Father Knows Best
This is what the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit (benefit), Who leads you in the way that you should go.
God seems to spend a lot of time in the book of Isaiah warning His people of the trouble they’ll experience if they wander away from Him; but He also reminds them again and again of the benefits of following Him. The question for the people of Israel then and for us today is, Has God proven He is trustworthy?
Like little children, we may choose to obey God to avoid punishment and experience rewards. While these are certainly strong motivations, God appeals to us to respond in a more mature way to enjoy a rich relationship instead of just the consequences of punishments and rewards. He reminds us of His role as our Redeemer who paid a high price to forgive us, and He tells us again about His character as a God of infinite love and blinding holiness. By His actions and His nature, He has proven that we can trust Him.
Trust implies relationship and interaction. God will lead us as we stay connected to Him. We’ll be attentive to the “still small voice” of the Spirit as He whispers to us, and we’ll respond when He reminds us of passages of Scripture that give us guidance. That’s what it means to be led by God, and when it comes to the direction of our lives, our Heavenly Father knows best. But if we are too busy to pray or too preoccupied to pay attention to the Spirit, we’ll miss His leading.
The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and his compulsion is our liberation.
In our world today we often resist any authority or anyone directing our lives. We could in many cases rewrite the title of today’s devotion to say, “I Know Best.” And how often do we find ourselves struggling, reaping the consequences of poor choices and digging for ourselves a pit of hopeless despair. The Bible connects being a child of God with being led by Him. The psalmist in the 23rd Psalm says, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me besides still waters, He restores my soul.” These blessings come to those who allow God to direct their lives. Certainly these are incredible benefits but they cannot alone be our motivation for following God. The Christian life is not just a life of reward when we do good nor a life of punishment when we fail to do good. Because many seem to believe that this is the pattern so when things aren’t working out as desired or life becomes challenging, they immediately begin to question their conduct. Please hear me! I’m not suggesting that our actions and conduct don’t matter nor am I suggesting that there aren’t consequences from our choices. What I am saying is that God is much greater than just the One who rewards or punishes us based on our conduct. Those who live to the best of their ability a godly life sometimes suffer greatly and those who often stray away from God will many times experience the benefit of God’s blessings. Neither blessing nor suffering then are measurements of our relationship with God.
You may ask then, “What then is the measurement of my relationship with God?” Let’s see what God has to say about it.
“For all who are allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading again to fear [of God’s judgment], but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons [the Spirit producing sonship] by which we [joyfully] cry, “ Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies and confirms together with our spirit [assuring us] that we [believers] are children of God. And if [we are His] children, [then we are His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory.”
As you read this passage, did you notice the measurements of our relationship with God. Let me sum them up. “All who are allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit of God….” This means we are listening to His voice and direction. We are coming before Him and asking for His will and way in our lives. We are consulting with Him before we make any decision and following His advice. We are placing our desires alongside the Scriptures and seeing if they are in agreement. This gives us not a fear based performance but a child who lives to bring joy and pleasure to its Father. We ought not live by measuring our lives by fearing the punishment of God nor seeking His reward. We ought to live because we so love Him who first loved us and desire to bring Him joy, honor and worship with our way of living. Our relationship is summed up in our identity far more than it is in our performance. “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons (and daughters) by which we joyfully cry ‘Abba Father’.” Finally Paul tells us that as the children of God, we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, sharing His spiritual blessing, if indeed we share in His suffering.” There it is. Christ the beloved Son of God enjoyed the incredible blessings as a son, but He also experienced great sufferings. Neither of the two defined His relationship with the Father. What defined His relationship was His willing obedience and trust in the Father and the Father’s response in declaring, “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” In both blessIng and suffering, trust was the key.
No matter where you are today; whether in a time of blessing or in a moment of suffering, make trust in God your choice. Remember that correction is not punishment and blessing is not always approval. Being led by the Spirit is a matter of hearing and following the voice of God irregardless of the circumstances. Those who may be suffering cannot simply choose to accept it as punishment for wrong behavior. Sometimes suffering comes from doing what is right. Consider, for example, Daniel who was thrown in the lion’s den for praying. Those who are living the blessed life ought not take for granted that they are being approved by God for we read of those in the Bible who were enjoying the blessings of this world but were not pleasing to God.
No matter what your circumstances may be, look to see if the Presence of God and His voice is guiding you. We read in the book of Job that he experienced great blessing and great suffering. But what makes Job’s story so powerful is that he sought the presence of God in both blessing and suffering. The children who have grown to know their Father find that they can trust Him in every situation, in the good times and in the difficult times. Their trust isn’t based on outcome but on the faith of the One who walks with them every step of the way. May we all as the children of God cry out in trust and faith, “Abba Father!”
Dr. John Thompson