Hide & Seek

201508015ahideandseek.66c06

The concept of “Seeking God” has always fascinated me. The first time I really felt God speaking directly and personally to me was through Matthew 6:33. When I was in middle school, I seemed to see that verse everywhere I turned. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” The concept followed me through every other stage of life, in different ways and through different verses. In high school it was was Jeremiah 29:13, “And ye shall seek Me and find Me when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.” And in college it was Isaiah 55:6, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” Then one day I stumbled upon a verse that threw me for a loop. It was Romans 3:11 which says, “There is none that understandeth. There is none that seeketh after God.”

What was that supposed to mean… There is none that seeketh God? Not one?

As I was reflecting on this, I began to think about the game of hide and seek. What does the game consist of? Someone hides, and someone tries to find them, right? But is God hidden that He needs to be found? What kind of God would hide himself from the people he loves and came to save, and then command them to come searching for him? I imagined this kind of God peeking his head out from around corners, laughing at us in our fear and confusion. And just when we’ve almost found him, he runs and hides again. That’s the image of God that a lot of people have in their minds today, but that’s not the God we serve. God is not hiding. God is not playing games. He is not mocking us. God reveals Himself to us everyday, in both big and small ways. Since the beginning of creation, God has desired a close and intimate relationship with us – but it’s our sin that separates us from Him. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.”

We are the ones who are hidden.

Look at Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were created in the image of God. He formed them from the dust of the ground and breathed His very life into them. And for a time they lived and moved among Him. They walked and talked with Him. They were completely naked in the presence of God, and they felt no shame. That’s the way God intended us to live, with nothing to hide and no need to seek. But our sin separated us from Him. Scripture says Eve saw the fruit of the tree. It was pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom, so she took it. She ate it, and she gave some to her husband, and both of their eyes were opened. For the first time, they saw their nakedness and they felt shame. So what did they do? They sewed fig leaves together. They made coverings. They tried to hide it.

Adam and Eve disobeyed the clear instructions of God, and a moment of desire led to an eternity of shame and suffering. That is the power of sin. That is what God warned us about, and that is what He tried to protect us from, but we turned away. We are led astray when we open our eyes to what the world offers and close our ears to what God orders. We are led astray when we listen to the lies of the enemy over and above the truth of God’s Word. We are led astray when we seek pleasure over purpose.

But God, in His infinite mercy, doesn’t abandon us in our place of weakness. As Adam and Eve hid from God among the trees, God called out to them, “Where are you?”

We are the ones who were led astray. We are the ones who were lost. We are the ones who covered ourselves with fig leaves, like empty good deeds, to cover our sin and conceal our shame. We are the ones who tried to hide among the trees – unable to look upon the face of the One True God, much less go searching for Him.

“…There is none that seeketh after God.”

But God, in His infinite mercy, came looking for us. He came searching. He came calling. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Jesus came to seek us and save us. He came to call us out of hiding. But it is up to us to respond to the call.

When God called out to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” – It was not because He didn’t know where they were. There was a purpose behind it. I’ve noticed that whenever I’m upset about something, my friend always asks me, “What’s wrong?” And it frustrates me – because I know she knows me well enough to know what’s bothering me. So what’s the purpose of asking a question you already know the answer to? But she does it for my own well-being. She does it because she knows I need to give a voice to the hurt. I need to admit it, confess it. I need to let it out so it doesn’t fester inside of me. And it’s the same way with God.

God doesn’t ask a question He doesn’t already know the answer to. Jeremiah 23:23-24 says, “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” God is both near and far, He fills both time and space. He is omnipresent – in all places. We cannot run from His presence. He is omnipotent – all-powerful. There is nowhere we can hide that He can’t find us. He is omniscient – all-knowing. He knows us better than we know ourselves. We cannot hide our heart from the God who created it.

When He asks, “Where are you? – It’s because He wants to hear our response. God could have gone directly to Adam and Eve, He could have forced them out of hiding. But what would that have accomplished? Relationships are built on communication – call and response, question and answer. God desires a relationship with us. He is our King, not our Dictator. We have been adopted as children, not forced as slaves. He desires our loving obedience, not robotic obedience. A relationship with God is an invitation to commune with Him. He knocks at the door of our heart (Revelation 3:20), He doesn’t force entry. John 10:1-3 says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.” This is the same Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to go searching for the one lost sheep (Luke 15). This is the same God who comes searching for us in the midst of the storm, in the midst of our fear and confusion, and bids us come to Him walking on the water (Matthew 14:28-29). This is the same God who says, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). This is the same God who says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

He is calling, He is waiting.

Seeking God is not about going out searching to find a hidden God – It is about coming out of hiding. It is about stepping out of darkness and into marvelous light. It is about running wholeheartedly toward the One who has revealed Himself to us. It is about drawing near to the God who has already drawn near to us. It is about seeking and finding the God who seeks and saves us when we are lost.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found.

 

 

Advertisements

Faith Begins with Fear

img_6397-3

Have you ever had a dream that scared you? That felt bigger than you? A dream that made you feel inadequate, like it required  more than you had to offer?

Ever felt called in a direction beyond the border of your comfort zone? Called to a place where you felt like your weaknesses would be exposed and your strengths would come up short of being enough?

If so, you’re probably right where God wants you to be.

