Living Life Over Before It’s Over, Pt. 2
Study Guide, November 1, 2015 – Pastor Clay Olsen
We have begun to look into some Biblical precepts and principles that we have the opportunity to try to put into practice in our lives before our lives are over. And one of these has to do with this very aspect of ‘understanding’. In fact the wisest man that ever lived said this: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Prov 3:5-6 NASU
I would have to say that I have stumbled over that counsel a number of times. But today I have another chance to try it over again…no doubt, again and again. But the point is that the if the wisest man who ever lived could not trust his own understanding, why should I…why should any of us think we should even try? That is something we should understand about ourselves. And that is, we naturally think we know more than we actually do know. We are easily deceived by the world, the flesh, and the devil and therefore must constantly be relying not on our understanding, but in all our ways we need to be relying upon God’s Word, seeking to understand all our ways through the lenses of the Word of God, relying upon them and being led in them by the Spirit of God.
Speaking of ‘understanding’, would it surprise you to know that along with seeking to be loved by those whom God has created and redeemed, that what God seeks most from us is to be understood? Really….One of the most amazing personal and emotional statements the Lord ever said about Himself is found in Jer 9:23-24- “Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.” NKJV
It is safe to say that God is the most misunderstood Person in the world. Now, if anyone in the world can deal with that, it’s God, of course. But still, at least God’s people should seek to make it easier on Him. Jesus expected to be misunderstood by the world when He came into the world. But we find out that Jesus expected that those who would become His children out of this world would come to understand and know Him more and more and better and better. That is what He wanted to see happen in His relationship with His people.
Remember when Jesus was teaching the Disciples about going to Heaven before them to prepare a place for them there and that He was the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one could come to the Father, except through Him? Notice carefully what happened next: John 14:8-11- “Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”. Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.” NASU
Even through this written account you can feel the sadness in the words of Jesus to Philip, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me?” What is something that God really wants out of our relationship with Him? God wants you and me to come to understand Him, to seek to understand Him more and more, better and better. It means more to God than we can even imagine. But knowing how much that it does mean to God should cause us to make it one of the highest priorities of our lives.
Now, certainly, we will come to understand God more and more throughout all eternity. But the point is, our goal in this life should be to pursue understanding as much about God as He wants us to understand about His Person and His character and His expressed desires, before this life is over. And if ‘understanding God, in His Person, character, and desires has not been a priority goal of your life so far, then God has told us to do this part over in our life before our life is over. Make seeking to understand and know your God more and more become a central part of your worship experience of God. And realize that this is a great source of delight that you and I can give to our Maker and our Savior. And really, how amazing it is to realize that we can bring delight to the heart of our God in giving Him something that He has told us that He really wants in a relationship with us. He wants us to try to understand and know Him as much as we can in this life, before this life is over. And we each can do this!
And as we do this, as we set out to know and understand our God better and better, there is something else we should know and understand about ourselves. Henry Ward Beecher was a minister in the late 1800’s. He’s quoted as saying things like: “We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves… Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul… Of all the music that reached farthest into heaven, it is the beating of a loving heart.” So, yeah, pretty insightful Brother there. But he also reminded us all about a particular tendency we have when it comes to seeking to know our God. He said that our conceptions of God tend to proceed out of our perceptions from our own personalities.
Perhaps if we just let him speak for himself we’ll get the idea better. Here is Henry Ward Beecher talking: “Some there are who are far more sensible to physical qualities than others. The sublimity of power is to their thought one of the chief Divine attributes. God is omnipotent. That idea touches them. He is omniscient. Their eyes sparkle when they think of that. He is omnipresent. They have a sense of that. He is majestic. He has wondrous power. According to their conception He is God of all the earth. None can resist His might. That is your sense of God. If you only have such a God, you are satisfied. Another person wants a scientific God. He says, “I perceive that there is a law of light, a law of heat, a law of electricity; I see that everything is fashioned by law; and my idea of God is that He must be supreme in science; that there are to be found in Him all those qualities which science is interpreting to me.” His God will be just, generous, faithful; but He will be just, generous, faithful after the fashion of a Faraday (or some other (scientist)… Another man conceives of God from the domestic side, It is the mother nature that he thinks of — the nature that is full of gentleness; full of kindness; full of sympathy; full of sweetness; full of elevated tastes; full of songs; full of all manner of joy-producing qualities. Another, who is an artist, will feel after the God of the rainbow — a God of beauty. So every person will be dependent upon the most sensitive parts of his own soul for his interpretation of God. What is it that makes one flower blue and another scarlet? No flower reflects all the light. If a flower is purple it absorbs a part and reflects the rest. If it is blue it absorbs some of the parts and reflects others. The same is true if it is red. And as it is with the colors of flowers, so it is with our conception of God. What you are susceptible of, and what you are sensitive to, in the Divine nature, largely determines what your conception of God is. Each individual puts emphasis on that part of the character of God which his own mind is best fitted to grasp. For instance, God is said to be a God of justice, of truth, and of benevolence. Now, which of those elements is first? Which governs the others? If God is first sternly just, and then suffers and is kind, that is one sort of God. If He is first loving, and then in the service of love is stern, and severe even, that is another kind of God. I hold that the emphasis which you put upon the Divine attributes determines the character of God in your mind.”
