"Lord, I’d like to see Betty Jane again before I die.
I won’t bother her or interrupt her life.
I just want to see what she looks like.
~Minka's prayer, May 22, 2006*
I can find no better tribute for Mother’s Day than the story I am about to share with you. If you have ever doubted whether God answers prayer, or wondered how He makes Himself known in tangible ways, you will simply love this!
I had an interesting dream the other night. Dreams are not unusual for me; they are just one of the biblical ways God speaks to me, clarifying things or bringing direction and insight. This dream was more like a parable, and it illustrated exactly what I have wanted to write about: Psalm 91.
Psalm 91 speaks of abiding and dwelling in the shelter of the Most High, of trusting in God and making Him our refuge. This Psalm rivals Psalm 23 in its popularity; just about anyone who has been to a church service, or read even snippets of the Bible, will be familiar with it. We send Psalm 91 to our troops on the field as a promise of God’s protection, and we quote it to comfort those in hard circumstances.
I have often wondered how to “dwell” and “abide” better; it seems like such a slippery task sometimes, given the demands we feel to be anything but still! Just making eye contact and listening to someone for more than a moment requires such discipline sometimes! (My husband can confirm this…)
Yet the reward God promises for abiding in Him is extraordinary – deliverance from a multitude of dangers. Here is a summary:
God also promises:
My favorite promise from this psalm, however, is in verse 4: “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:4). All this, just for abiding in Him! Who wouldn’t want to stay close to a God like that?
Well, I do, but like you, I don’t always succeed at this. So the Lord gave me a dream to illustrate the idea, and I hope it will be meaningful to you, too.
I've been reading 1 Samuel again, this time studying David's nemesis, Saul. One of the frustrating things for a "type A" person like me is the tendency to run ahead of God and try to do things in my own strength. This week, the Lord gently revealed to me that I had done something very "Saul-ish," and hadn't waited for His leading. (ouch!) I appreciated the correction (only God can tell you that you've completely missed it and still have you love Him in the end!) The Scripture He gave me actually opened up the idea for today's post. So here it is, in raw form, for you.
The context is 1 Samuel 13 where Saul, who had been anointed King of Israel only one year before, faced the threat of battle against a massive Philistine army at Michmash, near Gilgal. Israel was for the most part defenseless - partly because they had neither sword not spear (verse 22), and partly because many of Saul's men had fled in fear to hide themselves in caves, thickets, cellars, and cliffs (v. 6). Saul had been instructed by Samuel earlier (1 Samuel 10:8) to wait seven days for him at Gilgal, and Saul himself was growing fearful and impatient.
Samuel (God's prophetic representative) was nowhere to be seen, even as the seventh day arrived. We can be fairly sure this was a test for Saul which he failed (and would fail again in chapter 15). Saul knew his people were fleeing; he feared the thousands of Philistines assembled against him, and he didn't see any help from God showing up. So he took matters into his own hands, commanding the priests to bring him burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings: things that Samuel had said he would show Saul how to do when he came. (1 Samuel 10:8).
On the outside, this looked like the right thing to do. After all, Saul was offering sacrifices and seeking God in the hope of currying His divine favor and help in battle. In Saul's own words, "The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord. Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering." (1 Samuel 13:12). But Samuel was not impressed. Although Saul had kept the outward ceremonies, he had not honored God in his heart, and had acted foolishly. His sin was a childish one, not the action of a man who intimately knew and trusted God, but the work of one who doubted whether God would show up. We know from Romans 14:23 that what does not proceed from faith is sin.
Saul's excuse to Samuel in verse 11 reveals three things that hindered him from waiting on God:
1. "I saw that the people were scattered from me" (fear of rejection and a need for approval)
2. "You did not come within the days appointed" (fear of not hearing from God)
3. "The Philistines gathered together at Michmash" (anxiety and fear of his circumstances).
The result was that because Saul rejected God's commandments, God ultimately rejected him from being king, and established David as a more godly ruler instead.
