Monday, January 29, 2018

Distracted and Occupied

There are loads of parallels that can be drawn from the narrative of Exodus. If we just read it and look at it as the enemy oppressing us, we can learn some pretty good lessons about his ways, our tendencies, and certainly God.

When Moses first confronts Pharaoh in chapter 5, Pharaoh responds with, "Who is the Lord that I should obey him by letting Israel go? I don't know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go." It would be possible to argue that our enemy does in fact 'know' God, but truthfully, he knows who he is, but he doesn't know Him like we desire to.

But in response to the request for freedom, Pharaoh imposes heavier work on the men so that they will be occupied with it and not pay attention to deceptive words. (Exodus 5:9) The deceptive words he is speaking of are the words of Moses and Aaron requesting that the people be allowed to hold a festival for God in the wilderness.

After reading this, I can't help but wonder if heavy labor attempts to keep us distracted and occupied as well? 

We must ask what heavy labor is being imposed upon us to make us believe that God's words are a deceptive lie. Personally, I think we are often told to do and to produce quite a bit. We have endless opportunities to serve placed before us. And it's not that those calls are bad or that we shouldn't heed them, but I think we are missing a fundamental truth in our responses. We can't do it all. And in the process of trying, we are getting distracted and occupied with heavy labor.

If Jesus has called us to come to Him to rest, we can not do that if we are so busy we can't see what's right in front of us. Last week I read a blog post by Sara Hagerty that illustrates this point way better than I can. But to summarize, her discussion essentially intimated that unless we allow ourselves to be filled with God and serve out of that overflow, we are going to continue to exhaust ourselves, forgetting our first love. That hit me hard. 

But how does this happen? How do we end up so wrapped up in heavy labor?

If I had to guess, I would say:

~ we hear what we are supposed to do from someone in authority and believe their words without consulting God on our participation

~ we give in to pride thinking we will look bad or uncompassionate if we don't

~ we neglect the fact that God has placed specific passions in our hearts for the areas we most desperately want to see change and will then submit to His leadership and allow His strength to propel us instead of getting exhausted and weary trying to do what isn't designed for us

And just like the voice of Pharaoh, our enemy creeps in and only needs to plant a seed because he knows we will water it with negative self-talk and end up hearing our own voice louder than God's about what we should be doing. Sounds a bit like Mary and Martha doesn't it.

John 10:10 tells us that Jesus said  A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. He came to give us an abundant life, not one filled with tasks. Contrary to what we perceive, He's planned good things for us to do, not a checklist that needs to be kept up on so that the minute we're done we die without ever enjoying the life He died to give us.

Matthew 11:28-29 says Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Did you catch that? The burden Jesus wants to give us does not include putting the weight of the world on our shoulders, and the moment we feel like we are carrying it, we need to drop it like a hot potato. Why? Because we are trying to do something in our own strength for our own reasons. Will God inspire in us passions to do something? Absolutely, yes. We are called to serve and be His hands and feet in the world. But we were not meant to do the heavy lifting, ever. And if something is aiding gravity to keep our feet on the ground, we need to see that something is not God (most likely what has turned into an idol), and we need to go back to our first love.

A few years ago I memorized Ecclesiastes 3:11. It says He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but no one can discover the work God has done from beginning to end. What this says to me is that we can work for kingdom purposes with eternity and eternal value in mind, but we have to trust that God will do it in His time. It's not all up to us to get it done ASAP. 

You know, when I read that verse yesterday, I read verse 12 as well. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and enjoy the good life. What if, Jesus' idea of the abundant life is exactly what Mary was doing: sitting at His feet, letting Him fill her, and then going forward from there with a full cup to do what God places before her? What if we are meant to rejoice first in a communion type relationship with Jesus so that the good life is the ability to enjoy His presence every place He calls us because we know He took us there?

I don't know what the enemy has been doing to keep you distracted and occupied. But if you're like me and feeling like you are always trying to get just one step ahead so that you can rest when you are done, we're both missing the point. I think it's time we got off the crazy train that does nothing but go back and forth without stopping. God has a good life planned for us. We just need to stop long enough to let Him show us how to get there. 

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