If you’ve ever stood on the edge of a mountain and looked out over the expanse of earth beneath you and before you, then you know what it feels like to stand on the edge of God’s calling for your life. It is breathtakingly beautiful and simulaneously terrifying.

Imagine Abraham – looking up at the stars of the sky and hearing God tell him that his descendants would be just as  many, but knowing the barrenness of his wife and their continually increasing age (Genesis 15:1-6).

Imagine Moses – a murderer with a speech impediment, standing before a burning bush, hearing God tell him that He is sending him back to the place from which he fled to lead the people of Israel out of slavery and into the promised land (Exodus 3:3-6).

Imagine Mary – a young virgin, engaged to be married, hearing an angel of the Lord tell her she will become pregnant and give birth to the Son of God (Luke 1:26-33).

In each instance, these giant heroes and heroines of our faith had to be commanded not to fear. We revere and honor these names now, but in their own day and age their lives seemed so small and insignificant. Can you imagine?!

We serve a big God with big plans, and He desires to use the lowliest of servants to accomplish the grandest of goals. It’s only natural to be afraid when God calls us to something big. Faith begins with fear. But what I find so amazing, and hard to believe, is that God-sized dreams do not require God-sized faith.

In Matthew 17, the disciples saw Jesus transfigured on a mountaintop. The fullness and brightness of His glory was too much for them to behold. They were terrified, and in their fear they fell down before Him. As they got to the bottom of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them, and a man approached Jesus and knelt before Him seeking healing for his son. The son suffered from seizures, and although the father had brought Him to the disciples, they had been unsuccessful in their attempts to heal Him. Jesus became obviously frustrated upon learning of their failed attempts, saying, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me” (Matthew‬ ‭17:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬). After Jesus heals the boy, the disciples question Jesus about why they had been unable to usher the same healing. He responded by saying, “You don’t have enough faith… I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭17:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬).

A little faith begins with a lot of fear.

But there are two different types of fear – There is fear that paralyzes you, and there is fear that propels you. Fear that paralyzes you holds you captive and keeps you from experiencing what God has to offer. It is a fear of the future, a fear of what people will think, a fear that you won’t be enough. This type of fear will keep you always looking for God’s promises, but never taking active progress towards them. On the other hand, fear that propels you towards God’s calling gives you drive and ambition. This is a reverential fear – It is a fear that believes in the power of God, and trusts that He is able to do what He says He will do.

The disciples feared God on the top of the mountain.  They bowed down before Him in their fear after seeing the brightness and fullness of His Glory displayed. But the father, desperately seeking Jesus, waited patiently and bowed down before Him at the foot of the mountain. His eyes had not beheld what the disciples had beheld, yet He wholeheartedly believed in what Jesus was able to do. That is the definition of faith – believing without seeing. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” This father believed in what he could not see – and his little bit of faith led to the moving of a mountain in his son’s life.

We aren’t all so faith-filled. Some of us are paralyzed with fear. We don’t believe because we don’t see, and we don’t trust because we don’t understand.

After Jesus was crucified and risen from the dead, He appeared to His disciples again. Infamously, Thomas did not believe Jesus was who He said He was until he was able to touch the wounds and feel the holes. Jesus responded to Thomas’ doubt by saying, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John‬ ‭20:29‬ ‭NLT‬‬).

We are blessed when we believe, but Jesus is faithful even when we are faithless. He doesn’t give up on us when our faith measures up to less than the size of a tiny mustard seed. He doesn’t deny our requests for evidence of His Power. He continually reveals Himself to us and makes Himself known to us. We are simply holding on to the wrong kind of fear. We have no need to fear not being capable or powerful enough to complete God’s calling. This kind of fear will flee in the presence and truth of who God is. He is all-powerful, completely capable, and in control of all things. He dwells within us, and lives and moves among us.  We have no need to be paralyzed with fear.

We need to let our fear propel us towards our calling – the place where our fears and our faith collide.

When we focus on our inabilities rather than God’s ability, we are putting our faith in ourselves. And when we put our faith in ourselves, we will always end up disappointed. It is not the size of our faith that matters, it is the size of the God we are putting our faith in. A little bit of faith in the hands of a big God can accomplish unexplainable tasks – That’s what makes it miraculous. Our weaknesses display God’s strength, and our inabilities point to His abilities. Faith beigns with fear – Not fear of what we are unable to accomplish, but fear of what He is able to accomplish. The power of His presence should evoke a fear in us that brings us to our knees in complete surrender to His plan and purpose. Once we place our mustard seed faith in His faithful hands, anything is possible.

Any dream given by God is within your reach – Don’t let the wrong kind of fear hold you captive. There is no dream so great that God is not greater still. Where He leads, He provides. And where He guides, He strides. He won’t abandon you in the place of your overwhelming fear, but will walk along beside you every step of the way. He won’t plant a dream inside your heart that He is not prepared to bring to fruition. He will nurture and stregthen you to become all He wills you to be. He will make a way. Your vision will become a reality – You simply have to trust Him. You simply have to believe that God is who He says He is and that He is able to do what He says He will do.

His promise is true, His presence is with you, and His Power is within you. Trust and believe. Take hold of it. Step out in faith and watch as your fears fall. Christ is within you – You are capable, powerful, and destined for greatness. You are fearfully and wonderfully made – set apart for a high calling and divine purpose.

You. Are. Enough.

So don’t be afraid to dream big.