Here's the clincher. Saul didn't know it, but his situation was exactly the kind of setup he could have used to tap into the greatest power known to man. Defenseless, he could have made God His defense. Had he been willing to wait for God, he could have seen an explosive victory, overcome his own fears, and deepened his spiritual life by working in partnership with God. Instead, someone else became instrumental in winning the battle.
Our fears do little to further the Kingdom of God. Today, the Holy Spirit actually dwells within us in order to convey God's specific instructions and timing. The test, however, is the same for us as it was for Saul: Saul had to wait for Samuel; we must wait for God. I believe that in our busy world, this is an even bigger challenge. We often fail. And the enemy loves to "compel" us to move out ahead of God's timing. Unfortunately, this causes us to miss out on the power of the gospel, as we end up reducing it to mere words or ceremonies.
Thankfully, when we fail to wait for the Spirit's leading, God provides an advocate for us through His Son: My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
~1 John 2:1, NASB.
When we bring our failures to the cross of Christ, we do not have to fear condemnation. We can become more like David instead of Saul, keeping our hearts tender towards God and making sure our consciences stay clean. Through prayer, we can ask God to help us resist the urgency of the enemy and learn to trust Him. He will show us if one of Saul's three fears might be hindering us from waiting for Him. And by His grace, our failures will become the grounds for our training, not our disqualification. When this happens, the Philistines of the world had better look out, because we will be coming forth with God's anointing and power, and in Him, we will be unstoppable.
Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage
and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for
and hope for and expect the Lord
~ Psalm 27:14, AMP.
There are two tasks for every believer which influence our entire life in God: surrendering and submission. Mastering these two things leads us into a deeper relationship with God; ignoring them can have eternal consequences.
We come face to face with surrender first at conversion. Having perhaps heard John 3:16, we realize that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…,” and recognize the need to respond to that love by surrendering our lives to Him. Jesus tells us that even our initial surrender at conversion is a narrow gate:
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide
and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and
there are many who enter through it. For the gate is
small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and
there are few who find it.”
~Matthew 7:13, NASB
Like the words in Matt Crocker’s popular worship song, “I Surrender,” we long to “know God more,” and so we give Him our lives, first at salvation and then over and over again as we realize there is a cycle of surrendering followed by knowing more intimately, then desiring to surrender again.
Once we become believers, however, we can get derailed when our focus remains on fulfilling our purposes or what we feel called to do, even within our strengths and spiritual gifting. True surrender includes yielding all to the purposes of God. I may be a gifted speaker, but if God’s purpose for this particular period of time is for me to serve in children’s ministry, then I will grow best as I submit to His will and serve there. He will reveal more of Himself to me as I walk with Him than He will if I try to do things in my own strength.
Oswald Chambers, the early 20th century Scottish evangelist, wrote:
“As long as you maintain your own personal
interests and ambitions, you cannot be completely
aligned or identified with God’s interests.”
My Utmost for His Highest devotional
The mature believer must learn to respond to his renewed spirit before his soul.
The apostle Paul laments in Philippians,
“For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 2:21, NASB
Surrender is defined at Dictionary.com as “Yielding something to the possession or power of another; to give ones self up.” Submission is defined almost identically: “To give over or yield to the power or authority of another.”
We have struggled with these terms throughout church history, and still do today. I believe the reason surrender and submission are so hard to embrace is because we lack the balancing factor to both: the power of love.
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if
I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love,
it profits me nothing.
~1 Corinthians 13:3, NASB
The love of God is the motivating factor behind all true spiritual surrender. It is what enables us to shift, as someone once said, from trying to trusting, from ambition to submission. Complete trust in God’s love is what enabled Jesus to surrender Himself on the cross to purchase our freedom. (See Philippians 2:1-10).
Surrendering and submitting mean that we are trusting the one to whom we are yielding ourselves. We are believing that someone will protect our interests as we commit ourselves to theirs. It is an act of faith. This is why the controversial command to wives in Colossians is immediately followed by a second command to husbands:
Colossians 3:18 - “Wives, be submissive to your husbands,
as is fitting in the Lord. “
Colossians 3:19 – “Husbands, love your wives and don’t be
bitter towards them.”
