When I try to find my own way, make my own decisions, claim my independence, I often find myself lost.
v. 4-5 Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in, hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them
But when I cry out to God, He delivers me from my decisions and leads me by His way to a good place.
v. 6-7 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in.
God is bigger than my independence.
When I rebel against what God tells me, I often end up fighting one affliction after another, bound to circumstances with no idea how to change them and finding no one who can help.
v. 10-12 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help.
But when I cry out to God, He enlightens my heart and breaks the bonds that bind me.
v. 13-14 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.
God is bigger than my rebellion.
When I sin, choose to live with what God has said was evil, I often live with a growing unease, feel unfulfilled, and increasingly avoid reading the Bible or spending intimate time with Him.
v. 17-18 Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and drew near to the gates of death.
But when I cry out to God, He heals me and delivers me from my own self-destruction.
v. 19-20 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.
God is bigger than my sin.
When I compromise with the world, seeking what I need from it, I often find it is not reliable, and often backfires on me.
v. 23-27 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end.
But when I cry out to God, He calms the seas and brings me where my needs are met.
v. 28-30 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.
God is bigger than my spiritual adultery.
Thank You, God, for Your steadfast love!
v. 8, 15, 21, 31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Christian loved God and professed to follow Jesus. He enjoyed his life and lived according to Biblical principles. One day, God interrupted his life. He said, “Hey, Christian! See those people in high places? Those people who live in the spotlight, surrounded by many admirers? Politicians, athletes, famous people, and other people of great influence? Go to them and call them out for their sins because I’ve had enough of their evil.” But Christian didn’t want to hear that word. He was afraid he’d end up looking like a fool if they heeded his warning and God relented on the disaster He planned for them. So, he ran from God thinking if he blended in with other people, God wouldn’t see him. He found a group that would serve his need. Compromising his values and adopting their values was a steep price which he willingly paid if it got him away from God’s presence.
But God saw and sent a great wind upon the land and there were mighty storms – earthquakes, wind storms, fires, droughts, pestilence – so that the people’s lives were in danger of being destroyed. The people cried out to all kinds of things seeking a savior. New age practices, pagan gods, crystals, social activism, political actions, religious observances, and fortune tellers were called on night and day. The people even gave up basic necessities and rights in their effort to survive. Nothing worked.
Meanwhile, Christian ignored everything. Focused on his own needs and desires, he was no longer awake to the voice of the Lord and was unaware that the storm was anything out of the ordinary. When the people brought his attention to it, he recognized what was going on but remained silent until the people figured out that the storms had something to do with him. At that point he admitted he was running from God. The people, seizing on this ray of hope that they would be able to stop the storms, grilled Christian until they finally asked point blank, “What do we need to do to stop it?” Christian, knowing he had to directly confront the consequence of his action, told them that he would have to die to himself. Maybe then, God would relent.
But that made no sense to the people and they refused to accept Christian’s way; instead, they continued to seek their own way to end the storm. Eventually, when it was clear their efforts were in vain, they did as Christian said. They freed him to go do what he needed to do. Instantly the winds were stilled. The people were amazed at the power of God and turned to Him with fear and trembling. However, it wasn’t over for Christian. He had to spend time alone with God until his stubborn pride was broken and his attitude was realigned with His. Humble and sorry for having run, he returned to his life.
God again spoke to him, “Hey, Christian! See those people of great influence? Go to them and call them out for their sins because I’ve had enough of their evil.” This time Christian obeyed. He spoke to everyone he could, warning them if they didn’t change their ways, God was going to bring disaster upon them. He was later dismayed that everyone believed him. As the result, the leaders and celebrities believed the Word, humbled themselves, and repented. And sure enough, God relented and no disaster fell on them.
Sound crazy? Like a fairy tale? Not to Jonah (see the book of Jonah in the Old Testament).
The Bible says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4). What if one of the reasons the story of Jonah was written was to give us insight into a side of God we don’t hear preached about very often today? What if by compromising with the world, blending in instead of standing out, we Christians have brought down the storms that blow around us? Maybe not entirely, but certainly our rebellious disobedience to Biblical teaching has a far-reaching consequence. And maybe, if we who call ourselves Christians humbled ourselves, repented from our compromises and rebellion, and obeyed His command even at the cost of our lives, would God intervene and calm the storms that rage across the world today? Would that result in the leaders and celebrities believing the Word and calling for the repentance of everyone in their circles of influence?