(H. W. Beecher; from The Biblical Illustrator Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.)
The thing is, that we tend to limit the things we come to understand and know about God because we tend to limit our search according to those things we have come to understand and know about ourselves, like our own interests and temperament and personality and such. Yes, God plans to use our particular temperament and interests and personality as a testimony to this world, but we should not allow these things to limit what we come to understand and know about our God, otherwise we will then be doing what the world tends to do, and that is; fashion God in our their own image rather than re-fashioning their lives more and more into the image of God.
Certainly, the needs of our personality and temperament often drive us to God. If we are drawn to God through our love of history or science or art or music or medicine, then wonderful, but let your love and your temperament and personality be a doorway by which you enter into God’s world, not a limitation through which God must come to you in your world. Do not make your needs and desires and your temperament and personality become the terms in which you look to God for your happiness. Rather, let your needs and desires and your temperament and your personality drive you to God with the goal of opening yourself up to living your life according to His terms, and finding your happiness by His terms.
Plus, God reveals that the very source of our happiness is related to our understanding and knowing God. Look again: Go back to what God said: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me…” Here is something important to understand about what it means ‘to glory’ in something. We generally tend to think of ‘to glory in something or someone’ as meaning to give honor and credit to this or that or to them. And it includes all this for sure. But ‘to glory in something or someone’ also has the particular meaning of ‘to depend upon this particular thing or this particular someone as your source of happiness’.
Do you see what God is saying to us? God is revealing a critical piece of information for us to understand about our very makeup or design. You see, We were not created to depend upon or to look to any particular set of strengths of ours or to any special wisdom of ours or to any acquired riches of ours as our source of happiness. These have no power to confer happiness upon our souls. Rather, God is informing us that we were created to reap happiness when we look to God with the intention of seeking to understand and to know our God deeper and deeper and better and better. You see, Our personal happiness is directly dependent upon how much we depend upon understanding and knowing God as being our very source and pathway of happiness! Besides, God alone has the power to confer happiness upon our souls. And He does so as we glory in, as we depend upon, understanding and knowing God in His Person, character, and expressed desires as our source of real happiness. Personal strengths, and individual wisdom, and acquired riches can be blessings to enjoy and to share with others, but the waters of happiness for refreshing the soul have one source from which we are to drink. And that source is the pool of understanding and knowing God Himself.
The headwaters of human happiness are understanding and knowing God. Drink from these and your very soul will be refreshed. Enjoy the other things of life as gifts from God, but realize that what God enjoys, what blesses God, is your pursuit of understanding and knowing God. And in your pursuit of this holy habit, God will bestow happiness on your soul. Some of the ancient Christian writers referred to this happiness of the soul as ‘a mystical experience’. Yet, by ‘mystical’ they weren’t referring to some ‘other-worldly’ kind of thing, but ‘mystical’ in it’s normal definition of ‘Having an import not apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence; beyond ordinary understanding.’ So in this sense we can each have a mystical experience, which is really just a majestic experience in our relationship with our majestic God, since the experience of depending upon understanding and knowing God as our source of daily happiness is way beyond the ordinary understanding of people around us who are simply living life according to their own understanding.
How this plays out in day to day life is that, since we have come to understand how much it means to God for us to try to understand and know Him better and better, now our daily devotional Bible reading will be overlaid with this holy pursuit, this goal of understanding and knowing God deeper and better and more and more. Our daily works and activities and interactions with others will now be overlaid with the intention of better understanding and knowing God through the experience of it all. Our church family worship and service will be overlaid with gleaning from it all for how it helps us come to understand and know our God better and better. And just our day to day activities with our family and friends will now be overlaid with looking for ways that can help us understand and know God better and better through it all.
And as we learn to ‘glory’ most in understanding and knowing God, we will find ourselves glorying less in the things of this world and even our own selves. And in this ‘mystical majestic’ experience with God we will find our true freedom for our mind and emotions and our soul happiness.
Remember this about how each of us are made. My personal happiness is not based upon how much I am getting out of life. My happiness is based upon how much I am getting into God…into understanding and knowing my God deeper and deeper and more and more.
“Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.” Jer 9:23-24 NKJV