While reading Exodus and Leviticus, I find that the procedures for offering sacrifices and the exact dimensions of the tabernacle kind of make me want to skim and pick up the pace. Likewise, in the New Testament, certain terms have a vague meaning in my mind, making it hard for me to relate and apply scripture to my problems and my heart. Words like "righteousness," "sexual immorality," "falling away," "grace," "meek," or "sanctification," kind of swirl these nonspecific emotions and distantly related images in my head. If I don't stop to really think about what these words mean, I end up missing the full impact of a passage.
For instance, I recently read a parable Jesus told about how receiving the Word of God is similar to how different types of soil might receive a planted seed. Jesus talks about how some people don't fully receive his message for various reasons: Satan's direct intervention, difficult trials, or desiring the pleasures of this world too much.
The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.
I've read that passage before, and in my preconceived, skim-through-the-passage-today kind of thinking, I almost missed a little note that I had jotted in the corner a long time ago. The note was from a sermon and simply said: become 'offended.'
Immediately, a little alarm bell went off in my head connecting the word "offended" with the language Jesus used to warn John the Baptist about not losing faith due to doubt, fear, or God not stepping in to save the day in the ways and times we expect.
An arrow had been drawn from my note "offended" to "they quickly fall away."
So what's the connection? Why'd I draw that line, and what do these passages have in common that can help me get through an exceptionally difficult time?
I decided to dig a little deeper.
I found out that the original Greek word for both "offended" and "fall away" is skandalizo.
One of the definitions opened my eyes to the relevancy and the freshness of God's word for my life that was hidden under the dusty English translation. I just had to brush it off to see the message clearly.
skandalizo: to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey
This is the root of my trial.
The temptation comes to me over and over-- in 1,000 different painful, annoying, depressing, and difficult moments-- each new one adding upon the others to build a pile of utter despair. In my waiting for deliverance, I'm consistently tempted to distrust God's good purpose for my life.
Last week, I met a woman entirely by chance who prayed for me. She did not know me, and beyond knowing I was struggling with illness and painful family issues, she was entirely a stranger when she sat down beside me. But in that prayer, she prayed for me more eloquently and powerfully than many who know me well. She prayed for peace, rest, and freedom for me and for my family. And anyone who knows me well can attest that these three things are the very things I have longed for, cried for, and prayed for-- year after year.
It was this woman, this godly woman, who reminded me of God's promise: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." --Isaiah 55:9
His ways are higher than my ways in this trial. The darkness is completely under his control and power. The storm lasts only as long as his purposes require, and not a second longer. In the meantime, I must determine to not fall away, to not get offended at Jesus, and to not stumble or distrust and desert my Lord because of persecution.
God, though I don't understand your ways in my life right now, I trust you. I love you.