The struggle is real…and that’s okay. Just in case you’ve never been acknowledged in your struggle, I wanted you to hear it from me. Now that I have your attention, I’d like to talk to you for a bit. This may touch a very tender part of your heart, but I promise it’s worth it to stick with me until the end. This post is a call to action of sorts and is meant to encourage your heart and motivate you to move your feet toward meaningful action. To take some pressure off of you, I’ll start.
What happens when God releases you but you’re too afraid to walk in freedom?
Over the last few months, God has been making it clear to me that He has released me in certain areas of my life to walk in territory that I was once kept from due to His pruning hand of protection. He had been doing a work in me that needed to be completed before I could safely walk in true freedom. It has been a journey that has taken me down many roads I never saw coming and revealed parts of myself I never knew existed. To sum it up in one word, it was cleansing.
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Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were asked to make a decision that felt like you were relinquishing something you love? A part of yourself or your life you felt was intrinsic, inseparable even? Well, that is the kind of situation we’re focusing on in today’s post. In this biblical story, we are introduced to a man named Abraham. For some historical context, you should know that he was originally named Abram before God called him away from everything he knew, asking him to take a walk down a new path that was completely unfamiliar to him. Along this journey, he and his wife were promised a child. They were both quite old, Abraham being 100 years old and Sarah being 99 years old, by the time they conceived their son, Isaac. Isaac was the promised son that God foreshadowed approximately 25 years prior. This is the same son that, in our passage of focus for today, God asks Abraham to sacrifice. Now that you’re familiar with the backstory, let’s begin to explore the dynamics at play.
“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. 2 Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.'”
Genesis 22:1-2 NIV
Now, it’s easy to disregard the intensity of the stories we read in the Bible sometimes because, like a movie, we are receiving details that the characters are unaware of. In that first line, we get some pretty important context. This is a test that God is bringing to Abraham. While we don’t know God’s reasoning at this point, it’s safe to asssume that He has one. Like a teacher doing role call at the beginning of class to ensure all of their students are present and accounted for, we observe this brief exchange of identification between God and Abraham. God, wasting no time on pleasantries, makes a request of Abraham that is so monumental that it’s almost absurd.
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There are many instances in the Bible where God makes it clear that He is well acquainted with the heart of humanity. In His choosing of David over all of his other brothers. In His acceptance of Abel’s gift over Cain’s. God is no respecter of persons and He makes it abundantly clear that living a life of honorable service to Him is primarily a heart issue. With this understanding of the God who created the universe, who exists outside of time, and has all power in His being; Shouldn’t we be able to trust Him at His word?
The short answer is yes. However, our thoughts and behavior often show otherwise, complicating what God originally intended to be a simple solution to address our needs. You may be familiar with the quotable found on many t-shirts, mugs, and other collectable items: “Keep Calm and…” The end of that statement has an extensive list of suggested things, people, and places to put your faith in. Yet, every believer is aware, to some degree, that the only true source of stability that we can put our trust in is God. This year, 2020, has quite rudely interrupted the norms that humanity has created for ourselves and made it abundantly clear that many of the things, people, and places we have put our faith in are not able to hold us up when life takes an unexpected turn.
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25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, [a]“Be of good cheer! [b]It is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:25-27 NKJV).
The disciples were in a dire situation. They were caught in a storm that had been raging for some time (according to the passage, it would have been after three o’clock in the morning and, based on verses 22-23, they set sail prior to the evening’s start). In the distance, they saw something that looked unfamiliar coming towards them. They were troubled by what they saw and began to cry out in fear. What are you inviting into your life during difficult situations? The disciples were inviting fear to take hold of them. Jesus, knowing where fear would lead, was swift in His encouragement of their faith, attempting to assure them of who He was. Since they already knew Jesus and witnessed His track record, one would think that this would be enough to quell their fears. However, that did not appear to be the outcome.
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And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
-Isaiah 6:5-8 ESV
In this passage, the biblical prophet, Isaiah, went from insecurity in his present circumstance to boldness through swift obedience. There was a crucial process that occurred in the few lines between those two versions of him. His lips were touched with burning coal (he went through a refining process, brief but transformative) and life-giving words (blessing) were spoken over him. In that blessing, he was made aware of the purpose of the process, which encouraged him to let go of the guilt he felt and step confidently into his calling.
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