Looking for the right reward

Daniel 3:16-18 The Message (MSG)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

One of the amazing things about the Bible is that there is more there than is at first visible. This is one of the reasons we can read the Bible so many times and find something new each time. One of my favorite quotes about this comes from Augustine who said, “The Bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.” What that means is there are layers of depth in the Word of God. It has surface meanings and deeper meanings. It has what was said to the original audience and then it has things that can be applied to our situation today. It stands the test of time and breaths live into every new generation.

I was rereading the verses above recently and it struck me that there is a larger principle at work. For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego they made a choice to follow God regardless of the consequences. They said no matter what the cost we will not bow down and serve false gods. But the larger principle is that when you are doing what you know is right and what God would have you do there are obstacles. This is partly because life just has obstacles.

Life is just hard sometimes. Sometimes life is hard because we are dumb and make dumb choices. We sin, we make mistakes, we get it wrong. Sometimes life is hard because we make it hard. Other times life is hard because we live in a broken and fallen world. As Christians, we believe that the kingdom of God has come but we live in this tension of the now and not yet reality of the kingdom. We live in a tension of belonging to the kingdom of God and being Christ’s ambassadors but being here on earth. That is hard and causes tension.

This is also partly because sometimes doing God’s will is hard. Doing God’s will is hard sometimes because we might not like it. We find that Paul’s words ring true when he says, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” So sometimes the difficulty comes in obeying despite ourselves. We like to blame the devil but sometimes we are own worst enemy. However, there is a real enemy and he has many servants. So sometimes life is hard because there is opposition to serving God. Whether it be people or spiritual forces there are things that come against us. We must understand this, and we must acknowledge that this a reality.

In the end, we have options in the face of that adversity. We can shrink back and surrender, or we can stand and say, “my God will rescue me, but even if He doesn’t, I will still serve Him.” Our faith must be strong enough to say I will serve God and He will rescue me. I trust completely God in this situation to come to my aide and deliver me. We must look past the circumstance and the situation and move forward in faith when we know we are obeying God’s will. We also have to be willing to admit that we are not God and if He does not come in the way we want, we have to be secure enough in Him to still serve. Service to God cannot be about the reward or the deliverance. Yes, He is a God who rewards and delivers but God told Abraham that He (God) was Abrahams great and mighty reward. God, Himself is the ultimate reward and goal. In the end, this means our service and faith must be grounded in God Himself and not our desires or wants.

Just a thought,

Mike

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Fasting and Emptying

To fast or not to fast. That is not my question. I think we should fast, and I think the Bible assumes we are going to fast. In the Gospels, Jesus seems to talk about fasting as a given. Three times in Matthew 6 he says, “when you fast,” Matthew 17:21 talks about fasting and prayer for exorcizing a demon (different topic but still), in Mark 2:20 Jesus says the wedding guest will fast after the groom is taken away, and so on. In my humble opinion, the Bible highly assumes and possibly even expects that Christians will fast. But why?

Well, there are a few reasons for fasting and most often what is thought of is during times of intense pressure or lamenting (weeping, sadness, etc.) we fast to seek God or to move Him to hear our prayers. That is an excellent conversation and one that is worth having. For now, I want to go a different way. I want to look at one reason for fasting that has to do with what you get. Yes, you get something out of fasting too. You get hungry.

I know that one is a no brainer you get hungry, no duh Mike. To be more specific you get empty. When you fast for blood work you are doing it so that the blood test is not tainted by anything you have eaten or drunk. Everything we take in has vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Those things can show up in our blood test and change the results. Look at an obvious example, if you are taking a blood test to see where your iron levels are then eating liver before the test will not give you the right results. You need to go into that test empty to get the right results. Fasting for spiritual reasons is similar. By neglecting our body of food, entertainment, pleasure, or whatever we are emptying ourselves of things that we need and desire in order to see where we are at. We come to God with that hunger and see what is going on with Him and with us. We strip away the other things for a time to become empty before Him. In that emptying and presenting we are offering ourselves as vessels to be filled back up. This is one of the reasons we do not show off our fast to other people.

Jesus in Matthew 6:18 says that those who parade their fast before men are filled up with praises from those men. They have their reward. They emptied themselves and the people around them filled them back up. A fast that is dedicated to God and that seeks Him will be filled back up by God. It is really just a simple math problem. Fasting is you minus food/pleasure/etc. or 1-1=0.  0 is the empty state and anything you add to 0 is the reward. But it starts with being empty.

I have had fasts where I find God new and fresh and others where nothing major really happens. I am ok with that. The point for me has become to present myself as an empty vessel before the God of the Universe and day here I am Lord so with me as you please. It is not the easiest thing but it sure is worth it.

Just a thought,

Mike