Listen, Heed, Move

PillarOfFireTherefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.  Hebrews 2:1

How critical is it that we move with the voice of God? I’m pretty sure we don’t know the answer to that question; for if we did, we’d be so much more attentive.

In the wilderness, God protected His Hebrew people with a pillar of twofold phenomenon: the cloud by day, the fire by night. By day, His cloud was a visible banner that went before them; but think of all the other things that cloud was capable of! It could shield them from the burning desert sun, even block the view of the enemy if necessary. By night, it was a bright luminary that could not be missed in times when their trek required after-dark travel. It radiated warmth against the cold desert nights. No doubt, to their enemies, a wall of fire was a frightening and intimidating warning to back off!

But this pillar didn’t operate on the people’s schedule. It was as much a test of obedience as it was a beacon to follow to the Promised Land. There were times when God chose to park and stay a while–times some of them may have preferred to just keep moving instead of having to unpack and set up camp. Other times, when they were content to stay in a particular area, God might decide to start moving again. There wasn’t an option. God didn’t say, “I’m going to go ahead of you…just catch up when you feel like it.” No, He was their guide, their map, and their only hope of survival. They weren’t traveling a well-worn freeway equipped with GPS and road signs that said, “Next watering hole 150 miles.” A people not nomadic by culture, they had to rely totally on Him to help them deal with movement…that is, after being enslaved for 400 years!

So what does that say to us about the importance of our attentiveness to God’s Word and His voice? We are in the same place of need. We were a people in bondage, and we aren’t used to navigating in strange territory.  When the responsibility of walking in freedom gets tough sometimes, bondage beckons for us to return.  Bondage was hell, but we were used to it. We may, at times, look back and think it was easier because it was consistently bad. Still, we can’t go back. Oh technically we could; we could listen to the voice of the enemy wooing us back. “Come back to the leeks and garlic! Come back to bread and meat and a roof over your head. Come back to a steady job and neighbors you were accustomed to! It’s not so bad!” The enemy would of course laugh at us and slam the cell door shut the moment we stepped into his lair. And just like institutionalized hard criminals who commit a crime just to go back to their familiar society, we could go back to Egypt.

But…even if we were to wrangle free a second time, how long would it take us to retrace our steps and find the Cloud? How fast could our feet carry us as we doubled back, trying to remember which landmarks we passed on the way when we were first liberated?

Perhaps I’m overshooting in my example. Even if you don’t plan on going back to Egypt, there is a great price to pay for choosing not to move with the pillar.

How many times do we sleep in on a Sunday, or ignore the Holy Spirit’s urging to lay down our petty toys and get alone with God through the week, or leave the Word gathering dust on the coffee table? We won’t know until we get to the Bema just what these diversions cost us. I would say this to you: the opportunity you passed up to sit under anointed preaching or teaching, that one phone call you chose not to return, that one time when you failed to take the high road, that one opportunity that sounded good but seemed to require too much sacrifice…that choice on that one given date could’ve set your destiny back by months, by years!

And what about just your physical survival?  I interviewed RIck and Cathy Simpkins years ago, after her first bout with cancer. They shared that the whole key to her survival became a matter of daily listening for God’s voice. What would seem to others as arbitrary turns in the road were, in fact, them responding to the suddenlies of God’s urging. He led them on a carefully-timed pathway to her healing. He directed every turn in their journey. At times it seemed as if she was ricocheting between treatment plans and doctors, but in the end, it became clear why. Their urgent advice was, don’t miss the voice of God! Keep your ear tuned to hear Him! Get under good leadership and instruction and walk under authority. She got nine extra years of life out of this choice to remain steadfast; got to see her two grandchildren born, got to minister to and help many more people, build a home, travel, and live with the man she loved. Had they given in to despair, or failed to seek His counsel, the alternative was probably not good.  What could you do with extra years of life?  Could you afford to sacrifice even one of the years you now have?

So, if you knew that your very life depended on this next encounter with God, wouldn’t you go out of the way to ensure that you didn’t miss it? You’d set your clock, clear your calendar, toss the excess overboard, and wait as long as it took! You’d shush every other voice that threatened to drown out the Still, Small One. I’m urging you, whatever you have to do, don’t let the pillar start moving without you. God is merciful and full of grace…we can make critical errors and still be just as saved. However, those lapses in judgment can turn a two week journey into forty years.  He redeems time for us, absolutely; He is the author of the Plan B of our lives when we get it wrong.  But there’s seldom if ever been a time when someone got the exact same outcome as if he or she would’ve simply obeyed or sought God’s voice to start with.  As a result of our foolishness or laziness, we may lose some souls along the way we were meant to harvest. We may wind up in a lesser rank of advancement than we otherwise might’ve gotten, had we been on time. We for sure will have our regrets if we miss that critical hour of our visitation, that one seemingly just-like-every-other-day that was in fact our tipping point.

Listen for Him, run hard after Him, no matter what it takes. The hour is late; there’s not a lot of time for playing catch-up. Remember the five foolish who tried and weren’t able to get back there in time, all because they failed to be prepared for the most important moment of their lives.

Listen.  Heed.  Move.

Vine-Ripe Perfection

One thing I look forward to every summer, which I place right up there among the great simple pleasures of life, is a good garden-ripe tomato…you know, one that runs all over the counter top when you cut into it.  Oh, I tolerate the store-bought rubber balls in January when I have to have something to round out a sandwich; but honestly, folks, is there anything as tasteless as a tomato speed-grown in some greenhouse, minus real sun and rain, picked green, and shipped off to market?

Just as any fruit or vegetable is at its best when it’s allowed to draw nutrients from rich soil right up to the ripening time, then harvested at its peak of flavor, so it is with the blessings God has prepared for those who love and trust Him.  We often get ahead of Him, and interrupt the ripening process by our lack of patience.  We wind up then, with a little, puny, less-than-perfect version of what He willed to give us in glorious fullness.  Sometimes we even pass His slowly-maturing blessings completely up for a quick fix from some other source, and the ripened blessings fall to the ground uneaten.

Our instant-gratification culture has diluted the purity of quality in pursuit of quick quantity.  We seemingly have a lot more (and I say “seemingly”), but more of what, exactly?  The result of excess is evident in our bloated egos, our fat bellies, our maxed-out credit cards, and our empty bank accounts. Our spirit man is often as unhealthy as our physical man, for all that overindulgence of substandard things leads to a life lived just short of ever having real completion.  It’s like that tasteless tomato…a bite will never cause your eyes to close in satisfaction; it will never drip off your chin the way a blessing delivered in God’s timing would.  At best, it will always be just a means to a second-rate end.

If you’re seeking God for a particular desire of your heart, and you can see that He’s already at work cultivating the answer, leave well enough alone and don’t pick that blessing from the vine before its time.

True patience says that we are willing to surrender even the timing of a blessing to God’s wisdom.  A mature believer has learned that, given a choice of mediocre and the miraculous, he or she will reap a bountiful, blue ribbon-worthy blessing for having waited.  Does it require discipline?  Most definitely.  Is the reward worth the perseverance?  Take the salt shaker, roll up your sleeves and taste the difference for yourself.  Ripe is right!

“So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”  James 1:4 (NLT)

©2012 Lisa Crum