Sep282015
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God is In Control

By Jenna Devotions Leave a comment

 God Is In Control Door Pic

Don’t you just love old doors? The thing about the big ol’ door in this picture is that it’s completely shut tight.  When was the last time you experienced a door closing in your life? What jumps out at me from the last few days of Life Journal readings is that sometimes when a door seems to close, God’s not the One closing it.

This blog will be following the Life Journal reading plan.  Sign up to follow along in the side bar!  Here are the readings from the last 3 days:

  • September 27: Ezra 4; Psalm 113, 127 and Luke 9.
  • September 27: Haggai 1-2; Psalm 129 and Luke 10.
  • September 28: Zechariah 1-3 and Luke 11.

Ok, I was so frustrated with Ezra 4!  Were you? What an unexpected twist to God’s story!  This small band of God’s people had shared a beautiful victory by returning to the Holy Land and rebuilding the foundation for God’s House!  With deep mourning and joy they were moving forward after years of being held captive.  And then in Ezra 4 we watch as a new administration comes to power in Babylon and suddenly decides this idea to restore Jerusalem was never such a good idea anyway.  The new king steps in to put a stop to the rebuilding of the temple. What!? But why? it seems some bent-out-of-shape nosy neighbors butted their noses in where they didn’t belong and lodged a manipulative complaint. But how could this be? After the breakthrough God’s people experienced in chapters 1-3 of Ezra (where they were given a virtual red carpet) this opposition in chapter 4 really sucks the wind right out of the sails.  We were rooting for them!  But when the enemy came along with some very strong intimidation tactics, something happened: God’s people lost heart.  

“…[Their enemies] went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop.  Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”  Ezra 4:23-24

Man shut them down.  But did God?

After a time God sent a prophet to speak to His people; …to these people who’d lost heart for the building of God’s Temple and turned away to the building of their own houses and farms instead. Have you ever found something God put on your heart to do so hard that you figured, God must not really want me to do it after all?  I’ll just go take care of my stuff instead. Let’s listen in to how God responds to this kind of thinking through the prophet Haggai:

“‘Give careful thought to your ways.  You have planted much, but have harvested little.  You eat, but never have enough.  You drink but never have your fill.  You put on clothes, but are not warm.  You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.'” This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,’ says the Lord.  ‘You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little.  What you brought home, I blew away.  Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty.  ‘Because of my house, which remains in ruin.'”  Haggai 1:5-9

The people had turned away to put their own interests first.  God basically asks, “How’s that working out for you?” Not as well as expected?  Maybe it’s because:

Being self-serving can really be self-defeating.

When the officials came to shut the work down in Ezra 4 the people believed the lie: that man was in charge.  But God wants them to see that underneath it all, He’s really in control.  Not man.  Not the enemy.  And not us.

Sometimes trusting that God Is In Control means that we step out in faith through an open door, onto a new journey. Sometimes trusting that God Is In Control means we submit to a closed door and walk away in peace. But sometimes trusting that God Is In Control means we do what He’s asked us to do, even when the door feels like it’s slammed in our face.  Knowing who is closing that door makes all the difference.

In part Luke 9:1-2 we see this:

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”

But later in Luke 9:39-4 we see this:

“A man in the crowd called out, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child.  A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth.  It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him.  I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.

Wait!  In Luke 9:39 Jesus had sent His disciples out with power and authority “to drive out all demons”. Why did they give up on this one?  Maybe it didn’t give in easily and they lost heart? I know I have lost heart in the face of more opposition than I was expecting.

“O unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?  Bring your son here.  Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion.  But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father.  And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.”  Luke 9:41-43

When the opposition in our lives looks big and tall and firm, check with God. Did He erect that closed door?  Jesus wants His people to do what He says.  When opposition to that comes, we shouldn’t be surprised and we shouldn’t let it turn us away.

