We try to find God so that we may do good…
When in fact it is in doing good that we find God
We try to find God so that we may do good…
We try to find God so that we may do good…
When in fact it is in doing good that we find God
15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou? 16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks. 17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.
Joseph isn’t even able to fulfill his initial charge, to ascertain whether all is well with his brethren and the flocks, because they aren’t anywhere to be found! Continuing with the analogy of Joseph being like the Savior, a beloved son is sent to check on his brethren but does not immediately find his charge. Because sometimes we have picked up from where we were supposed to be and wandered off, and do not care to be found. But like the good shepherd, the son seeks, and queries, and presently comes to us wherever we are. No matter how filthy of a hovel, or how offensive a den of iniquity, he finds us where we are.
But as the story of Joseph shows, sometimes being found is not the same as being saved. Jesus might come find us where we are, but we still retain the right to refuse him. Even the right to cast him out from us. Though we should know that if we do so, it may be quite a season before we see him again.
Today we are not denied access to the written word of God, as in the Dark Ages. Today the existence of the gospel is not hidden from view. Today the love of God is readily available to any who seek for it. Today we have the ability to do all the right things that are stirring in our hearts.
Today, ignorance is a choice.
This was a very soothing study for me. My childhood was full of agitation when it came to hearing God’s voice. I really, really wanted to, but just had no idea how. I know that this is a common struggle for many others as well, so hopefully some of you will find the scriptures that we have explored helpful.
One thing that stuck out to me from this study was how it reminded me of the importance of diving into the scriptures. All of my questions had answers, they were there for the taking, but I needed to be in God’s word to find them.
In fact, this experience has itself been a witness to me of the importance of God’s word. As I am about to discuss, God has answers and manifestations ready to share with us, we only have to turn the stones over to find them.
I have been guilty of saying I wanted a closer relationship with God…and then doing absolutely nothing to achieve it. In essence what I was saying was “I want to feel the spirit more…but only if it comes free and without any work.” That’s about the limpest form of ‘wanting’ imaginable!
Receiving a witness from God is free in that it does not cost money, but it does take time and effort. His manifestations are not cheap experiences, to be handed out to anyone that is flippant or half-sincere. God is willing to give us signs and miracles, but He needs us to be serious about this first.
The Spirit is not going to attest to the run-of-the-mill behaviors that we are already doing. It has no need to encourage our default discipleship. Where the Spirit comes in full force is when we do something new, something that stretches us. If you consult your conscience, I am certain there is something that you know you should be doing but really don’t want to. Perhaps it is overcoming a vice, perhaps it is accomplishing a greater good.
Do it. Sincerely. And I promise you that God will show up.
James 1:5-8- If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
If you act sincerely, God will show up for you. But in what way depends on Him. My wife and I paid tithing for years without fanfare, it was easy to do. Then we reached a time where finances were tight, and we had to make an actual conscious choice to keep following that commandment. We did, and God showed up for us numerous times.
Each of those times He came in a different and unexpected way. One of the most surprising was when a contractor gave me one extra paycheck after I had finished working for them. I informed the company of the error, but it took them months to process the return. Well it turned out that a one-time-interest-free loan was exactly what we needed to get us through those particular months. We came through, they asked for the refund, and we sent it back without any trouble.
Is that how I asked God to handle the situation? Certainly not, that would have been ridiculous to expect. But I did ask that everything would work out, and it certainly did. When we ask God for miracles and witnesses, we should expect Him to have solutions, but we should keep an open mind for how they might arrive.
Isaiah 55:8-9- For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As a child I was very obsessed with getting rituals right. I thought that if I didn’t say all the right words, then God might shrug off my efforts to reach Him. He was the strict teacher, grading my every prayer, and refusing to show up until I got an A. Thus whether I ever connected or not didn’t really matter to Him, the onus was entirely on me.
But obviously that is not right. God does not merely hope for us to have a relationship with Him, he fights for it. He isn’t “okay” with the idea of you not receiving spiritual witnesses in your life. He didn’t reserve those for Moses and Mary, and shelve them for you. The truth is that He wants this connection even more than we do.
So perhaps He is mysterious, perhaps He appears absent and we don’t understand why, perhaps He hasn’t revealed Himself to us just yet. But it is not because of indifference. Though you cannot always see it, He is always championing for your every spiritual epiphany, tirelessly working for your good.
