As the temperatures gradually begin their annual ascent up the thermometer, a lot of folks seem to get the “itch” for warm weather kinds of activities. While I haven’t really been in a department store the last few days, I did notice in passing the appearance of garden equipment and lawn accessories, as well as recreational kinds of things in local store advertisements. No doubt we’ll all soon plunge again into our yearly customs of spring and summer events, not the least of which is grilling out.
Hopefully, if I do grill out, I’ll be a bit more careful than I was a few years ago on one occasion. I had pulled the gas grill out away from the house that morning and dutifully cleaned it, preparing it for use later that day. When the late afternoon rolled around, I ceremoniously exited the back door of my house carefully balancing a plate full of meat on one hand and grasping various grilling utensils in the other. I set out all the necessary accouterments on a nearby table and then reached down to turn on the gas.
I then absentmindedly sorted out the food that I was going to grill, taking a good deal longer than I realized. When I was finished, quite satisfied with my preparations, I lit a long match and began to slide it towards the grill’s burner. Beyond the grill, I could see my wife come to the screen door, watching me get started. Just as she got to the door, the flame of my match reached a concentrated pocket of gas and a brilliant flash and roar leapt out of the grill up into my face. The flame had leapt up and was then gone so quickly that I didn’t even flinch. I just stood there blinking, wondering if what I thought had happened had really happened.
My wife cried out and sprang out the door towards me. “Are you all right?” she asked me anxiously as I stood reflecting on the wisdom of starting the fire when one FIRST turns on the gas so explosions don’t happen in your back yard (at least with very much frequency).
By God’s grace, my face wasn’t burned and my eyes were unharmed. I couldn’t even tell that my beard or eyebrows were singed by my little accident. All the flash and flare that my wife saw bursting into my face had had no effect and was little more, in the end, than a light show (for which I’m IMMENSELY thankful, by the way).
But while I AM glad that this one occasion ended up harmless, we should hope and work towards the opposite when it comes to spiritual renewal among Christians. There is yet untapped an unimaginable supply of joy and peace and power in the presence of God… ready to explode in the “everyday lives” of “ordinary Christians”. Instead of merely settling for “flashes” and “bursts” of spiritual enthusiasm (that don’t even “singe the eyebrows” of discouragement and powerlessness, let alone blow them out of the water), we should recall that the God Who revealed Himself in the ancient Scriptures, is the same God Who is on the move today, looking to see who will trust Him in practical ways in their homes, their work places, their schools, and, most especially, their churches.
King Hezekiah (whose life story is told in 2 Kings chapters 18 through 20 as well as 2 Chronicles chapters 29 through 32) began his reign during a time when his entire nation had lost its spiritual moorings, moral bearings, and sense of national security. Yet, he had a heart to follow God. “Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow Him; he kept the commands that the LORD had given Moses. And the LORD was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook” (2 Kings 18:5-7a NIV). As a result of his personal commitment to faithfully follow God and to “flesh it out” in practical ways, the people took courage and were themselves softened in their hearts enough to yield their pride, fear, worry, selfishness, and sin in order to embrace the grace of God Almighty.
And because this wasn’t merely a “flash” of spiritual fervor but truly the flames of real renewal as a people belonging to God, the faith that they also placed in God’s love and power to protect them, sustained them through the most terrifying time their country had yet known: the invasion of the Assyrian Empire. If their revival had only been a show or a shallow display of religious affectation, they could not have stood up to the Assyrian armies surrounding the capital city’s walls.
But there was a very real and sustaining fuel supporting Hezekiah and his people: the power of God. “…(Hezekiah) encouraged them with these words: ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said” (2 Chronicles 32:6b-8 NIV).
Because they trusted God’s promises, they faithfully obeyed God in their personal lives (2 Chronicles chapters 29 through 31). Because they trusted Him and because that trust was producing the fruit of reconsecrating their lives to God, they were able to see God perform an amazing rescue for them by doing as Hezekiah had said He would, fight their battles for them (see 2 Kings 19:35-37 and 2 Chronicles 32:20-22). And because their faith and their obedience had led them from what seemed to be certain doom, to a great and glorious victory, the entire known world got to see God at work (see 2 Chronicles 32:23).
I pray that in our generation God’s people will hunger for God the way that Hezekiah did. I pray that we’ll “hold fast to the Lord” and consecrate our lives anew to Him, not only for the Lenten season, but for something far more enduring. And I pray that in our trust, we’ll place before God all the problems and worries and burdens that are as intimidating to us as Assyrian legions, confident in both His goodness and His power to deliver us and to bless us, His people.
“With us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 32:8 NIV).
This is a very encouraging article Thom. You wrote:
("I pray that in our generation God’s people will hunger for God the way that Hezekiah did. I pray that we’ll “hold fast to the Lord” and consecrate our lives anew to Him,") I so stand in agreement with you in that prayer. Blessings, Sharon
Powerful anointed piece beautifully written Pastor Thom!
Pslam 91 in your story for sure!!!
Amen, God desires for us to have a Passion for Him and to Love Him and Serve Him and let all witness His Power, Love and Truth in our lives!!!
You certainly have a Great Love for our Lord and it is a Blessing and a Great Encouragement to Witness!!!
God Bless you and your family always!!!
With Christian Love,