Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
When we think of God's speaking to us, we often assume we will receive clear instructions, if not in words heard inwardly, then in a strong sense of what we should do. This certainly happens, yet there is another way God speaks to us and guides us: by power received according to the extent of our obedience.
For example, years ago I was complaining to my husband that I couldn't control my bad moods. Thus, I lost patience and temper with our two young children and always felt guilty and ashamed afterwards. I'd vow to improve but never could. Knowing that this problem was too much for my human strength, I'd been praying for help but had so far received none.
One day, I said to my husband, "I still get crabby and angry, and hate myself for it. What can I do?"
"Stop reading Time and Newsweek magazines," he replied.
Huh? I thought. What does my choice of reading material have to do with whether or not I can control my moods? Ellis's advice seemed nearly irrelevant; how could it possibly be connected with my problem?
Yet I also knew that he was well-seasoned in following the Lord, and therefore probably had a good reason for his recommendation. So I stopped reading Time and Newsweek. Not long thereafter, I noticed that I could control my bad moods better. Thus, the correlation was clear.
I never forgot this lesson, and from then on chose my reading more carefully. My lasting reward was the greater peace and self-control I sought. Years later, I'm still aware of how important it is to understand what the Lord has to say to me, well ahead of the other things I want to read or to do. Yet He always seems to require fine-tuning in this area, and recently I learned again that He speaks in power, given in greater or lesser degree, according to how well I obey.
One evening I was washing the dishes, and we were embarked on our usual late-day routine. Our 21-year-old daughter, just graduated from our local community college, was playing the piano and singing. Our 19-year-old son was working a calculus problem for fun. My husband was brushing his teeth, preparing for an early bedtime because he was tired from digging in our large garden, which supplies a significant amount of our food.
I should have felt happy and peaceful, but instead, a whining voice started up inside me, so loudly that I could hardly hear the piano music. Bewildered, I struggled against this sudden attack, but without success. I'd have much preferred to hear our daughter's singing, or just to observe our son's quiet contentment as he pursued a favorite activity, but there was nothing I could do. The voice went on and on with its petty grievances, drowning out an entire evening's worth of enjoyment of the company I love best.
Finally I figured it out: in sorting through my priorities for the following day, and trying to plan my time as best I could, I'd assigned the Lord's work second place when I should have put it first. He is not a hard taskmaster, allowing me to finish deadline-driven projects when time is short, but when there's slack in my schedule, he requires that time. Precisely how to use it is often a judgment call, and sometimes I miss. The events of that evening were a clear case of power withheld; a gentle but firm reminder that I'm still dependent on the Lord for my good moods and for my reasonable behavior, and always will be.
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