~(Both references, HCSB)
A husband’s love enables a wife to freely yield to him in letting him lead her, and it produces an intimacy and freedom that is impossible otherwise. Yet even if a husband does not respond to his wife’s submission in love, she is still empowered through the love and protection God gives her, to submit to her husband. This particular situation is addressed in 1 Peter:
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands,
so that even if any of them are disobedient to the Word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.
~1 Peter 3:1, NASB
Maturing Christians realize that there is spiritual power in surrendering to God’s will. A wife who chooses to follow this pattern of submission and alignment with God’s purposes is activating God’s power in the Spirit realm to draw men into relationship with Christ. She is agreeing with the very heart and mission of God, which is to draw all men to Him.
Not only that, but the Bible encourages us all in James 4:7 to submit to God, so that the devil will flee from us. Satan has to flee from believers who are truly in Christ because he cannot withstand God! When we come into agreement with God, we gain the protection of Christ, who is seated far above all rule and power, and has put everything in subjection under His feet. (See Ephesians 1:18-23). When we humble ourselves, He exalts us over our enemies.
Submission is a powerful weapon in our arsenal. Peace and power come when we stop struggling and yield our souls to the Spirit of God. We see how lovingly He cares for us. We deepen our relationship with Him and – amazingly – want to surrender even more! It is a dynamic cycle of cause-and-effect that spirals us in closer and closer to His heart. In the end, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
I read a great blog this morning. It wasn’t a blog from the usual online blogosphere, nor was it written by one of today’s biblical experts. But this guy is an expert at understanding God. In fact, the writer is so famous that his blog has been published around the world in nearly every language. The post I read today was actually published in two places (with a few minor changes), so I think it deserves a “retweet” here! You can find the originals in 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18.
David is the man whom God calls an expert in “knowing God’s heart.” (See Acts 13:22). Experts commonly write blogs these days, but David was “blogging” in the Psalms long before blogging was invented. He was a forerunner in sharing, in diary form, his thoughts concerning life in God. The genius of David’s “blogs” is that he is so very personable and honest (an endearing factor for his readers) while simultaneously teaching about God and His Word. His psalms contain testimonies, visual imagery, reliable information, stories, personal revelations and feelings – really, everything that a good blog needs.
His posts in 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18 are almost identical. They are songs, which were set to music by temple musicians in his time. And they are David’s musings after going out to battle for what was likely the last time with his armies (2 Samuel 21:15-17), as he was growing old.
A man who was losing physical strength in his own body spent his time blogging about the sustaining strength of God. He writes: “For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect.” (2 Samuel 22:33, NKJV).
I like the way the Aramaic Targum translates it: “It is God who sustains me with strength.” It reminds me of Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
David was very familiar with God’s rescuing power! His psalms chronicle rescues from death, “floods of ungodliness,” his enemies, and violence. He expertise lies in understanding God as both deliverer and sustainer, two of the main attributes of Christ as well: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3, NIV).
David’s “blog” describes a mighty God who is like a rock and fortress to him. He is a mysterious, thundering, even angry God (Psalm 18:7-15, NIV), yet also supportive, merciful, and gentle (Ps. 18, verses 18, 25, and 35, NIV). The same God who was sustaining David in his Psalm–blogs is still sustaining us today.
I, for one, am encouraged by David’s writings to trust God even for what happens behind the scenes in my life, knowing that He is holding all things together. “The Word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (2 Samuel 22:31/Psalm 18:30, NIV). And I hope David won’t mind me commenting on his blog. :-)
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
Maybe regular church (or synagogue) membership just isn't working out for you. Maybe the kids’ sports schedules eat up every moment of your weekend time, especially Sunday mornings. And maybe you as a parent feel just a little bit guilty that you’re not giving your kids a better spiritual foundation. Well, there’s good news, and you don’t need to be in church to hear it! Here are five easy ways to reconnect your family to your spiritual roots, whether Jewish or Christian.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.