Since I have committed myself to everyday reading we have learned about God not being what we expect, and how it is we miss His touch in our lives. We might subtitle this, "God's touch is not what we expect," because God's touch has a different goal in mind than the "magic genie" we often expect.
Monday's stop was in 2 Timothy 4. This is a chapter where Paul is explaining to his protege that he expects the end to be coming soon. He is imprisoned in Rome, and everyone has abandoned him because the political climate now runs against tolerance. But Paul is not upset, because the goal for which he ran his race is before him; a crown of Righteousness, not only for himself, but for everyone who heard the words of the Gospel he preached. The goal, then, is heaven; not just a smaller seat, but whatever glory we build through our works, with that glory built by leading others to that same goal. The hardest lesson, perhaps, for the Christian to learn is that God's goal has nothing to do with what party is in power in Washington, or how many die of a particular disease, or whether we live in a mansion or a homeless shelter on earth. It is always what lies beyond.
Tuesday I was led to I Kings 3. This is the chapter where the newly coronated Solomon has his conversation with God about his need for a "hearing heart" to lead the people. God then gives him wisdom beyond any man. People unfamiliar with the story might think Solomon asked for wisdom, but that was not the case. He clearly saw the goal that God had set before him (leading the people), and asked for what he felt he needed for the job- the ability to listen to God, that he might discern between good and evil. Because he was focused on the goal, and came to God for what was needed rather than assuming he already knew what to do, God gave him much more than he asked for.
Wednesday's was similar- the story of the talents in Matthew 25. Here, Jesus tells the story of a master who gave money (in the form of talents) to three servants while He was gone. Two of them used the talents to the best of their ability. When the Master returned, Each was blessed with even more than what they had worked for. You see, they went out and used what the Master gave them, traded with it amongst the people. One was given more than twice what the other was given and earned a like amount. But both were blessed the same, because the Master didn't expect the same of each of them- only that the effort was the same. Just like not all of us are blessed to be preachers, or writers, some are only workers, housewives, "regular joes". The Master expects that we use whatever we are given to its best, and will reward us accordingly. The third servant not only didn't trade with it, he didn't even want to be seen with it. Thus, he lost everything.
So, where the last two days show us a) if we ask with a God-focused heart, we are given, and b) if we work with our God-given gifts we are rewarded, the next two days speak more to the responsibilities that come with these things. Thursday was a story told in three different Old Testament books- in 2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 31-31, and in Isaiah 37-30- the story of King Hezekiah. Hezekiah both had been given God's gifts in abundance, and was using them to God's glory by leading the people rightly and removing the idols that led them into sin. But Hezekiah nonetheless found himself tested. First he faced a problem he could deal with himself. He had declared independance, and the Assyrian king had come to punish. So, he took the resources available and solved the problem- he bought him off. Then the problem grew worse- the same problem, only this time his own resources weren't going to be enough. So he turned to God for his help, and God responded with a miraculous save- the king left without an attack and was subsequently dealt with in his own land. The third time was more of an attack on his person rather than his responsibilites - he became deathly ill. Again he turned to God in faith, and was saved.
The fourth time though, Isaiah says, he let God's invincibility go to HIS head. Babylonian officials came to congratulate him on his miraculous recovery- but rather than giving the glory to God, he showed off his own glory- his storerooms of wealth. He forgot it wasn't his wealth that turned away Assyria, or healed his body. As a result, his own worth was tarnished by the knowledge that he was responsible for bringing the future attack of Babylon upon his people. Lesson being that God will give to you- but He's also going to test your worthiness to hold what He has given.
And it's not only in how you react to adversity. Friday, the reading was in James 2, where the Lord's brother chides the Jerusalem Church for giving people of "influence" precedence over the poor. The rich were getting the best table, the most attention, to the detriment of the poor. James explained to them that they were missing the point- they were acting out of judgement instead of mercy. Mercy sets all men at the same level. Lesson being that you will be tested not only on how you react to circumstance, but how you react to people.
Finally, we come to Saturday, which has been the "put it all together" day each of these three weeks. And the reading was from Job 36.
“Behold, God is exalted by His power;
Who teaches like Him?23 Who has assigned Him His way,
Or who has said, ‘You have done wrong’? 24 “Remember to magnify His work,
Of which men have sung.
25 Everyone has seen it;
Man looks on it from afar.
As you can see, I highlighted two main points. When we seek God's touch, we often don't understand- we don't direct Him. He is the teacher, and He will direct us in the way He wills us to go. And we forget that the goal is to "magnify His work". Now, I realize in the context we are speaking of praise, but magnifying also means "to make bigger". We make His work "bigger" by using our gifts to reach God's goals. By making sure that we earn not only our own crowns, but lead others to earn theirs. And that is the point of what this week's readings are getting at- first God's goal is THE goal; and second, our goal is to make greater His goal.