I am sure I am not the only one who gets discouraged sometimes, wondering why we don’t see more break through more often in people’s lives. You know, those “God Encounters” where God shows up and His presence and healing or saving power is evident and everyone bows down and surrenders to God. I mean if there is a time in history where God encounters are needed it is NOW, right! I go to a developing country like Cambodia and see the evil and abuse that confronts you as you walk down the street, as Cambodian women walk along on the arms of western elderly men. I turn on the TV and see every day there is an attack or act of cruelty as man hurts man with the choices they make. I see one country that has power over another and leaders in power all fighting. And yet I have don't have to look too far as I look into my faith community and life group (the ones I walk closest with) and see people in pain, people questioning, injustice being done to the people I love who are rendered powerless by a system that wields its power because it can.
I am often bewildered and feel heavy about how to respond. Surely, God, you want breakthrough as well? Surely you long for your people to live “life to the full”, be a kingdom reflection on this earth? And yet so often I don't see it in many people.
I am sure everyone, in every era and every country has felt like this at times.
I open up my reading at Daniel 2 today. The awesome and inspiring story of Daniel standing strong in the midst of a power that threatened to kill him, just because he was a part of a team of people called “wise men” in the Kingdom. This king had the power to destroy and yet Daniel stood up, leaned into God, heard from Him and spoke out. In the face of such opposition, Daniel’s faith and love for God, stirred him to trust God and be faithful in speaking out what he believed in order to save his life and many others. God triumphed. Daniel was promoted and lavished with many gifts because of his wisdom and faith in God. Don't you long for stories like that today? Good trumping evil for God’s glory! Surely the King’s heart and the people who were saved that day surrendered to God, served Him faithfully and everyone saw incredible life change, which caused the whole nation to change because of what God had spoken into the king that day.
Arrrrb (buzzer sound) …wrong. That is not what happened. The very next sentence says,
“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high. When you hear the sound of the horn you must fall down and worship the image” (Daniel 3:1-6)
You know the story. In disgust the King threw Daniel into to fiery furnace because he did not fall down in front of the stature. God saved them, which is wonderful, but I have to be honest, in my lifetime so far, I have seen that is not always the case. So Daniel’s story continues. Kings keep rising, things keep happening, Daniel remains faithful, God is honoured and glorified in his life, but those in power continue to use and abuse their power for their own means, even when “God Encounters” happen all around them. I would love to read Daniel’s personal diaries. I would hope every now and then to hear him say, “How long will these people keep disobeying you, Lord, and doing whatever they like? How many times do you have to reveal yourself for people to get it?” But, we don't know if that’s how he felt. What we do know is that Daniel continued to be faithful, to be strong, to face the hardships, and trust God. He saw some change, but mostly he saw a lot of bad decisions and pain. But it never deterred him from simply following God in the places that he found himself. Being the orphan, torn from his family, he could have whinged, but he didn’t. And maybe we only get this part of the story, because it is the important part, seeing the facts that Daniel simply chose to be faithful, to serve, to love and honour his God.
So do I want/long to see life change in people, break through, more God encounters. Absolutely, yes! Is that my responsibility? Is it even wrong of me to want that? Am I simply called, like Daniel to be faithful, to become more like Jesus, to not be deterred, to be ready to serve with words or deeds in each situation I find myself. This is your story, God, this is your battle, it is your desire that your people would come to you. I can’t change their hearts, only you can. So how do I respond? You call me to live a life that reflects a surrendered, soft loving heart (the serene disciple). Oh, boy do I have a long way to go ... and to continue to pray.....