Friday, 27 September 2013

It's a matter of the heart.

Yesterday I talked about the Israelites ability to quickly forget God’s faithfulness in the past, as soon as they faced a new challenge. I really wanted to understand why these people who saw with their own eyes, how God punished the Egyptians with plague after plague could still doubt Him. Even after they collected as much as they wanted from the Egyptians, who had once being very cruel to them, they still doubted God. When they left Egypt, God’s angel went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, to protect them and to give them a sign of His abiding Presence, yet they grumbled when they saw the Egyptians chasing them. I found it particularly provocative that these people who had been so maltreated by the Egyptians could say to Moses (and in effect to God) “ Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” – Exodus 14:11-12

We all know what happened afterwards, God didn’t punish them for grumbling, rather He delivered them by making a path through the Red Sea and they safely crossed to the other side. When Pharaoh’s army who had been chasing after them tried to do the same, the waters of the sea, which had been parted for the Israelites, returned back, drowning the Egyptians. Of course as always, the Israelites rejoiced and trusted God. They joined Miriam, Moses’s sister in singing to God and praising Him for their miraculous deliverance. But three days later, yes only three days later, they quickly forgot what happened and went back to their grumbling, this time about drinking water! When they finally got the water, they were of course happy but not for long, pretty soon they were complaining about food!

As I thought about the ‘pendulum-like’ behaviour of the Israelites, happy when their circumstances were good, depressed when it wasn’t , I began to understand why they acted the way they did. These people’s hearts were far from God.
You see no matter how much they said they knew God, followed religious ceremonies, or prayed, their hearts were not ‘circumcised’. To them God was not personal, they didn’t love God neither did they have faith in God. God was just a Force who they wanted to help them in their time of need. They didn’t want a relationship with God, or a commitment. And that’s why it was so easy for them to quickly complain when they didn’t get what they wanted. It is no wonder God called them a ‘stiff-necked’ people! They could never be pleased, He could never do enough for them! They were always going to find something to grumble about.

As much as we may resent the Israelites for their behaviour, we often do the same. We so easily forget God’s goodness in the past. Even when we remember, we attribute it to being lucky. If your heart is far from God, you will never appreciate God’s goodness. You will always shrug your shoulders and say “so what about it?” You will easily dismiss it as being irrelevant or some coincidence. This unbelief will prevent God from giving you peace while you wait for the breakthrough you desperately want. 

The heart is very important; it determines the course of our lives. If our heart is agitated and full of fear and worry, it will reflect in our health and circumstances. Not only that, it will cause us to make poor choices and ultimately lead to unpleasant consequences. So then how can we keep our hearts soft and pliable so that we can continue to be responsive to God? The Bible talks a great deal about renewal of the mind/heart. A simple Google search will bring up tons of verses showing us ways we can do this. One way of renewing the mind and making the heart pliable is by studying God’s word and making time to fellowship with God. I used to do this as a duty in the past, a sort of religious obligation. It did little for me honestly. My mind was never in it, it was as though I was doing God some sort of favour by reading my Bible or praying. As a result I was like the Israelites; happy with God when things were good and grumbling when they weren’t.

I realised not too long ago that I wasn’t doing God any favour by spending time in His presence. He doesn’t need me to be God! The birds, the butterflies, the seas and the oceans, the mountains, the flowers, beasts of the field and indeed all creation, reflect His glory. It is a privilege for me, puny little me, to come into His majestic Presence! It is a great and wonderful privilege for Him to desire to be my friend! Isn’t that amazing! God desires this friendship not for His good; but for my good, because apart from Him I can do nothing. And so now when I wake up, instead of rushing along, I make time for Him.  I don’t have any fanciful way of doing this or a set number of minutes or hours. I do it anywhere I have the opportunity; the toilet, the kitchen, just about anywhere with little or no distractions. And then I pour out my heart to Him, telling Him to help me that day, acknowledging my weaknesses but trusting in His strength. As much as I can, I also listen to good Christian audio sermons in the background while I go about the day's activities.

I do this because I know God wants to be involved in my life. Like a parent, especially a mother, who wants her teenage daughter to spend time with her more often, God wants us to spend time with Him. How can a mother help her daughter if she refuses to accept her mother’s help or open up on the issues of adolescence? The daughter stands to benefit from her mother’s experiences and words of wisdom. The mother doesn’t really benefit per se, but she is happy to see her daughter grow into  a sensible young woman who will avoid the mistakes of her peers. In the same manner, when we spend time with God by studying His word, good Christian literature and regular prayers, we get our minds/heart renewed and become everything God wants to be. We will avoid mistakes that others make and become truly wise and sensible. We will avoid the ‘pendulum-like’ behaviour of the Israelites. When we face difficulties, we won’t cry out of frustration, but we will trust Him, because we know Him and we know He is good all the time.

So I encourage you, start making time to know God and get your mind renewed, that is the only way you can remain standing no matter how tough life gets. You will surely feel a difference in your approach to life, you will fear happier, more hopeful, more peaceful and definitely lighter! 
I know I do.

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