Today’s scriptures are an incredible contrast in how people accept God’s guidance and do His will. From Daniel, the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (you gotta love those names). A story of incredible faith in the face of certain death. Three men whose love for God gives them the resolve to face the wrath of King Nebuchadnezzar (another great name). Even the king marvels that these men would rather die than worship another god. And in the Gospel of John, the story of proud, stiff-necked Jews who refuse to listen, let alone believe, when the Son of God stands in front of them. Jesus tries to advise and guide them, but they are so focused on themselves as descendants of Abraham that they refuse to see. I wonder where I am between these two groups.
We are all searchers. The very fact that you are reading this right now says that you are a searcher. We all have a deep, human need for guidance. We want to choose well and wisely in life. Recently my 19-year-old son came to me and asked me about marriage. He is very much in love and was seeking my advice. As any father would be, I was quite flattered. My son was coming to me for advice on one of the most important events in life. He asked me how I knew mom was the right one. I thought about it for a moment. Finally, I replied, sparks. Sparks? When I met your mother, I felt sparks. She was like no one I had ever met and the feelings I felt for her were like sparks. We talked some more and then my son thanked me and headed on. Later, I thought, what the heck kind of advice was that? And on such an important topic. Sparks? I hope we have another opportunity to talk about marriage.
Lent is a special season for searchers. A season of sadness and of joy. Feeling that I owe a great debt and feeling that I have been given an incredible gift. We reflect on our faith and our relationship with Christ. We ask God to open our hearts. We ask for a deeper relationship. As believers we have a deep yearning to know and to do God’s will. We believe that God gives us guidance and it can come in many forms. God often guides us through words from the Bible. Sometimes guidance comes from the Holy Spirit, another person or a particular situation. Sometimes we embrace God’s guidance. Sometimes, as in the story from John, we resist. Sometimes, in the dry times, there seems to be no guidance at all. These are the times that test our faith. We have to persevere with patience, worship, service, praying, reading the Bible, meeting with other believers and remaining open to God.
Recognizing God’s will is not always an easy thing. We want a sign, a road map or directions that are clear, concise, timely and easy to understand. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego recognized God’s will and were obedient even in the face of death. However, I often find myself more like the stiff-necked Jews in John. Questioning who is this person and why do they think they can advise me. Or sometimes, it is slow and not coming when I would like. Or, if the guidance comes at all, it can be confusing and just comes across as somebody talking about sparks. My prayer today is for a Lenten heart. Soft and willing and open to God’s guidance and will.
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