An Often Neglected, Rarely Obeyed Command…

Commandments come in many forms. Sometimes they are of the “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not” verities.

Sometimes they are lengthy, sometimes short, as in just one word, like say, “Go”.

Other times the purpose behind the commandment is revealed. Sometimes not.

But in all instances, one common theme is present. They all take the form of an imperative statement. An imperative statement (or sentence) is a written or spoken communication in which a command is given (as opposed to a suggestion, a question, or merely the sharing of general information). With the imperative comes the expectation that obedience will follow.

Within the pages of the Bible, there are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of imperative statements, which come from all sources.

The chief source which concerns us, of course, is the very Author Himself, God. When God speaks an imperative statement, we may rightly understand the utterance as a command. There may be no other indication or warning that God is about to speak a command, but the very nature of the statement, once spoken or written, makes it obvious.

And there are many obvious commands of Scripture, spoken by God, that we all readily obey.

But are there any that we don’t obey so readily? I submit that there are.

Now, some might jump the gun and think I’m referring to some very hard, or difficult passage of the Bible. But I’m not. Others might presume to think that what I have in mind must be one of those really spiritual commandments, one that cuts across the grain of all that is carnal, and so, we fight tooth and nail, to obey, because our flesh just doesn’t want to submit. No, I’m not talking about one of those kinds of commandments, either (e.g. “love your enemies” or “bless them that curse you”, and etc.).

In fact, the commandment I have in mind is relatively easy to understand, and ought to be easily obeyed, and yet, because of its simplicity, it often get ignored (and so neglected) and therefore is not a commandment I see obeyed on a regular basis. Am I keeping you in suspense? Let me end the mystery and share the verse.

Psalm 46:10,

10. Be still, and know that I am God…

Does my suggestion surprise you? Scare you? Make you scratch your head?

If you want to know where I’m going with this, please read on. But to know where I’m going, you first need to let me take you through where I’ve been.

God saved me March 9th, 2003. Up until that time, I was of no Christian descent, with little to no real Bible knowledge. I was almost completely un-indoctrinated into any tenet of the Faith. God quickly did a miraculous, even transforming work in my life; I was truly born again and most definitely not the person I had been prior to conversion. Many are the witnesses who can attest to this.

In these last ten years of living the Christian life, and following the Way, I’ve been involved in many different disciplines, programs, church initiatives, and have been, at various times, and in various ways, highly involved at many different levels of ministry. For illustrative purposes only, I give you a list–not to boast or showboat–but to provide some background on who I am, and what I’ve been allowed to do in the kingdom of God, ultimately, so I can prove that I have good reason to speak to this issue.

In the past ten years, at various times, I’ve:

– Been on the church leadership team, helping to direct and steer our local assembly into and through God’s vision for the saints, taking oversight of many different, important ministries, such as: the Founder and Leader of our Campus Ministry, the Sunday School and Nursery Director, Director of Spanish Ministry, Nursing and Group Home Leader and Coordinator, Head and Lead of the Usher Department, Lead Teacher and Curriculum Developer for our new converts Bible class, Building and Maintenance Inspector, Home Fellowship Group Coordinator, Church Board member, and various other capacities as needed in the moment.

This list was developed from many years of involvement as:

– A Sunday School teacher, a leader in church outreach, a constant Bible study teacher, an assistant youth leader, home fellowship group leader, community service project leader and volunteer, a personal witness committed to evangelism, a highly trained and competent altar worker, a children’s evangelist, church and camp drama participant, director, or co-director, respectively, and countless other areas that some probably remember better than I do, not to mention apologist, faithful steward of finances (i.e. tithes and offerings), and ministry trainer and mentor to many different saints.

In these different capacities, God has blessed me and allowed me to be used in various capacities, all the way from the Gifts of the Spirit to the ministry of helps (giving rides and helping saints move being chief examples), to winning souls and growing the church numerically and spiritually, to assisting and counseling pastors and other ministers, to seeing many receive the Holy Ghost, to counseling parents with their children, to creating and leading seminars, to just being an encouragement and good friend to those in need. And whatever else in between.

I share all this, not to brag, but to make the point that all I’ve ever done for God has been centered around working with, ministering to, and helping people, both lost and saved. I say that, to say this:

Having been around so many different people, from so many different backgrounds, experiences, and levels of faith (from the atheist and the Satanist, to the most anointed, devoted Christians this side of heaven) I can tell, with the Spirit’s help in discernment, where, on average, the Church world struggles the most.