It’s an interesting thought.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
Over the years, the name Christian has become associated with anyone who has anything to do with Christ. As long as a person professes belief in Christ, that person is considered a Christian regardless of what else he or she believes, and many times, what he or she does. That’s why Christians can be found on both sides of any controversial issue. Politics, social issues, religious views – even abortion stands. Christian can mean anything because the Bible doesn’t define it.
The good news is – we don’t have to define it because Jesus didn’t call us to be Christians. He called us to be disciples.
A disciple, according to online dictionaries, is a student or learner who adheres completely to the teachings of another, making them his rule of life and conduct. A Christian disciple is someone who fully commits to Jesus as Lord.
Some churches – some people – believe that a disciple is a Christian who had made a higher level of commitment to Jesus than other Christians. This makes it sound like there are two acceptable standards of commitment. However, Jesus only had one standard. He called us to a life of wholehearted discipleship to Him.
When we are committed, we follow Jesus’ teachings and we surrender all of our opinions to His opinions. When He is Lord we seek to live as He lived. It’s like the difference between scrambled eggs and bacon: the chicken is involved; the pig is committed.
Jesus warned this wouldn’t be easy. He talked about the high cost of being His disciple. He warned that being His disciple would make us stand out from the world around us. He said we would be opposed, rejected, persecuted, and even put to death. He said we would be treated just like the world treated Him. And that wasn’t good.
If we’re not seeing that in our lives, maybe it’s because we’re not disciples. Maybe we have left the teachings of Jesus for the teachings of the world. We may have unknowingly – or knowingly – adopted the world’s ways, values, and beliefs as our own. We may have mixed them in with those of Jesus. We may have even completely replaced some of Jesus’ ways with them.
To indulge our own desires? Because of ignorance of God’s word? Out of fear of being labeled or judged? To avoid conflict or offense? Because it’s easier or more convenient? To fit in with those around us? To be accepted as one of the crowd?
Whatever the reason, Paul called what we have done ‘becoming friends with the world’.
James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Hard words to be sure.
Here’s a comparison between Christian (believer) and Disciple that I found on a website called davidcannistraci.org.
How are disciples different from believers?
1. THE CROSS: Believer look to the cross. A Disciple pick up the cross(Matthew 16:22-24).
2. OBEDIENCE: A Believer obeys God if it’s convenient. A Disciple obeys no matter the outcome.
3. DECISIONS:ABeliever decides once, A Disciple decides daily.
4. FOCUS: Believers focus on eternal life, A Disciple focus on eternal rewards.
5. PRAYER: A Believer prays when things get tough. A Disciple prays no matter the circumstance.
6. SCRIPTURE:A Believer twists the Bible to fit his or her lifestyle. A Disciple works to make his or her lifestyle resemble the teachings of the Bible.
7. ETERNAL IMPACT: Believers make heaven. Disciples make history.
I have to admit for too many of the 40+ years since I encountered Jesus, I was a Christian. I loved Jesus, and grew in my relationship with Him, but when His words were hard to follow, I chose to ignore them and lived as I thought best. He loved me, and I knew I was secure in His hands, but I chose my way over His more times than I want to remember.
I still do. Am I’m heartbroken over that.
Jesus died for me. He gave up everything for me. And yet, I only give Him what’s convenient. Is that enough? Is it enough to return my husband’s love and commitment to me with a half-hearted commitment to him?
Did God ever say that was enough?
He didn’t in the Old Testament.
Joshua 22:5 Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses, the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
And He didn’t in the New Testament.
Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
So why do we Christians think that is enough now?
Luke 14:25-33 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish. Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
Mark 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
John 15:18-21“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me
Deut 6:4-15 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build,and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full,then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.
Linda’s Paraphrase: Hear, O Christians: There is only one God. Love the Him with all your heart (total commitment) and with all your soul (what you think) and with all your might (energy, focus). Keep His words foremost in your heart always. Teach them to your children. Talk about them day and night as a part of everything you do. Put up post it notes and memory cards throughout your house. And when God answers your prayers – when you are living with His blessings which you didn’t earn – be careful not to forget who gave them to you. It is God you shall fear, not man. Him and only Him shall you serve. Don’t go after the ways and loves of the world around you – for the God in you is a jealous God – lest He get angry and destroy you.