Sometimes healthy introspection is needed for a clearer perspective
Are there people in your life who only seem to come around when they have some need? Then they act like they’re your BFF?
They may want to borrow some money, need a ride, or be rescued from some crisis. They come to you when they need help but when the need is met, they’re gone again. When another need arises they’ll be back for more help.
In my roles as pastor in the US and later as a director of two ministries overseas, this was a common occurrence. I found some people to be in chronic need of help. Little time would pass when some new crisis hit their life.
But there were some people who needed assistance but once it was given they seemed to be stable and able to move forward on their own.
Some people just blurt out what they need or want right away. But for some, it takes a while to build up the courage to ask for whatever it is they need.
One lesson my wife and I learned over the years is there is not enough money or time to fill the needs of those who came to us for help. We had limited resources and limitations on our capacity to help.
So we did what we could with what we had to offer.
We are those people
The thing is—we are those people with God. You and me. All of us. Think about it. Be honest.
We are those people with God
You did not buy me any sugar cane with ⌊your⌋ money or satisfy me with the best part of your sacrifices.
Rather, you burdened me with your sins and troubled me with your wrongdoings.Isaiah 43:24 (GW)
At first read, it may seem God’s concern for His people—anyone for that matter—is conditional. He’s not interested in helping them unless they bring Him something.
But that’s not the case.
In fact, there’s a history here and it’s not pretty. God established Israel as a nation—a new people group—through a man named Abram and his direct descendants.
God made him a great promise (Gen 12:1–3) that extended beyond his lifetime and made him the father of a great nation.
This nation was later enslaved under Egypt, delivered from slavery to be brought into the land of God’s promise, yet they enslaved themselves through idolatrous practices time and time again.
Even when miraculous events happened that showed God’s interest, concern, and care for them, they kept wandering away from God. They went through the motions of their religion but their hearts were far from God (Isa 29:13).
They would devote more attention to deaf and dumb idols and futile efforts to appease false gods than respect and worship the one, true, and living God who created them.
So, it may sound as if God is complaining but it’s the cry of a broken heart.
God wasn’t complaining—His heart was broken
How are we those people?
No doubt most everyone reading this would say, “Hey, I ain’t no idolater!”
Perhaps you and I aren’t idol worshippers in the ancient sense but I bet most of our time is devoted to our own priorities designed to benefit us, along with typical obligations and demands on our time and life.
I’m pretty sure many of us don’t spend excessive amounts of time in prayer. It’s tough to have the prayer life of a monk unless you live in a monastery or have a monastic commitment to prayer.
If you’re a church-going believer, you pray at church with everyone else and before meals, but much of the time it tends to be hit and miss. Hey, life’s busy!
When else do we pray? When we need God’s help, especially when we’re in crisis mode. That’s how we become those people.
Now, it’s a good thing that we call out to God in a time of need. He wants us to do this.
But do we acknowledge Him throughout a day? Are we grateful for the times we aren’t in need? Are we thankful when God—or anyone for that matter—is gracious and understanding towards us?
What do you do with the majority of your time during a given day? Too often, I allow the tyranny of the urgent or mindless distractions to eat up my time. How about you?
It amazes me how quickly I get so absorbed in what I’m doing and ignore God until some crisis erupts. Even when stymied by a puzzling situation or challenging circumstance, instead of asking for God’s wisdom to navigate it all, I’m irritated at the intrusion in my life.
God knows us
If you look at this text in Isaiah within its larger context, you’d see God pleading with His unfaithful people to return to Him. He opens the door for reconciliation and restoration if only they’d turn back to Him.
A healthy relationship needs to be a two-way street.
A healthy relationship requires commitment and involvement from both parties—just as in a healthy marriage or friendship, or even a fruitful working relationship.
God has opened the door for anyone to have a relationship with Him. Anyone.
A healthy relationship is mutually beneficial
But a relationship with God needs to be mutual. If we want or expect God’s attention and concern for our lives, we need to see how we can reciprocate. It’s not what we would give or do for Him but how we live and relate to others.
I want your loyalty, not your sacrifices. I want you to know me, not to give me burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6 GW)
He is ever-faithful, ever-present, ever-attentive. This is made clear throughout the Bible. You and I on the other hand, well…we’re not like that. We don’t hold up our side of the relationship too well—with Him or others.
Here’s the good news — God knows how we are. He knows our frame, our temperament, our weaknesses. Psalm 103 reminds us of this. Where we fall short He extends forgiveness, mercy, and grace. (Psalm 103:13–14)
What does God expect from us?
What does He expect from us? Not that much — gratitude, acknowledgment, honesty, humility — you get the idea. The very things we’d like to see from those who come to us with their needs.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 NIV)
Act justly…love mercy…walk humbly with your God
When my wife and I help people and see them return to show their appreciation, we’re content with that. We’re thankful.
It reminds us of our Father’s kindness to us—when we turned to Him in our need, He graciously helped us and we were thankful.
A few questions and some encouragements—
How many times have you called out, even cried out for God’s help? Have you thanked Him for all those times?
How much time do you commit to prayer and thankfulness each day? What’s the best time in your day to do this?
How about if you make a commitment this week to start and end the day with acknowledgment and thankfulness to God?
At the end of the week, review how your week went. Then, rinse and repeat until this is embedded in your heart and mind. No guarantees but I‘m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did!
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