Monday, August 08, 2016
Wholehearted Part 1
Recently I shared about taking a slow retreat this summer, this is something I do every summer and it is always a time of refreshment and refocus for me before beginning a new school year. The words I came away from this time with were wholehearted and eager.
During the weeks following my retreat, I've continued to think about these two words and consider what they mean to me and my life right now. I'm also taking time to think about how to pass these ideas on to my children as we begin a new school year.
All of this started when I came across 2 Chronicles 15, in case you are not familiar with this passage - here it is:
"The Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded. He went out to meet Asa and said to him, 'Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law. But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them. In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress. But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.'
When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord's temple.
Then he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.
They assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa's reign. At that time they sacrificed to the Lord seven hundred head of cattle and entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul. All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclimation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.
King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley. Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa's heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. He brought into the temple of God the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated.
There was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa's reign."
2 Chronicles 15, NIV
There is so much here that seemed meaningful to me right now:
* Listen to wise counsel: King Asa has his very own messenger who brought him encouragement and a challenge. I love how Asa listened and took this message to heart. I think the hardest thing about this is that we can't accept every message that comes our way as being from God, sometimes the delivery of a message is for selfish gain or not even one that aligns with Scripture. Checking it against the Bible is the surest way to tell if this message is from God and worth listening to. We can of course also pray and ask God, when I have a check in my spirit it is also a reminder to pause and consider if this is a message I need to take to heart.
* Seek and find: The first beautiful reminder is that, "God is with you when you are with him." God is not the one who moves away from me if it feels that He is distant - it is because I have moved and need to relocate much closer to where He is. I want Him with me! And it sounds so easy to have that and really it is. Choosing to start my day with God, staying close to Him, listening and obeying.
We are also reminded that if we seek Him, we will find Him. God is not hard to find, the hard comes with what we place in the way - wanting our own way, setting aside the time, opening the ears of our hearts and minds to receive and the willingness to obey what we hear. This is a promise that if we seek we will find.
The opposite of that is also true in that if we forsake Him, He will forsake us. This is hard to hear but a needed reminder in knowing that we cannot ignore God and expect to receive all the benefits of knowing about Him. Knowing about someone and knowing someone are two very different things.
* The key to distress: verse three starts out with the reminder that Israel had been without a godly leader for quite some time. They were distressed and in that struggle, they turned to God. That right there is the key when we are in distress or feel overwhelmed. Turn to God. Turn to God and seek Him.
A practical reminder I want to take from this is that on days when keeping home and raising children feels overwhelming and I get behind and start to feel like I'm drowning - there is a simple and beautiful solution: turn to the Lord and seek Him. Stop and ask what I should be doing instead of the frantic frazzle I'm letting myself get worked into. Declare a reset day and get caught up in heart and home to begin again.
* World chaos: I can relate somewhat to what Azariah says about the lands being in great turmoil. It is still safe for me to travel about our land unlike the time he describes, but it is safe to say that these are uncertain times we are living in. As soon as Azariah shares about the state of affairs in the lands around them, he finishes that thought off with verse 7, "But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded."
That stands out as such an encouragement for me! When it can be easy to do less thinking it is not worthwhile or why bother, there is exhortation and a challenge issued to not give up, remain strong and keep at the work I've been given. The reward for our work may or may not come on earth, but we can look forward to the heavenly reward for sure. Even if we never see the reward, we can trust God that if our work will be rewarded, we must only be faithful in that work regardless of whether or not we see the visible reward for it.
* Asa heard and took courage: after Asa received this message, he started to take some immediate action. I have circled the words "he took courage" as those are a message I need to hear too. Be willing to do the hard things, don't give up, take courage!
And, this is modeled for us by noting what Asa got right to work doing: removing the idols from many parts of the land and repairing the altar of the Lord. He didn't just pick a simple easy mediocre task - he went for a big one! Asa did take courage and got right to doing what was right. This must've already been on his mind and heart and after hearing this message, he knew exactly what work he needed to be about.
* Asa called a meeting: Frequently when we have gone through something life changing, we want and need to talk about it and share it with others. We need people on our team who will be of the same heart and mind. It helps to process through what we've experienced and how we feel convicted to proceed.
Not only this, but God can use what we are learning and walking through and when we are open to share and talk with others, it can be beneficial for more than just ourselves. I love that we are shown that the number of people had increased largely because Asa was following God and God was with Him. I want that to be true of my life - that people can see God in and around who I am and how I live and that it will draw them to Him.
After being called together, the people worshiped God and offered a sacrifice to Him. They humbled themselves before Him and showed that they were placing Him in the place of authority in their lives. It is a surrender, a submission. As I'm typing this, I am seeing the beauty of slow unfolding in these people - they are surrendered, they listen and follow that up with obedience and yes, they worship.
* Their covenant was known: I find it interesting and noteworthy that these people not only entered into a covenant with God with all their heart, they did it publicly. Did you notice it said that they took an oath with, "loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns." This is an example of letting their light shine and not hiding it under a bushel!
So often, my convictions feel quiet and private, I like this reminder that there is a time to let them be known as well. To not be ashamed of what I stand for and to live it boldly. I also like the fact that in addition to describing their commitment as wholehearted, it mentions that they sought God eagerly. I want to think more about how this looks in my life to live and seek wholeheartedly and eagerly.
* Asa did hard things. As this chapter closes, we are told that Asa deposed his grandmother from her position as queen mother because of an Asherah pole she had made. It might be considered hard to depose the queen mother in any circumstances but can you imagine the enormity of having to fire your own grandmother?
The crowning finish is that we are told Asa's heard remained fully committed to God all his life. If you read the next chapter, it is unfortunate to learn that Asa did not seek help from God in his dying days, but I still find it encouraging to read the account of his life and to know that he was used by God in many ways. How is it that it says he remained committed to God yet we also know he refused to rely on God in the end? I have not reconciled those thoughts in my mind yet.
What a great chapter of Scripture to focus on at the beginning of a new school year. Part two will be some thoughts on practical application!