Granted, the Church is a gigantic entity, and I’m not here trying to speak for all of It. But, if my limited experience in my areas of life and expertise may constitute a sample of the whole, I submit that what I’m going to share is fairly representative of many, many people.

In this day and age, and especially in this country and culture, far removed from the mindset of the early church, we have generations of people, so many of whom God is saving and bringing into His fold, who have never learned basic life skills. The last two generations of people, especially, have been highly dysfunctional. We are not a people who can be saved, and in a few months, be ready to, in turn, save the rest of the world. We need lots and lots of work on the inward man. We are and have been tied in spiritual knots for so long, it takes God years to undo the mess.

And in our dysfunction, saved and learning, but still enmeshed in the world and its systems, we lack a chief virtue, a fruit of the Spirit called patience. We don’t know how to wait on God to let Him work in His own time. And so, we bring our constantly agitated state before the Throne, immaturely demanding that God do something RIGHT NOW!

But guess what? God doesn’t bow to our whims. He doesn’t work on our timetable. He moves when He wants to move.

But we, like children, in impatient fits and tantrums, jump up and down, trying all manner of ways to get God’s attention to make Him…notice us…love us…help us…change us…fix us…

And in our agitation, we push God away, because we refuse to accept through faith, that by His grace, He alone, in His own time, and in His own way, will do all we ask and need of Him.

And because we refuse to accept this important truth, we get bunched up inside and end up thinking a terrible thought: that we need to earn God’s affection through works and personal efforts, that only by doing and moving and acting, and charging forward to somehow make Him love us, will we ever merit the grace and mercy required to heal and restore us to sanity, i.e. to functional living, what the Bible calls walking in the Spirit.

Before you deny it, stop for a moment, get honest with yourself and God, and consider what I say.

If you’re still not sure, let me ask you a few questions.

– When you think of how and when God saved you, do you routinely speak only of what YOU did to obey the Gospel (as opposed to remembering and realizing what JESUS did for you to save you)?

– Do you attempt to fulfill some kind of prayer and Bible reading quota each day as a way to earn God’s love, only to condemn yourself and think God’s mad at you for not towing the line?

– Why do you really “go to” Church?

– Ever disobeyed your conscience and ran counter to your convictions to make someone else happy because you subconsciously equated that person with the Lord?

– Do you confuse the Church with Jesus and your ministries with the Holy Spirit?

– Do you minister for personal reward, gain, or feel-goods, because you think God will only love you if you are at His constant beck and call?

– Do you pray the same sob-inducing prayers every altar call with no apparent answer or change?

– Do you struggle with letting your past go?

– Do you have a deep-seated fear of failure?

– Do feel some sense to push yourself to constantly be more spiritual than you were the day before, thinking such pressure comes from the Father?

– Ever project your feelings of self-condemnation onto others?

– Do you regularly compare yourself to others, or compare others to other others?

– How many times of day do you repent, even before or without the Holy Spirit ever even reproving you for sin?

– Ever give in and finish a long fast a day early, then blame yourself for why something miraculous didn’t happen?

– Does your family suffer because you’re too busy involving yourself in the “work of the Lord” to spend quality time with them, and would you even notice if you stopped to pay attention?

– Is my list of questions hitting too close to home?

Dear Reader, I’m not a prophet. I just pay attention to people and I try my best to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

And I am convinced that (many of) God’s people have no idea how to rest in His presence, be still, and let God be God without human interventions constantly interfering with and messing with the relationship the Loving Savior is trying to have with us.

When this happens, guess what? As sad as I am to say it, and as hard as it may be to hear it, we are, unfortunately, disobeying the obvious command found in Psalm 46:10.

So how do we solve this problem?

The first thing I recommend is to find a trusted elder who has learned how to be still and know his or her God as God. Allow this person to befriend you and become a mentor. This person, if willing to invest in you, by example and exhortation, can teach you how to slow down, find peace with God, and lead you into a less agitated state of mind when you pray and seek God’s face.

I can’t tell you how many people, especially new to newer converts have come to me with a question, and then, two minutes into the conversation, suddenly have 18 more questions, and they can’t focus long enough for me to give them an answer for the first thing they wanted to know!

