Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.”
Isaiah 30:15 (the message)
God, the Master, The Holy of Israel,
has this solemn counsel:
“Your salvation requires you to turn back to me
and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.
Your strength will come from settling down
in complete dependence on me —
The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do”
I read these verses this morning and feel such an urgency in my heart! I pray for words! So many times we refuse to do “the very thing” that will heal us, repair our relationships and rescue our lives. We wish things were different. We talk about the past, get depressed about the present and fear the future. Perhaps we tip-toe toward this Great Creator-God that our childhood teachers told us about or maybe we draw near the edge of the crowd to catch a glimpse of a God we have never known…our ideas of Him from news casts or picket signs…this “Wizard of Oz” behind the curtain keeping a leering eye on us.
Maybe you have seen a bit of Him. Maybe you have come across unexpected grace handed out to you in your worst moment. Maybe you have bumped into love that doesn’t make sense to you in a random person here or there. I’ll bet God has been reaching out to you time after time and in your heart you know that, but you still resist a head-on collision with Him. Going to church doesn’t necessarily mean you will collide with the Creator! Sometimes church can be a show-and-tell of spirituality, which to me is shallow and empty. Competing and proving ourselves is a waste of time and a distraction. If you have been blessed enough to walk into a building that is so much more than a building…a place of mercy, encouragement and most importantly the presence of God then you have found a pearl. Oh but that may be scary! Yes! Walking into that kind of environment means God may just speak to you! He may touch your heart in worship…He may be invited into the service and have a chance to comfort you…He may even get the chance to plant His words in the Pastor’s mouth and they be surprisingly meant just for you. Life-Changing, yes indeed.
We can regret choices we have already made but it won’t change anything. We can be ashamed so we cower and run from Him. We can be angry and wounded and so letting God touch our lives opens us up to feeling and we refuse. See, we can acknowledge we have issues (if we dare) and that’s a great start, but we have to keep going. We can take a few steps toward knowing Him but in time, if we really want to know Him, we have to do the very thing we don’t want to do: settle down in complete dependence.
For me, dependence means learning that my feelings don’t call the shots. Dependence comes as I realize, over and over again, what a mess I am without Jesus. Dependence grows as I see what He can do in my life and I am first to say without Him it all goes to hell. I know all about me! I know how harsh I can be. I know how quick I can be to judge people around me. I know how hard a time I have setting healthy boundaries. I know how easily I fall into patterns of people-pleasing over God-pleasing. I know how afraid I can be of disapproval. I know how loudly I can scream and how emotionally unstable I can be. I know how hard it can be for me to discipline myself. I know how my self-esteem can be tied to my weight or appearance. I know how I can periodically wrestle with my childhood and play the blame game. I know how my flesh loves to gossip and complain. All part of my default setting…and I have lived many days disgusted with myself, dissatisfied with the non-results my efforts produced. Until I began to do the very thing…
There is less and less a correlation or connection in my life between my “silly efforts” and life-change. I think if I had it within myself to change I would have done it a long time ago. Know what I mean? Like maybe you thought, with a certain amount of gusto, that you would go back to church and things would change. Well, I am all for going to church! But again, we can make a lot of effort and without “the very thing” it won’t get us but so far. Because the very thing, as the verses above describe, is really surrendering to Jesus. When He asks you to take a step with Him, you take it even if it’s with trembling hands and shaky feet. With every step you discover that God can be trusted and that yielding to Him in life is well worth it. And when you stumble, because we all do, you get back up and keep going.
We can stay the course we are on if we want. A year from now we can be upset, offended and depressed about another set of circumstances. Frustrated with the people we haven’t grown to be and the other people we haven’t been able to change. Or we can let a courage and determination rise up…we can do the very thing we have been unwilling to do…we can go all the way with Jesus. See, we get to choose. We may not choose every circumstance of our lives. We may not choose what others do or don’t do. We may not can change choices we already made. But we can choose who we let run our lives beginning now…we can choose who leads. My experience has been that nothing really changes as long as I am running the show…as long as I resist Him…as long as I continue to tell God where He can fit into my life. My, how we rob ourselves blind by living that way. It’s no easy road to walk in learning how to listen and follow after God in dependence because you will have to go against how you “feel” quite often. My feelings say stay in bed and sleep but my Spirit says get up…spend time with me as the day starts. My feelings may say I meant it when I made that commitment but now I don’t really want to do it and my Spirit says be faithful and keep your word. My feelings may say you can’t be a “Jesus Freak” because you will lose your friends and be judged and have to give up things but my Spirit says Jesus is more than enough and has plans for me. My feelings say it’s just easier to go with the flow in culture and find acceptance or popularity but my Spirit says true freedom is only found in the Truth. My feelings tell me to add another brick in the wall around my heart so no one can hurt me or that I have every right to hold a grudge but my Spirit tells me to have a tender heart toward God and forgive the way I’ve been forgiven. My feelings tell me that I deserve instant results but my Spirit tells me God does a mighty work in my character as He takes His time with me. My feelings tell me I have every right to call the shots and do what seems best to me but my Spirit pleads with me that God knows what is best and He loves me. I don’t think being a Christian was meant to be about an outward effort I could apply to my life…I think it was always meant to be about intimately knowing Jesus and hearing His voice from within and responding.
Life is not about measuring up or trying really hard. Knowing Jesus is never about that and it seems to be the hardest thing to give up…doing it our way, within our parameters, our comfort zone, our measure of willingness. I submit to you this morning that you don’t have to be perfect as you live a life of Christ-following! God doesn’t fill perfect containers without cracks or scars…there is no such thing. God loves to fill a life that has been quite broken and is in disrepair because so many times those are the lives that have come to the end of themselves…given up doing life their way and producing their own “goodness.”
I believe God rushes in to a life that calls out in dependence and surrender. Not because He wants to be the new sheriff in town, but because He knows that healing and purpose and joy and peace only come from Him. So, the more you have of Jesus the more you have of the very thing you’ve been after all along.