This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Jesus Freaks: Volume 2, compiled by DC Talk and the Voice Of the Martyrs. In the following passage, a brief encounter with worldly opposition was met with faith, providing us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38)
Jesus' presence always brought astonishing peace to me, no matter how bad the situation I was in. Whenever I was in prison, He was always there for me. He transformed the jail into a heaven, and the burdens became blessings.
There are Christians who do not feel His glorious presence as something real, because for them Jesus only occurs in their minds, and not in their hearts. Only when someone surrenders his heart to Jesus can he find Him. (Sundar Singh, disappeared while taking the Gospel to Tibet, ca 1929)
A moment of consideration: To find God, what is required? Absolute surrender. In surrendering, according to Sundar Singh, our hearts are key. In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said that what we treasure can be found in our hearts. Our minds are important for many things--such as testing and approving what God's will is (Romans 12:2), singing and praising God (1 Corinthians 14:15), supporting and receiving divine wisdom (James 1:5-8), focusing on things of the Spirit and things above (Romans 8:5; Colossians 3:2-4) and more. But a surrendered heart is needed, to commune with the Lord. I remember Andrew Murray, saying how important a surrendered heart and life is:
"And Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it. And he sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto him, Thus saith Ben-hadad, Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. And the king of Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine and all that I have." (1Ki 20:1-4).
What Ben Hadad asked was absolute surrender; and what Ahab gave was what was asked of him, absolute surrender. I want to use these words: "My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have," as the words of absolute surrender with which every child of God ought to yield himself to his Father. We have heard it before, but we need to hear it very definitely the condition of God’s blessing is absolute surrender of all into His hands. Praise God! If our hearts are willing for that, there is no end to what God will do for us, and to the blessing God will bestow.
Absolute surrender - let me tell you where I got those words. I used them myself often, and you have heard them numberless times. But in Scotland once I was in a company where we were talking about the condition of Christ’s Church, and what the great need of the Church and of believers is; and there was in our company a godly worker who has much to do in training workers, and I asked him what he would say was the great need of the Church, and the message that ought to be preached.
He answered very quietly and simply and determinedly: "Absolute surrender to God is the one thing."
If we would like to sense the presence of God, of Immanuel, in our lives, let us set our minds to seek the Lord with all our heart and our soul. (Matthew 22:37-38) In these verses, Christ reminds us that this is not a suggestion, but a commandment. In the book of Micah, the clergy had a problem. The priests didn't take seriously God's priority, even though He had reminded them through His Word many times. How do you find out what is most important to God? Begin by loving Him with all your heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). This means listening to what God says in His Word and then setting your heart, mind, and will on doing what He says. When we love God, His Word becomes a shining light that guides our daily activities. The priests in Malachi's day had stopped loving God, and thus they did not know nor care what He wanted. (Malachi 2:1-2)
In the Scriptures, the plight of these priests was of concern to Solomon, and to Asa--kings in the land of promise. Solomon was told to seek the Lord with all that was in him; otherwise, if Solomon forsook God, God (it was written) would reject Solomon forever. (1 Chronicles 28:9) Asa was also warned, "If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. (2 Chronicles 15:2) Sounds serious, right? The priests' plight should give each of us pause to consider, too.
God's Word says we are to love Him with all of our heart. But it also says we are to worship Him with all of our heart and soul (Deuteronomy 10:12-13), rejoice with all our heart (Zephaniah 3:14), and obey God with all our heart (Romans 6:17). It sounds like God desires humble servants whose lives are committed to Him, and to Him alone.
In times of trial, if we experience overwhelming grief, prolonged distress, incessant abuse, continual persecution, and imminent punishment, and if these breed hopelessness and despair, we might cry, "If only," as we search our mind for a way out and look to the skies for rescue. (Psalm 121:1-2) With just a glimmer of hope, we would take courage and carry on, enduring until the end. Hope is the silver shaft of sun breaking through the storm-darkened sky--words of comfort in the intensive care unit, a letter from across the sea, the first spring bird perched on a snow-covered twig, and the finish line in sight. It is a rainbow, a song, a loving touch. Hope is knowing God and resting in his love. (Psalm 130:7) May we know the Lord, and love Him with our surrendered heart. There was a secular song, with yet meaningful words for us; the song was entitled, "To Know You is to Love You", and some of its lyrics are apropos to even us as believers:
Why can't you see?
Oh, how blind can you be?
To know, know, know You
Is to love, love, love You!
To know Him better and better, a humble, surrendered life is indeed needed in loving Him more and more--during good times and bad, during trials, during victories and setbacks in our lives. For the trying times, it has been recommended that we find a hymnal and sing our favorite hymn(s) of desperate faith. My hymn of desperate faith is:
Day by day,
O, dear Lord, three things I pray:
to see Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly,
follow Thee more nearly, day by day. (attributed to Richard of Chichester)
Another person, S. Chadwick, said that her hymn was as follows:
When obstacles and trials seem
Like prison walls to be,
I do the little I can do
And leave the rest to Thee.
And when there seems no chance, no change,
From grief can set me free,
Hope finds its strength in helplessness,
And calmly waits for Thee.
Jesus spoke to His hearers about what loving Him looks like. He said: "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 'I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.' If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:4-11)
In essence, above, Jesus talked about abiding in Him, and what that means to each of us who say we love Him. He talked about obeying Him and His commands, and He spoke of rejoicing. He spoke of our inability to do anything without Him (absolute surrender). Do we wish to please Him? Our committed faith is critically important, for, "...without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) Our faith cannot exist only in our minds, if we are to "feel His glorious presence as something real" (as Sundar Singh reminds us). Would we feel the presence of God, the companionship of Immanuel, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? Would we seek to bear fruit for the Kingdom? Then with all our hearts, let us love Him, obey Him, rejoice in Him, worship Him, and abide in Him.