And without fail, what automatically comes along with the above is a spiritual disquietude. They are constantly racing, worried about this or that, pressuring themselves beyond anything God expects of them. So the first thing I always do when such a situation arises is to calm and slow them down, teaching them how to focus on one issue at a time (usually by provoking deeper thought with a pointed question). And usually, if they are willing to do that, so much of the other stuff suddenly comes into focus and they end up answering a good deal of their other concerns without my help.

The second thing I recommend is to pay better attention to how we pray. I know so many people who rush through their prayer time with God, thinking quantity of time spent is more important than the quality. They pray without any attention to the very God to whom they pray. Machine gunning petitions in God’s general direction is a surefire way to see no prayer actually get to God.

I often encounter this type of praying with children. They are certainly zealous for God, and are quite passionate when they pray, but they lack one key ingredient: peace. Some children get so desperate and anguished when they pray, they end up more disappointed and downtrodden after they prayed than before they even began. They simply don’t yet know how to relate to God as loving, peaceful Savior.

And if children often pray this way, and yet, so do many adults, what does it say about the adults? I’m not bashing seeking God passionately, nor am I discrediting praying with a burden. But I’ve prayed with so many children who pray as though God’s not really there, able to hear and do. They pray terrified instead of by faith. And many adults pray the same way, as if to say, “God, I have to pray this prayer right now, this instance, this very way, because if I don’t I’m afraid you’re going to turn on me, abandon me, and withhold all Your love and affection”.

Friend, that’s not faith. That’s crisis. And that’s not who your God is. You’ve haven’t learned to be still in God’s presence, and so, you haven’t come to know God as God. You have a composite version in your mind of who you think God is, but that version isn’t accurate.

We’ve got to get out of the mindset that prayer is this one-way high volume stream of loud chatter launched toward heaven. It’s not. Prayer should be a pleasant two-way conversation between Father and Child.

Take this verse to heart:

Habakkuk 2:20,

20. But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.

When you become acutely aware of God’s presence in your life, you don’t have to charge out of your mind to get to Him. Simply embrace Him with love by faith, spend quality time with Him, and enjoy the peacefulness of the experience.

Third, don’t be afraid of how God is going to speak to you, or what He might say. I know many people don’t have the patience to be still and know God as God simply because they fear God is going to roar and rage at them for all their faults and failures.

Don’t you think God already knows you’re a sinner? Doesn’t He already know that you fall short of His glory? Doesn’t He already know that no flesh can glory in His presence? And yet He wants to spend time with you and be with you and in your presence still, even more than you do?

Take heed to Psalm 78:38-39,

38. But [God], being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.

39. For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

God knows you and I are but flesh, that we only get one life to live, and that EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON HIM TO SAVE US FROM OUR SINS!!!

And does He not save? Indeed, God saves to the uttermost all who come to Him through Jesus Christ His Son (Hebrews 7:25).

The fourth recommendation I have is simply to keep working at it. Ask God to remind you of Psalm 46:10 daily. Ask Him to teach you how to pray, how to approach Him, how to yield to His influence in a way that really brings about spiritual change. Not giving up is critical.

Lastly, a personal story. Many year ago, while I was praying and worshiping God, I felt this gentle desire to curl up and lay on the floor. Not in a fetal, woe is me and I’m in pain position. Just a relaxed, quiet posture, like a dog before his master’s feet.

And that’s actually what I felt like, in that moment, like I was a dog lounging at Christ’s feet. Please don’t think it strange; rather learn from this.

The Greek New Testament word for worship is proskyneo. It means to kiss, as a dog which licks the hand of its master. We say dogs are man’s best friend. Ever wonder who God’s best friend is? It’s us. We are the friends of God (3 John 1:14).

A dog properly treated and cared for is the most devoted animal on the planet. It loves unashamedly. It is constantly content, no matter the circumstance. It wants, above all, to be with its master. It doesn’t fret or worry itself over much of anything. More than anything a dog just wants to curl up in its master’s lap and feel the master’s hand rest gently on its head.

Connect the dots and let the mental image permeate your mind. Devote yourself to your Master. Love Him unashamedly. Be content, no matter what. Spend quality time with your Master. Don’t fret or worry yourself over anything. Just, like the child of God that you are, crawl up and into your Master’s lap, curl up next to Him and let Him place His gentle hand on your head and experience His rest.

And He will take care of everything else.

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~ by votivesoul on 07/04/2013.

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