Why? – John 12:27

“Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came!” (John 12:27, NLT).

Recently, I’ve been reading Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why. The premise of the book is that successful leaders influence loyalty to a product, movement or idea because they communicate why their organizations exist. According to Sinek, knowing your why is more important than  knowing what you do or how you do it. And, knowing your why will help you know what to do and how to do it.

So, apply this on a personal level. What’s your why? Why do you exist? Why do you do what you do?

In a conversation in John 12 that Jesus had with some of His disciples concerning His impending death, He seemed to be very aware of His Why. He knew exactly why He existed and why He did what He did.

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Life or Death? – Jeremiah 21:8-10

life-or-death“This is what the Lord says: Look, I am presenting to you the way of life and the way of death. Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and plague, but whoever goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you will live and will retain his life like the spoils of war. For I have turned against this city to bring disaster and not good—this is the Lord’s declaration. It will be handed over to the king of Babylon, who will burn it down” (Jeremiah 21:8-10, HCSB).

King Zedekiah of Judah was depending on Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt to defeat Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Nevertheless, King Zedekiah sent one of his officials, Pashhur, and the priest, Zephaniah, to the prophet, Jeremiah, to ask him to foretell what the outcome of the Zedekiah’s rebellion against Babylon would be.

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Give Me That Old-Time Religion – Jeremiah 6:16

Old-Time-Religion“This is what the Lord says: Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16, NLT).

God, through the prophet Jeremiah, chided the people of Israel and Judah to repent and warned them of the terrible consequences that awaited them if they refused. He admonished them to follow the tried and true ways of God’s laws, which would lead to rest for their souls.

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Divine Symmetry – Romans 8:26-28

divine_symmetry“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:26-28, NLT).

We often try to comfort someone who is suffering or grieving by quoting a phrase in vs. 28: “all things work together for good.” In the middle of tragic circumstances these words may provide little consolation to the one who is hurting. And the sentiment may even seem to trivialize one’s loss or grief (It’s almost like saying be happy because this bad thing happened to you.)

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Be the Gospel – Acts 26:27-29

“King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe. Then Agrippa said to Paul, Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily? I wish before God, replied Paul, that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am—except for these chains” (Acts 26:27-29, HCSB).

In the book, The King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight contrasted how the gospel was presented and what was the message preached by the apostles with how we present the gospel and what we preach today.

The Apostle Paul’s presentation of the gospel to King Agrippa in these verses provides a good example of this contrast.

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Holy Ferocity – Acts 20:20-21, 27

“I did not shrink back from proclaiming to you anything that was profitable or from teaching it to you in public and from house to house. I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus…for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole plan of God” (Acts 20:20-21, 27, HCSB).

These declarations are from the Apostle Paul’s farewell address to the elders of the church at Ephesus (vs. 17-38).

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Escaping Your Comfort Zone – Acts 8:4-8

“So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the message of good news. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds paid attention with one mind to what Philip said, as they heard and saw the signs he was performing. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed, and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city”  (Acts 8:4-8, HCSB).

Because of the persecution of the church in Jerusalem, the believers were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

Among those who were scattered was Philip, who went to a city in Samaria. Philip proclaimed to the people in that city that Jesus was the Messiah and performed many miracles among them and many people believed his message and were baptized.

The church in Jerusalem had become a megachurch and was adding new members faster than they could count. It seemed that just when things were going great and church growth was exploding, a great wave of persecution targeting these Jewish Christians caused them to scatter throughout the region.

What seemed to be a great success story had now become a tome of tragedy!

But, had this extensive persecution never been perpetrated against the Jerusalem Christians, who knows when they would have got around to fulfilling Jesus’s great commission to “be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (vs. 1:8).

God sends each of us on a mission for Him. But sometimes where God is sending us and what He wants us to do when we get there is, perhaps, beyond the boundaries of our respective comfort zones.

God’s plans and will for us may be located outside the box…of our own plans and wills.

Sometimes it becomes necessary for God to nudge, push, or even shove us out of our comfort zones through bad circumstances. Then, our discomfort helps us escape from our own zone of comfort!

In driving us from our comfort zone, it may be that God is sending us to do something quite different than what we planned to do, or even thought we were capable of doing.

