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Are you ready to walk on water?

June 29, 2012

When you find a new love, whether to someone or something, your priority changes;  you look at things around that person/thing. When you love someone, you care about that person’s thoughts and needs;  you will want to change for that person (for better or worse).
The same way, if you truly love God, your life will revolve around Him;  you will be aware of what is pleasing to God;  you will want to do those things–at some point, naturally;  your priority will be God first, then other things. Your life changes. If your life and perspectives do not change, then that love is questionable.

~~~

I have followed God for years and heard him once in a while in circumstances of need. But in most part of my life, I run on my own, listen to my own thoughts, wants, and needs. The result is like “trying to catch the wind”–futile; feeling good inside but crappy outside.

The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast-flowing dramatic action. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions, and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.

I am ready to step on waterOh the life of common christians. We feel satisfied with accepting Christ and acknowledging our sinful nature on a day to day basis. I did not understand Jesus’ precious love for me, what it meant for Him to die on the cross, how He thought and cared for people. When I picked up this book–The Pursuit of God–I told myself I want serious. I was also in a particularly difficult situation that I had to turn my eyes toward God else I fell far to the bottom of the pit. I plead God for discipline and to teach me about Him. I wanted revelation, to know Him like never before, to understand Him and to live with conviction.

For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in their personal experience, they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into him, that they may delight in his presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God himself in the core and center of their hearts.

~~~

I will say upfront I can’t share the details of the experience, as it is personal and involves other people. Besides, your experience will be different so knowing mine will not have much use. What I do want to share is my learning during the experience, and how God let me go, protects, and lifts me out of the trial. My experience was not an easy journey. It was difficult and distressing, to say the very least. I often had no choice but to force myself to think about God, so that my focus is on Him, not on the troubles. I cried out loud in prayers; finally I could resonate with David’s psalms:

“O LORD, I call to you; come quickly to me. Hear my voice when I call to you.”
“Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.”
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.”
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.”

~~~

My obedience was tested. Knowing what’s right does not translate to doing what’s right (duh). Do I look toward short-term gain or eternal impact? My faith was tested. Do I seek people approval or God’s? Who is first in my life–God, other people, myself?

The Pursuit of GodMillions call themselves by His name, it is true, and pay some token respect to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. However the man may protest, the proof is in the choices he makes day after day throughout his life.

During the experience, I was in constant dilemmas, torn between two choices, each of which had positives and negatives. To put it in perspective, there is something positive about a poor boy who steals food to give to his little brother. But stealing itself is not right, not an action God would suggest us to do. Having a heart to help, which is generally a good thing, is not always right given specific time and situation. Even my compassion was tested.

~~~

Cross in the shadowLooking back, I was in a cycle where I could not get out. I thought I got it right, but I lost the battle every time. Then this was the key:  I realized my own helplessness. Over and over I said, “I couldn’t do this. This test is too big for me. I am torn. But I still choose You. I still choose You.” It almost feels like Abraham’s test to sacrifice his son. When Abraham eventually showed that he put God first and trusted Him for what was right, God declared the test over. All He wanted to prove–not for Him but for Abraham and me–is where our priority lies. Everything else flows from there.

Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense, and he will have no other. But let him come defenseless before the Lord, and he will have for his defender no less than God himself.

I learnt so much from this experience, and not just because of it, but because of having constant talk and reliance on God. Whom else would I trust. I know now how Jesus really loves people, unconditionally, unrelentingly. I know how He feels when people adored Him then later put Him on the cross. I know how He felt when Peter, his beloved disciple, declared to always be faithful to Him but later renounced Him three times. (Now I want to see Rembrandt’s depiction of that scenario)  I understand how He longs for us to be with Him everyday, only to see that we are too busy to even say hello. And most of all, even though we are all these corrupt people, He does not give up on us, still loves us–not forcefully but gracefully, not “now or never” but with open hands that are always there waiting for us. Because “It [love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”[1]

Back in elementary school, I was part of the theatrical team, and once performed as the mother in the Prodigal Son story. That was years ago, but only now do I understand how the father felt toward his son who came back home. How his love meant letting the son go and accepting him without reproach when he returned. “It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”[1]

Understanding Jesus’ perspectives is one big leap. Having the desire to follow suit and doing it is another. I can’t say how exactly, maybe it is being open and receptive of God’s grace that enables me to do the same, to love other people unconditionally, to give freedom yet still believes and hopes for the best in them. I refuse to give up, just as God does not give up on us. My cup is full, then only I can fill in others.

When I picked up this book, I wanted to be able to say–by experience–how holy and wonderful it is to be in God’s presence, and that nothing beats it. What I experienced was far beyond my expectation, and I am forever grateful for it. Now this is not done, but to be continued.

Indeed, Jesus taught that he wrought his works by always keeping his inward eyes upon his Father. His power lay in his continuous look at God. [2]

[1] 1 Corinthians 13
[2] John 5:19

~~~

More quotes from the book:

There is within the human heart a tough, fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess–always to posses. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “mine” look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant.

Ignoble contentment takes the place of burning zeal. We are satisfied to rest in our judicial possessions, and for the most part we bother ourselves very little about the absence of personal experience.

God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful, that he can, without anything other than himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is.

The self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them.

There is no idea of physical distance involved in the concept. It is not a matter of miles but of experience.

Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity, and bluster make a man dear to God. But we may take heart. To a people caught in the tempest of the last great conflict, God says, “Be still, and know that I am God”, and still he says it, as if he means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence.

Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God, we do not see ourselves. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One.

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