The Israelites faced a big closed door of opposition as they were trying to do all that God had told them to do. The enemy is really good at making things look like he’s in control rather than God after all. But that is a big fat lie. In Ezra 4, God’s people were compelled by force to stop working on the Temple.  And in Luke 9, the disciples faced a spirit who fiercely resisted their authority in Christ. In both instances, when they saw the door shutting they lost heart and walked away.  But in both instances, they were rebuked for giving up.

I had an experience a couple of years ago where something I believed God was calling me to do came to a standstill as I faced a firmly closed door.  I sensed God didn’t want me to give up though, so I asked God, ‘What do you want me to do?’  I think I was kind of hoping He’d say, ‘Walk away and leave it for a later time’. (See Haggai 1:2) But He showed me a picture of myself standing in a hallway, with a closed door to my right.  And the Lord said to me, “Have you knocked?”  I was sure I probably had, but God wouldn’t ask it unless He wanted me to respond.  So I knocked.  “How many times will you knock?” He asked me.  And then, “And if the door doesn’t open, what will you do next?”  I felt like it was a little bit of a trick question, so I replied, “I guess I’ll try the door knob.”  And in this picture, as I touched the knob I realized the door wasn’t locked!  With the door knob in my hand, I felt the Lord then ask, “Will you give it a push?” and with a trembling heart I said I would if He wanted me to.  But suddenly, in this picture in my mind,  I looked up and saw there were double doors at the end of the hall I never noticed before.  And as I watched, they swung wide open of their own accord!

Not long after this God did open the doors of that situation – wide open.  I was in awe. I think I felt like the people did at seeing Jesus do the miracle for the little boy, “amazed at the greatness of God.” Luke 9:43

I shared this very personal story because the last few days’ passages have reminded me that:

There will be obstacles to the things God calls us to do.  But when opposition comes, don’t loose heart.

Around the same time Haggai was sent to prophesy to God’s people, Zechariah was also sent to speak encouragement to fill God’s people with courage again.  Did they remember who they were?  Did they remember who God was?

“Whoever touches you, touches the apple of my eye.”  Zechariah 2:8b

“The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who as chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!”  Zechariah 3:2

“See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you… “If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and keep charge of my courts.”  Zechariah 3:4 & 7

If we will put God first [“walk in my ways“], instead of our own interests, then He will have us “govern” and “keep charge“.

God has things for us to do in His Kingdom that will make an eternal difference. If a door that God wants you to walk through to do some business for Him appears to close, consider a few of these questions. Have you knocked? How many times? Have you tried the door knob? Is it locked? Or does it just look locked.  Maybe someone just told you it was locked? We don’t want to be pushy, but sometimes God is waiting for us to turn that knob and give the spiritual resistance a little push. He will do the rest. He will do the miraculous.

In today’s NT reading (Luke 11) Jesus tells a story of someone going to a neighbor for bread and being told “it’s late, go away.”  But when they don’t give up Jesus says:

“I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”  Luke 11:8

And then Jesus lays it out really plain for us:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Luke 11:9

Sometimes He just wants us to push a bit at that door.  Who closed it anyway?  If God closes a door, it’s closed. And maybe even locked. But if it wasn’t God that closed that door, maybe we aren’t really done and free to walk away.  Don’t loose heart!

“let Israel say, ‘They have greatly oppressed me from youth, but they have not gained the victory over me.’

“May all who hate Zion be turned back in shame!”  Psalm 129:1;5

The illusion is that if God is in control every door that closes is closed by God.  But God’s control runs much deeper than that.  Sometimes He allows opposition to come against His will. But He charges His people with the job of overcoming. I suspect that part of the reason God allows resistance to His will is so that we can learn to fight for what is really worth fighting for.

Thank you for reading!  I feel led to end each post by praying a scripture and blessing over the reader:

May you see that your struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world… And put on the full armor of God… to stand your ground.”  {From Ephesians 12-13}

May you know that God is deeply present in both your moments of discouragement and decision.  May God’s voice speak to you, guide you, and lead you to follow Him with courage.  Be full of heart!  You are the apple of His eye!  May you trust that God is in control, even when things appear formidable and frightening.  May you push through and see the Hand of God move mightily in those moments.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

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