Have you ever been surprised when you discover some hidden side of a close acquaintance or friend you had no idea was there? Sometimes those ‘surprises’ can be pleasant and sometimes quite unpleasant. Either way, we are left asking, ‘who is this guy?’ Not surprisingly, if God leads you into the wilderness you will, undoubtedly, make the same observation about Him.
The undiscovered God
I suppose you could chalk it up to naivete, ignorance, or shallowness, but whatever the reason, it is shocking to discover the God you thought you knew differs vastly from your expectation. And you know what? God delights in discombobulating our immature understanding of who He is. Jesus does this to us in the wilderness to break the hardpan of understanding that builds up in our souls when we spend too long in stagnant pools. Without this sudden jarring experience, the God we make in our own image will harden to stone. This trap has been the undoing of many a believer.
When we first meet Jesus we are often enamored with who He is and what He has done for us. Although we are loathe to admit it, this is a selfish desire, but because of our ‘self’ nature we can only start there. Jesus is content to let us take our time to get to know Him better, but as time moves on He is calling us to a deeper intimacy. He does this because He loves us deeply and knows that our ‘self’ nature will destroy us if we do not repent and destroy it.
The parable of the party
One little parable I like to tell believers about our relationship with Jesus is the one about the party.
When you first meet Jesus He is your close companion. You take Him to a party where your friends are. There He waits beside you as you spend your time talking with others in the party. He waits for you to talk to Him. When you talk to Jesus, you delight His heart in ways I cannot properly describe. This back and forth will continue until something happens.
Without warning, Jesus will take a step back from you and the group. Remember, these are your friends, not His, so He stands by Himself a little way from where you are. Now you have a choice. You can continue to talk with your friends and ignore Jesus, or you can step away from the group for a moment to spend time with Him. This is your first test of devotion.
What will you do when Jesus seems distant?
After passing this test you find that you now have to exert energy going back and forth between Jesus and your friends at the party. This process leads to your second test of devotion.
How long will you continue exerting energy between going to Jesus and going to your friends?
When its time to leave the party
One day you will look around and Jesus is no longer at the party. You can look around the room as much as you want, but you won’t find Him there for He has left the party. He isn’t far, just outside the door, but He is no longer beside you or your friends. You now face the third test of devotion.
Will you now step out of the room with all your friends are just to pursue Jesus?
Once you step out that door there is no going back. You will waste no more energy going between Jesus and those at the party. Just you and Jesus, but no more friends. This is a commitment with consequences. A new life with a new beginning. What you choose at this point is extremely important and will signal to Jesus and yourself just how important God is to you.
When Jesus calls us to a deeper intimacy and as we follow Him we encounter a God we have not met before. This God will allow us to suffer and go through tremendous difficulty as He strips off the ‘self’ nature that so brutally entangles us. This God is not like the One we first met and we wonder, ‘Who is this God?’ At first, we are offended and confused at what He has allowed to test us but if we endure there is something that awaits us.
The ‘something’ God has prepared for us is a promise, and that promise is written in Matthew 19:29.
“And anyone and everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for My name’s sake will receive many [even a hundred] times more and will inherit eternal life.“
For all that this God is asking us to surrender to Him, He promises to restore.
The beginning of restoration
Now our family knows a little about this process. Back in P.E.I. God brought to us one little kitten who filled our lives with such joy and life. She soon had kittens that filled our dour world with laughter. For a time. Then, as we were evicted from shelter, our cats were taken from us, along with our birds and all of our belongings. We never saw our cats again, and that heartbreak was almost too much for our family to bear.
Who is this guy, this God, who allows us to suffer such pain? He is the Promise Maker and the Promise Keeper. Though He allowed us to lose that which was most precious to us, He promised to restore.
Though time has blunted the trauma, the pain of loss is still there. This month, October 11 to be exact, is the 9 year anniversary of our loss. We sometimes think of the loss and I hear the wistful thoughts of my daughters and wife desiring cat love again. I bear these silently, knowing that there is no place for cats in our world living in this motel room.
The Promise Keeper
But who is this guy, this promise making, promise keeping God we follow? He is the God of miracles and surprises. Today we encourage you to listen to our podcast or watch our video and see how God is fulfilling His promise in Matthew 19:29 to our family personally.
Our Jesus is a faithful Lord who sees everything we ever sacrifice for Him. He is not a God who just takes away; He is a God who restores. Just as He is restoring what we lost to our family so He will restore to you what you lose in following Him.
Today we celebrate the beginning of the great restoration. Our question, who is this God, has been answered emphatically. He is the One who fulfills His promises.
Homer and Wanda