I have been sharing excerpts from my new book With All Your Heart. I have appreciated all of the encouragement from folks and I am grateful the Lord is using With All Your Heart to minister to people on a deep level. Today, though I wanted to depart from my book. I want to share some of what I taught recently at a homeless mission, Church Under the Bridge, that our church partners with.
In the book of Nehemiah, we find the nation of Israel obliterated. Babylon has conquered them and as was the custom then, to maintain control, many of the Israelites were relocated to Babylon and many Babylonians were relocated to Israel. Conquering nations would do this attempting to curb rebellion from the conquered people. Nehemiah was one who had been taken from Jerusalem and now served essentially as a slave to the Babylonian king as the cupbearer. His job was to taste all the King might drink first to ensure it was not poisoned. Poisoning was a big problem. Though a slave, he served the king faithfully with respect and honor.
Nehemiah hears a report about his beloved Jerusalem and how the wall of Jerusalem lies in ruin. It breaks his heart because he knows what Jerusalem was supposed to be. Jerusalem was the City of David. It was to be a sign of the strength and faithfulness of God to His people. The Lord has intended this wall to protect the city and God's people allowing them to live the blessed life God first promised to Abram so long ago.
Is there anything in your life that is broken down that shouldn't be?
The plans of God for each of us, we are told in Jeremiah 29:11, is to prosper without harm. God's prosperity is a 360-degree endeavor. He intends that we prosper in every area of our life. His prosperity in our life is to be a sign that He is exceedingly good to those who follow Him. His promise doesn't mean we will not have struggles, but these struggles will not accomplish their purpose of harming us. God intends that even through the most difficult times in our life, we are more than overcomers in Christ Jesus. His plan is to always produce good in us, even through the attacks of the enemy. If there are areas in our life broken down, it is important that we understand this does not reflect what God intended for our life, not now, not ever.
Nehemiah was living a comfortable life even though he was a slave. He lived in the palace. He ate the best foods. Sure, he gave his life each day to keep the king from being poisoned, but everyone knew it. People knew that as long as the King had a cupbearer, poisoning would never be a successful assassination technique. Nehemiah was living a good life.
Have you allowed the blessings in your life to produce a complacency that abandons the greater blessings?
Often, when things are going pretty well, we consider ourselves blessed and this is true. But God's favor on us is to symbolize His love for those who follow Him with their whole heart. When we settle, we display an unfinished painting of God's love for His children. If the Lord was able to do all He desires in your life, how much more glory would He receive in your life?
"Well Pastor Lee, I guess things could always be better, but my life is already pretty darn good."
Ok, I hear you, but the greater blessings God wants to do are not just for you. He blesses you to be a blessing. He does in your life to give you more to share with others. How can we give what we don't have? How can we share what we have never experienced? If my knowledge of the love of God is incomplete, the love I can give to others diminishes and the source of that love receives limited glory. Fewer people seek Him because they don't know what they are missing and we are content to settle for less as long as it is "pretty darn good."
The Lord gives us an illustration of what He wants to do in our life. Jesus said that He came that we might have life 'more abundantly.' I love this because it reveals the blessings of God as ever-flowing and always increasing. The pathway of the righteous, the Bible says, is like the dawning of the sun unto the mid-day-always rising higher. Again, not that we don't struggle, but even through the struggles, God wants to take us to a higher place. As we give to Him, He gives back-pressed down, shaken together, and running over. He doesn't want to fill your cup. He wants to continually overflow your cup so that His blessing upon your life spill over to everyone near you.
Nehemiah, when he heard of the wall of Jerusalem broken down, wept. Let me ask you a question: Do you weep over what is not? Nehemiah was not content with what was. He mourned. He wept for the planned blessings of God that were not.
When we do finally realize that God wants better and we are ready to go after it, we have a tendency to respond with anger and bitterness toward those who have caused our deficit in blessing. Nehemiah could have been angry with the king. But anger and blame for others only takes us further from the presence of the Lord.
If the broken down areas in our life are going to be rebuilt according to God's plan for us, we mustn't be complacent with those areas to remain in ruin. And we can't start blaming the people we think are responsible for what we don't have. Instead, the Godly response is to mourn what is broken down. We mourn what is dead, but the Lord has promised power to resurrect. To mourn is to accept the pain that will lead us ready to be consoled. If you have ever known someone who is angry over the passing of a loved one, you know they cannot be comforted. In fact, people will stay clear of them because they are so angry. But those who mourn stand ready and in need of comfort. This draws near to them those who love them. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
When we accept the pain caused by stifled plans of God and mourn, the Lord draws near and where He is, resurrection is soon to come. This is the first step to again moving forward into His presence, His power, His victory, and His blessing for our life. He fills us and provides for us everything we need to rebuild what has been broken down. But first, we must seek more from Him, if not for our sake, the sake of those around us. Then, we must mourn, not rage, over what has been forfeited.
We must learn to weep for what is not.
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