I read once that a custom of Jonathan Edwards (brilliant Christian preacher, philosopher, theologian 1703-1758) was to keep journals. Jonathan sought God and sought to worship God with a variety of spiritual disciplines: Bible reading, Bible study, singing (while riding his horse through the forest…imagine), memorizing scripture, solitude, fasting, and so on. And he apparently kept journals, at least one of which contained questions that he had come up with, but that he didn’t readily know the scriptural answer to. So, he would write down his questions, to help keep them in mind, and continue his spiritual disciplines and look for the answers.
I’ve tried this. It works.
It happened today, twice—I got answers.
“Lord, what would you have me do?” I try to continually seek God’s direction in my life. And, in response to the turmoil in our country, economically, politically, in education, in the business world, etc., I’m wondering, “am I in the right place (as a pastor)? Is there something else you would have me do, Lord?” I’ve prayed this off and on for nearly a year now, trying to stay open to His guidance.
While reading through my cool new ESV study Bible, I was surprised to see “What then shall we do?” THREE TIMES in the space of 5 verses. Hey! That’s MY question! It’s the story of John the Baptist in Luke 3. He’s preaching, calling the people a brood of vipers (always a good technique for engaging your listeners), and, struck with conviction about their sin and how far they are from God, their deserved judgment, and so on, they blurt out “what shall we do?” And John’s answer is clear, though maybe a little anticlimactic.
To the crowd he says, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
To the tax collectors he said, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.”
To the soldiers (everyone was in this crowd!), he said, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
What do you get from that? I get that God’s answers to those of us who are convicted of our sinfulness and have a desire to follow Him is—to exhibit a Godly character. …not “leave your position in life” but…be content. Be honest. Be obedient. Be generous. Be gracious.
Seems simple, but what’s our typical reaction to this…? What was yours? “Oh, well…if that’s all…” and we skip over and read on to Jesus preaching in the synagogue.
Hang on! Let’s not read past that section too quickly! My character is decidedly not Godly. I struggle [in a contemporary way] with all those things Jesus mentioned to the crowd. It is not a simple thing that’s being asked. And I recognize that, in myself, I don’t have what it takes to exhibit Godly character.
So that drives me to pray and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help, even as I seek to make right choices so that I do exhibit Godly character. What can you pray for today? What right choices will you make today?
And it drives me to my next question (which the Holy Spirit also answered for me this same sitting but which I might save for the next blog post—it was like getting hit with a spiritual 2x4 twice in one day), which is “Lord, how then do I reform my character…as much as it depends upon me?” Check out Luke 4. Did you see it?