In Matthew 6:33, Jesus speaks about having our needs provided for if we “seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness” (WEB). In John 10:10, he also speaks about having come for his sheep so “that they may have life, and may have it abundantly” (WEB).
This same promise can be found in the Old Testament. The writer of the first Psalm compares the righteous man who loves God’s Word to “a tree planted by the streams of water, that produces its fruit in its season, whose leaf also does not wither” (WEB). But God himself declared this promise most beautifully:
It shall happen, if you shall listen diligently to my commandments which I command you today, to love Yahweh your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. I will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. — Deuteronomy 11:13-15 WEB
These is also no question that God is faithful to this promise. Testimonies of believers attest to this.
Today, however, I’m not going to talk about being blessed per se, or how to be blessed. Rather, I want to ask these questions: When we think of this wonderful promise of God, do we really understand our own part in it? To seek his Kingdom and his righteousness? To obey him and live according his Word?
And if we do, do we also realize that, by his sovereign will, God might ask from us much more than what we are ready to give him? Say, to be one of his shepherds, and not just one of the sheep — a leader who pays a higher price than others, especially in suffering?
And if we are indeed called to be shepherds, will we continue hanging on to this promise of a blessed life? Or will we give up and turn back, when the costs become too great?
My friends, my very first post for Swordsman of the Word is about my greatest reason for serving God, and that is, my love for him. But do you know that this isn’t always so? Do you know that, back when I was a new believer, my love for God was coupled with my own ambitions? Yes. The truth is, though I very much wanted to serve, and sincerely too, I also wanted to become rich and famous while doing so. A millionaire writer, to be exact. I had taken God’s promise and twisted it for my purpose.
But praise be to God, because this wrongful desire was nipped in the bud. In my testimony, I’d already talked a bit about how my life had been broken when I surrendered it to Jesus. That is, all aspects of my life were halted, including my dreams for writing.
To those of you who want to know more, I’m sorry, but I won’t be revisiting my past today. The only reason why I’m even talking about my past now is that I need to make a point for this closure.
And that point is: My past is not a mistake. Nor is it disobedience to God. I might not have followed God perfectly (who can?), but I had done my best to find and to obey his will for my life. And though much of what I prayed for had been denied, God has nevertheless used my past to purify me, to mold me, and to train me.
And I needed to make this point — this statement — because there have been some people who have said or thought, upon seeing the state of my life, that I’ve been disobedient to God and have done my own thing, because I am not as “blessed” as I should be.
But I would have you know, my friends, that it is because of my very love for God that I am still here, hanging on to his will, even after more than ten years of brokenness….
And I would also have you know, my friends, that God has called me for leadership — for a high-level of discipleship — and so that is why I have had all these difficult experiences. I’ve been simply paying a higher price than others.
And I am praying that you all believe me about this. Because faith from someone, I found out, and trust by someone, are sometimes all I need to be able to carry on when I’ve fallen….
However, I do recognize that the picture I’ve painted here about my past is still very much incomplete. Fact is, I still have so many things to say, but I don’t think the time is right for them. I’ve made my point, and that should be enough.
But how I wish I could talk more, and explain more, but my mind is already spent, and my heart is weary. All this remembering, and all this effort to understand and to write something coherent is far more exhausting than I thought. The only thing I can do now is to leave you with this one image in your mind. This is how I used to explain my suffering and the many things I could not comprehend about my life.
The Bible has this imagery where God is the potter and we the clay he’s forming in his hands (Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 18:6). But I like more this one that I made up:
Imagine God as a blacksmith, in a dark and large smithy lit only by the fires of the furnace. Hammer in one hand, he is busily shaping a piece of fiery hot metal. Into a sword maybe. Or other work of art. I cannot say for sure, because it’s smoky and dark. But one thing I do know: that piece of metal is me. And every strike of his hammer brings me unimaginable pain.
But I dare not cry out, “Stop God!” I dare not give up. Because I know that he is making something useful out of me. Something that is worth all the pains.
My friends, I am turning 36 in a few months. God has used the best years of my youth to perform his internal works in me. I just no longer have the luxury to pursue some selfish ambition. My one desire now is to make the best use of my remaining time serving God. And of course, to be blessed in return.
All I am asking, my friends, is faith. Faith in me. Faith in the things I do. And faith that I really am following God, and no one else.
Jesus said “…blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29 ASV).
Will you believe in me, even if there’s still ain’t much that you can see?
(to be continued)
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