In the predawn hours, I was in prayer for friends, for the nation, for restoration of our land. In the darkness, when the whisper of the Spirit came to me. “Jerry, I am offering an opportunity for change, holding open my heart to My church. Return to Me.” I paused in my prayer, just to listen, to reflect.
Then the words of Isaiah, spoken to the broken nation of his time, filled my mind. “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 30:15, NIV)
God’s amazing love and grace is my life song. One nationally known pastor that I was listening to this week made a startling statement. “I won’t trust any spiritual leader who has not been terribly hurt, who has not experienced the restoration of God.” He went on to explain that those who are unbroken often turn into harsh critics, judges of the weak, the fallen, the sinful; not really knowing the depth of God’s grace for themselves.
The word of the Lord that I speak today does not come from a lofty place of superiority but rather from a man who has known failure and restoration, found in true repentance.
Let me hasten to say that I am NOT saying that God sent the coronavirus to punish the world. He is not a vengeful God, nor is He cruel. This virus, and all the accompanying suffering, is part of life in a fallen world where evil and sin are still very much in evidence. I am saying that our healing is found when we abandon our self-sufficiency, submit our hearts and will to God, and turn back (repent) to Him. He is allowing this time to invite us to hear His Voice clearly. Will we?
Paul, the spiritual father of the Christians in the city of Corinth, sent a letter of correction that made them sad! He rebuked them for abusing spiritual gifts, pointed out their immaturity that showed in their divisions, and reminded them that they were failing to represent Christ well before the city. Titus brought news of their response to Paul. “They are,” he said, “experiencing true sorrow and repentance.”
Paul wrote a second letter in which he said – “I am glad that you were sad.” Is he gloating? Not at all! “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:8-10, NIV)
When we act like willful children, as a good Father the Lord will allow us to feel the consequences of our choices. Sometimes we hurt so badly, don’t we? But, HE does not reject us or say, “Good enough for you. Now suffer!” He loves us too much to let us to destroy ourselves without offering corrective discipline, without asking us to turn. Paul tells the church that failing to recognize Jesus as Lord will cause us to lose our joy. Ignoring His ways, or rebelling against His will is a sure way to find ourselves in terrible difficulties. In times like these, even as we pray for healing and renewal, we are wise to ask the Father to change our hearts, too!
When the Spirit points out our empty worship, our rebellious thoughts, our Self-centered ways – there is only one thing to do: repent! “The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17, NLT) Paul calls this “godly sorrow.”
Let me say it again! God is not petty nor petulant. He is good and kind. The Scripture is clear that not all of the outcomes of life are direct cause and effect, at least from our limited perspective. Godly people often suffer and sometimes the wicked prosper. But, we cannot ignore the fact that God, our Father, desires obedience and corrects us for our own good. He is glad when we are sad if that sorrow leads us to deeper devotion and sincere change of heart.
This time of sickness, of economic chaos, of isolation, when all the ‘normal’ is set aside, we who claim to know Christ would do well to pause and reflect, to listen carefully for the Spirit. Then we can embrace the promise as we turn: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”
Here’s the word from the Word. “My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them.
But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best.”
-The Message, Hebrews 12:5-10
Abba, renew my faith.
Help me to be ready to say “yes,”
to respond to correction with real repentance.
These are days of difficulty, Lord, making us deeply uncertain.
Settle us on You, like a Rock of Refuge.
Help us to go beyond singing loud songs to drown out
the voice of the Spirit and conscience,
having a listening heart and a discerning mind to understand
what You desire, to accept Your invitation to become more like Jesus.
Draw me close to Your heart.
Keep me in Your grace.
Let me know joy in a new day of mature godliness.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen