We all have some of those family members, right? The ones who cause trouble… the ones who have so many problems it’s just easier to turn the other way. God tells us to love our neighbor, not just in word but in deed. He tells us to get out there and get dirty. And it’s then, and only then, that our healing shall spring forth speedily. It’s only then that our light shall break forth like the morning. Perhaps then, we will all shine bright in the dark… like Jesus did.