Summary: We need to take time to intentionally focus on God because... "when we obey, when we accept, when we pause, when we awaken, when we realize and recognize and receive, love transforms everything."
I am Here; Did You Notice?
August 12, 2012
I am learning a valuable lesson lately – about things I’ve never noticed. Things I’ve taken for granted for a long time. Things that have been around, doing their job, with never a celebration or a word of thanks or the smallest bit of appreciation.
I broke my toe two weeks ago. It is the middle toe on my right foot. I confess to you that until recently, I have taken the middle toe on my right foot for granted. I never thanked it. I never celebrated it. In fact, I never paid it any attention at all except to clip the toenail along with the rest of them. And I never realized how much I actually use it until it got broken. (You are all curious, so I’ll tell you how – I simply slipped on some slick mud and rammed my foot into a concrete parking block). It is not painful, certainly not life-threatening, but now that I don’t have proper use of the middle toe on my right foot I am discovering just how much it actually does.
I can’t really walk properly – I sort of have to limp a bit. I certainly can’t run. We were camping last weekend, Joanne and Thomas got to play in the James river and float in a tube and ride bikes around; I sat in a chair and read novels with my foot up. I use my toe all the time, for movement and balance, and until it was broken I never even knew all the things it does for me.
Do you know where this is headed?!
We believe the promises of Scripture:
Jesus said, “16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” (Jn 14)
It is promised throughout the Old Testament as well, one example comes from the end of Moses’ life: “6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deut 31)
It is repeated in the book of Hebrews: “For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”” (Heb 13:5).
So we believe God is faithful, constant, and with us always. We believe, when we stop to think about it, that the sun rises and sets, the rains come, the plants and animals grow and give us food, because God is good and faithful. We believe that we can count on God, that He is there, and that we have placed our trust in Him. He will “never leave”, He will “neither fail you nor abandon you.”
But God must never become like the middle toe on my right foot – there but never really noticed.
See, it comes down to awareness, and awareness is a result of intentional focus. I wasn’t aware of my toe because I never intentionally focused on it, until pain forced me to. I know for a fact, from reading Scripture, two things: first, God does not want us to experience pain in order to intentionally focus on Him; but second He will allow us to feel pain if that results in us intentionally focusing on Him.
But that second fact is, I think, a “last resort” for God. Think of it like this: say as a parent, you want and need for your child to learn something important for their own best good. For example, you want them to learn to properly care for themselves – they are dirty after a full day playing outside and need to take a bath. First, we ask: “you’ve had a great day playing in the sand, please go get cleaned up and then come have dinner”. If they don’t, we remind again: “Hey, what are you doing? I told you that you need to get cleaned up. It is dinner time, I’ve got a great meal for you to enjoy but you need to do what I told you to do.” If the child continues to disobey, the situation escalates into a conflict resulting in punishment of some kind or another. The parent didn’t want that, they wanted their child to come enjoy a meal after a great day; but the child’s stubborn disobedience necessitated some sort of pain to intentionally focus the child on the need.
Isn’t it so much better when we just obey the first time?
I don’t want this sermon to be about punishment and pain and disobedience and how that forces our loving God into a place where He must discipline us as His children, because of His love for us and His deep desire for us to enjoy full lives. I don’t want it to be about how we ignore God until something breaks and we are forced to intentionally focus on Him. Because the real message is so much bigger and more important and honestly more powerful.