Getting past the ‘if onlys’

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We can momentarily escape the tedium and trials of daily life with those dreams of ‘if only…‘  If only I had more money … If only  I could be 30 again …. If only! What a monumental waste of time and distraction. When we allow ourselves to believe that life would be better with someone else, somewhere else, we hinder God’s ability to use us right where we are.

Picking up my reading in Exodus, I find Moses in Egypt where he took up God’s commission to lead the Israelites out of slavery and to the Promised Land. And, everything is going wrong! His first encounter with Pharaoh was a disaster! Not only does the king mock him and the Lord, he doubles the work load of the Israelite slaves. The people he was trying to save to turned on him in anger.   So, what did he do?  Run back to the wilderness to his former shepherding gig? No. Take a vacation on the Med.? No. “Moses returned to the LORD.” (Exodus 5:22, NIV)    His prayer was not all that faith-filled! He complained  “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me?” (Exodus 5:22, NIV)  Never-the-less, God listened and answered.

It is the Lord’s answer to Moses that shapes the rest of this blog this morning. God’s answer has three parts that call us to renew our faith, not in ourselves, but in Him.

First, God says, “Trust in my Providence!”   “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” (Exodus 6:1, NIV)  If Moses and Aaron had met success on their first visit to the king, how likely do you think they would have been to take the credit? “Wow, we blew that guy away, didn’t we? We are the men!”  And, probably the Israelites would have tried to turn them into gods. The struggle made it clear that the Mover and Shaker in the work of deliverance was the LORD Himself, and those difficulties were a means of creating utter dependence on Him.

Second, God says, “Know me Personally!”   “I am the LORD  (Yahweh). I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty  (El Shaddai), but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.” (Exodus 6:2-3, NIV)    God told Moses that the trials would lead him to a deeper intimacy with Himself.   Moses was given the Name of God, the holy Name that was so revered by the Hebrews they would not speak it.  So in the Scripture text, we read the word they substituted – LORD.   Where you see that in all capital letters, that is a clue that the personal Name of God, Yahweh  (some say, Jehovah) appears.   His Name means, “the I Am,”  “the Self-Existent One,” or “the One who is Present.”

Moses and God came to a place where they were on a first-name basis. Yes, friend, these trials of life can become what motivates us to seek His face. Will you?

Third, God says, “Renew your hope in my Promises!”  “Say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.‘” (Exodus 6:6-8, NIV)   Seven “I wills” are God’s declaration.  And the promises are bracketed by the statement, “I am the LORD.”     He secures the promise with the honor of His Name!

Toss the ‘if onlys’ that keep you blinded to His “I will.”
Money might temporarily make life simpler, but you can’t buy peace with God, nor exempt yourself from life’s trials with wealth.
Pleasure may divert your attention away from suffering, in your own life or in the world around you, but when the music stops playing and the dance is over, reality returns.
A new place may provide temporary excitement but with time routine returns.

God, however, is the source of life, of hope, of strength … and ultimately will take us to His eternal home.

Trust His Providence! Know Him Personally! Rehearse His Promises!

Here is a word from the Word. Meditate on what the inspired text declares. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:20-22, NIV)

_________________________

O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go
(A men’s choir sings this song in a cathedral. The message is profound. Their voices will transport you!)

O Love that wilt not let me go
I rest my weary soul in Thee
I give Thee back the life I owe
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer fuller be

O Joy that seekest me through pain
I cannot close my heart to Thee
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be

O Cross that liftest up my head
I dare not ask to fly from Thee
I lay in dust life’s glory dead
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be

Albert Lister Peace © Words: Public Domain

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