Monday, January 20, 2014

Practicing What You Preach

Ezra was leading a spiritual revival among the people of Israel. By an edict from the ruling King of Persia, Israel was being released from their slavery in Babylon and allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of God. But all along the way, they were being ridiculed and attacked by enemies who were not pleased to see them return to the land. A land now occupied by those who did not believe in the one true God. Ezra knew that they had been given permission by the highest authority in the land, but that didn't mean that the people were going to make it easy on them along the way. And Ezra had made it known that God would be their true refuge and strength. But now it was time for that testimony to be put to the test. Ezra would be transporting priceless articles for the temple some 500 miles from Babylon to Jerusalem. He would be walking right through enemy territory carrying silver and gold, bowls and vessels that were certain to draw the attention of those who would be more than willing to lighten their load. But Ezra had a dilemma: He had made a claim to the king that was sure to be tested. Here is what he said:
For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horseman to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, "The hand of our God is for good on all who seek Him, and the power of His wrath is against all who forsake Him." Ezra 8:22
In other words, we've got to practice what we preach if we really believe it is true. Either we trust God to be faithful or we look for other means to help us along the way. What a dilemma for Ezra that is equally as relevant in our lives today. Here we are in the Bible Belt of America and we can recite verse after verse of things we claim to be true. But what is our response when God calls us to practice what we preach? Namely, those impossible situations in life that may seem foolish from the world's perspective (kind of like walking into enemy territory with a buffet of priceless artifacts). For example, do we trust God's ability to redeem the marriage of an unfaithful but repentant spouse? Do we sacrifice an advancement in our career to pursue a life in ministry? Are we willing to trust that God can comfort those we love who suffer from an incurable disease? In the end, is there anything in my life that is just too big for Him to handle that would require me to go my own way. Or do I truly believe that He is faithful to carry me through? Lord, help me to live a life that truly trusts in you. Give me strength in those moments when my faith is put to the test. When I am called to practice what I preach. No matter what I face, help me to keep my eyes on you. Help me to live out my faith in both word and deed as I proclaim: "You alone are my Rock and my salvation; my stronghold, and in You I will not be greatly shaken." (Ps62:2)

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