Monday, 14 June 2021

T To Your Health

Father Knows Best

by Guest Columnist,  Rebecca Luttrell Briley, PhD

 


 

I have been one of those people who has not always put God be­fore my desires. Loving my husband Kyle more than life itself, I prayed desperately for his healing from a malignant brain tumor. We had always been “good Christians.” We served the Lord with gladness, so if anyone fit the bill for miracles, surely it was us. When he died anyway at the age of thirty-five, I felt stunned and unprepared for the reality that followed. My mother had warned me that I had to be will­ing to let him go, but how could I fabricate such sacrifice? I didn’t think I could live without him; I knew I didn’t want to. God, however, wanted me to know that, wonderful as Kyle was, God himself was all I needed. Putting anyone or anything ahead of him was a form of idolatry. God admits he is a jealous God, but it is because he wants the best for us. Why would we want anything less?

When one grows up in church, learning Scripture, and trying to follow all the commandments, one may, albeit unintentionally, develop a sense of entitlement to God’s promised riches: it’s only fair, quid pro quo, good behavior deserves reward. For example, if I study hard, I’ll get good grades; if I get good grades, my parents will love me, and so on. But the love and value of knowledge becomes tainted when awards become a goal expected in exchange, and the uncon­ditional acceptance of loved ones becomes conditional all around. Ultimately, as sinners, redeemed or otherwise, we cannot please God in and of ourselves. Like Paul, we may wallow in our wretched unworthiness, trying to earn God’s favor, if we could only figure out what he wants.

I admit I did not truly understand a key verse in relation to this conundrum for many years, which may have contributed to frustration in my younger years, but re­cently its truth has crystallized, enlightening and enabling me more to know fully, even as I am fully known (see 1 Corinthians 13:12). That verse is: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Who wouldn’t claim this as a favorite verse? God, the Great Santa in the Sky, the original Daddy Warbucks, will give us what­ever we want! Sports cars, checking accounts, fame, popularity - the list of what we think we need, let alone want, is endless, competing only with our expectation of instant gratification. And when we don’t get what we think we so richly deserve—when God’s teller window seems closed or our spiritual ATM PIN denied—we blame him for reneging on his promise. In fury and disappointment, some even go so far as to write God out of the will, so to speak, for not keeping his commitments.

We tend to overlook the first part of the verse, though, in our greedy rush to grab and grasp: Delight yourself in the Lord. What can that mean? Surely, it’s just a minor obstacle on the way to our getting everything on our wish list. Surely if God will only give us every little thing we want, we will certainly be delighted with him. But the delight part comes first. We need to give something if we want something back. And the next part, in the Lord, defines what that something is, if we can discern what it means to delight in the Lord.

I have heard countless stories of people who prayed long and hard for something, and when they didn’t get it, became so bitter, they gave up on God entirely. The fact that what they often want is reasonable and even commendable only increases their disappoint­ment: the life and health of a sick loved one, for example, or the necessary funds to support some worthy cause. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills; couldn’t he spare just one metaphorical one? Didn’t we pray? Doesn’t God delight in the prayers of his people? When delight becomes an obligation, though, the means to an end, it negates itself. Any time we are required to do something, even if we don’t mind doing it, all spontaneous joy dissipates. Romantic poet John Keats, speaking on poetry, wrote, “Unless it come as nat­urally as the leaves on a tree, it should not come at all.” The same may be said for melding our desires with those of the Lord, will­ingly bending our will to his. Another Psalm directs, Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain (127:1, NIV). Poems, houses, God’s delight—we may acknowledge this advice, but adopting it as our M.O. may be easier said than done, at least it has been in my experience.

But other Scriptures help us dis­cern what pleases God. Micah 6:8 says: “He has showed you... what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV). Sounds simple, but even the best-intentioned will admit how difficult even one of those directives is, particularly when we try to accomplish them in our own power. John 14:15 explains it clearly: “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (GWT). It is not for us to read it the other way around, for example: “If you keep my com­mandments, you love me.” And Jesus made it as clear as possible that the greatest commandment is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, NIV).

The love of God has to take priority, and that requires putting God and his will first in our lives. I don’t know how many times I have been confused when God, “Didn’t come through for me,” when I thought I was doing what he wanted. It was only when I let go, waited on the Lord, and let his Spirit lead, that the clouds cleared and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, truly permeated my life (see Philippians 4:7). Looking back, I see now that some human craving was tainting my requests; removal of that bacteria purified my prayers, renewing my heart and spirit to de­light in God rather than myself.

The key to my understanding came when I acknowledged that my insisting on my way, stubbornly clinging to what I thought was best, was actually evidence of my sense of superiority—over God. Thinking we know best and therefore what we want is what God must also want should be the first clue we are on the wrong track, especially if what we want runs counter to any element of God’s Word or character. When I think I know best, then I am putting myself above God; this is the most obvious insignia of arrogance, an attitude God abhors: The LORD detests all the proud of heart (Proverbs 16:5, NIV).

It is only when we truly comprehend that God’s ways are better than anything we can imagine—that anything this world has to offer is less than dregs when compared to what God has in store— that we can begin to actually delight in him and allow his Spirit to dominate. When we concede, cheerfully and confidently, that what he wants really is what we want, then he can do what is best, and we can find ourselves truly delighting in him and getting what we desire. It makes perfect sense, but it’s like any 5,000-piece puzzle: Until we see the finished product, we can’t see how the pieces fit together. The more we allow the Spirit to lead and the sooner we get out of the way, the easier and faster it is to make that first step a constant way of life. It is then, and only then, that we will truly receive the desires of our hearts.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books, though it grieves me to watch the sympathetic self-made million­aire destroy his life because he hitched his dream to the wrong star. But Fitzgerald prepares us for his downfall when he describes his unfortunate hero thus: “The truth was that Jay Gatsby . . . sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God . . . and he must be about his father’s business, the service of vast, vul­gar, and meretricious beauty.”2

When we make ourselves our own god, we blindly reach out for the wrong things, and the end—destruction—is preordained. Had Gatsby exchanged his green light for the Light of the World, his dreams would have come true. Only by putting God first, delighting in him, can we ever attain the desires of our hearts.


 

  1. The Great Gatsby (New York: Scribner Classics, 1996), 98. 

This article is excerpted from a chapter in the recently released book,  Our Favorite Psalms  (Arvada, CO: Healthy Life Press, 2016). For more information, see: www.healthylifepress.com.

About the Author: 

REBECCA LUTTRELL BRILEY, PhD, received her doctorate from the University of Kentucky in English and drama. She earned her MA in creative writing and her BA in English education from the same university. She is the published author of several academic books and articles, as well as a collection of poetry, Bean Si Bones, and other creative works. Having lived and taught all over the world, she is currently working on her memoirs, a novel, and a play or two. She is the chair of the English Department at Midway Uni­versity in Midway, Kentucky, where she lives with her two cats, two foster kittens, and a graduate exchange student from Turkey. Her guiding Scripture is: To live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21, NIV).

Columnist: Dr. David B. Biebel

DBiebel headshot

 

Dr. Biebel has authored or co-authored twenty books, including one bestseller: If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad? and the Gold Medallion winner, New Light on Depression. His recent releases include Making God Visible and Away in a Manger: The Christmas Story from a Nativity Scene Lamb's Point of View.


His goal is to help people attain and retain optimal physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational health (personal wholeness) so they can love the Lord with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbors as themselves. He founded Healthy Life Press (www.healthylifepress.com) to help new authors with something to contribute in this arena to get their works into print.

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        To Purchase these or any other of Dr. Biebel's titles click HERE

 

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