That was certainly the case with Philip. Philip was appointed to help administer the daily food distribution in the church in Jerusalem. But in Samaria Philip was conducting a full-blown preaching-healing-deliverance ministry!

God advanced Philip from a behind-the-scenes administrative role to front-line ministry!

So, what is God sending you to do?

Accept His call, even if it requires you to escape from the comfort zone of your everyday existence.

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you'” (John 20:21, HCSB).

Finding God’s Will – Part 2: Why God Reveals His Will – Psalm 25:6-11

<< Part 1: Looking For God’s Will

“Remember, Lord, Your compassion and Your faithful love, for they have existed from antiquity. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my acts of rebellion; in keeping with Your faithful love, remember me because of Your goodness, Lord. The Lord is good and upright; therefore He shows sinners the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. All the Lord’s ways show faithful love and truth to those who keep His covenant and decrees. Because of Your name, Yahweh, forgive my sin, for it is great” (Psalm 25:6-11, HCSB).

The explanations the psalmist provides in Psalm 25 about how God reveals Himself and His will to us are so perceptive and penetrating that it merits another post to explain the reasons why God reveals His will.

Fortunately, Psalm 25 provides explanations for both How and Why!

In Part 1 we noted that how we look for God’s will is to turn to God, trust Him, and wait for Him.

And, we concluded that God reveals specific details of His character and His will to people who are desperately looking for Him. In other words, when we depend on God, then He will show us His way for us to follow.

But you might be left wondering why God would want to bother with providing a personal revelation of Himself to you and me?

Why go to all that trouble?

The psalmist provides a powerful theological explanation for God revealing Himself and His will to His people in these verses: God is good!

The psalmist contrasts the faithful love of God and His goodness with the depravity of human beings and their need for restoration.

The juxtaposition of remember/not remember/remember demonstrates that God’s consciousness (remembrance) of His own everlasting love and mercy is the reason He acts beneficently toward His people.

Therefore, people’s sins are forgiven (not remembered). And only then can God act on behalf of His people (remember) who have humbled themselves and depend on Him.

In fact, it is God’s reputation (His name) that is at stake in the forgiveness of people’s sins.

God’s reputation–His essential nature or character–is closely connected with His actions toward His people.

Because people are sinful and God is good, He must impute His goodness by forgiving our sins!  

It’s as if God is compelled by the force of His own nature to reveal Himself and His will to His people!  

“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

Finding God’s Will – Part 1: Looking for God’s Will – Psalm 25:14

“The secret counsel of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He reveals His covenant to them” (Psalm 25:14, HCSB).

Ostensibly, what most of us want to do most is God’s will!

While we have good intentions, we don’t really know how to go about doing God’s will–or at least put into practice the patience, perseverance, and obedience required to do it!

But for those really, really looking for God’s will, Psalm 25 provides some practical guidance and apt advice!

While the psalmist doesn’t furnish us with a formula or step-by-step methodology, he does identify a strategic approach to looking for God’s will based on reverence, adoration, and veneration for God.

The psalmist begins by advising us to turn to God, trust in God, and wait on God. When we turn to, trust in, and wait on God, then God will forgive our sins and teach us truth because of His faithful love for us (vs.4-7).

And God will reveal His will to us and definitely direct our lives when we realize our dependence on Him and seek His will penitently and humbly: “He shows sinners the way” (vs. 8) and “He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them His way” (vs. 9).

God’s way, His secret counsel, His will, is revealed to people who trust in Him and are faithful and obedient to Him.

Looking for God’s will is an act of worship by people who depend on God!

While God reveals Himself and His general will to us through His Word, the Bible, God makes it personal for us by revealing specific details of His will and attributes of His character that are appropriate to our need and situation.

So, if I were to pack into just one sentence what the psalmist is telling us about looking for God’s will, it would be this: God reveals His will to people who are desperate to know it!

My pastor says that unfortunately, the approach we more often use in looking for God’s will is: “I’m going to do this, this, and this and, by the way, God, will you bless it?”

But the psalmist reminds us that looking for God’s will is so critical that we must be willing to wait on God to reveal it to us.

And when God’s will is finally revealed to us, then God protects us with the assurance of doing the right thing and helps us remain in His will: “May integrity and what is right watch over me, for I wait for You” (vs. 21).