Psalm 27:14- Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
Isaiah 49:14-16- But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
And the Lord will make himself known
Ancient Egypt was not a place known for its strong connection to Yahweh. Yet Isaiah prophesied that its people would come to know their true Creator, and that they would do so because of God’s efforts to make Himself known to them.
As a child, one of my great fears was that God might already be speaking to me, and I just didn’t know it. What if He was trying to tell me very important things, but I wasn’t cluing in? What if I missed out on something forever because I didn’t know his voice?
But now when I read this verse about ‘the Lord making himself known,’ I find a reassuring message that He takes the responsibility for speaking to us in a way that we can understand. We still have our responsibility: to seek, but it is up to God to ensure that we actually find. So I don’t need worry whether I am listening correctly, all I have to do is accomplish my part, and then trust that He will do His.
The sheep follow him: for they know his voice
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them
And I have found that God absolutely does know how to speak to me in ways that I understand. My heart is an instrument, and He is a master at playing its strings. He does answer me, and there is no mistaking His voice when it comes.
As Jesus attests, God knows His sheep. He knows them individually. We do not need to worry about whether we will recognize Him when he speaks, we just will.
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
I would thou wert cold or hot
Relationships can be positive or negative. We can be reaching for God, chasing after Him with a vibrant fire, or we can be steeling ourselves against Him, cold and bitter in our hearts. In either case, there is a connection, and our passion will be met with a response.
But what a relationship cannot be is tepid. If we feel indifferent towards something then we have no meaningful interaction with it. If you are idly sitting on the fence about God, apathetic about whether He exists or what He is like, it’s going to take a lot longer for Him to get your attention.
Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith
I held a spiritual apathy for many years. I was “okay” with God, and that was it. I did not try to push our relationship in any way. As such, I received no spiritual witness. But God loves us too much to leave us in a neutral state. So my life started to unravel, my faith revealed its limpness, and I felt truly miserable. Then there was no shortage of strong, even if conflicting, feelings towards God. I was both desperate for his reality, and frustrated at the life He had given me. It was then that I finally started to get some spiritual witnesses.
This process worked to get me started, but I have since realized that I have the power to instigate the trials of faith myself. They don’t only have to occur whenever something bad happens…they can also be when I try to do some new good thing. Whenever I stretch myself beyond my comfort zone and put myself on shaky ground, then God manifests Himself to me again.
So if you’ve been following God on autopilot and wonder why He hasn’t shown up for you, try doing something meaningful!
And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
Because of his importunity he will rise and give him
The parable of the friend at midnight is somewhat amusing. A neighbor comes, asking for food in the dead of the night. At first the homeowner refuses, but relents after some persistence from the neighbor. It is very similar to the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18, who nags an unjust ruler until he gives her what she wants, just to finally be rid of her.
Now the point of these parables is not to suggest that we should pester God into giving us things that He does not want to. You cannot nag Him into solving your every problem like a genie. Rather, Jesus is saying that even if flawed friends and rulers can be convinced to grant a correct desire, then certainly God will be even more willing to do so.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened
If ye know how to give good gifts: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
But even if God is willing, Jesus suggests that we still need to ask. I have found that God has had many spiritual blessings that He was ready to give me, but He wouldn’t do so until I asked for them. This is clever. For one thing, it fosters a relationship between He and I. To ask Him for something, I must be praying to Him, and thus I have a strong self-interest to talk to Him regularly, the very thing that He wants me to do.
Additionally, if I decide to ask Him for something, I often have a moment of checking in with myself. For example, if I am going to ask for a greater portion of the Holy Spirit, even before I get the words out I might realize that I am actively living in a way that offends it. Indeed, I have gone to God intending to ask why He was not manifesting Himself more in my life, but along the way changed it to asking forgiveness for shutting Him out myself.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.
Ask, and it shall be given you
Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing
When it comes to spiritual witnesses, some might feel that it is inappropriate to ask for them. “Do not test the Lord” we are frequently reminded. Yes, there certainly are things that are inappropriate for us to ask, such as for God to grant our every passing fancy. But when it comes to spiritual blessings, we are not only sanctioned to pursue these, we are encouraged to!