David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “Solomon”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience (2 of 3)

Throughout the Old Testament God is clear about the results of obeying His commands: things will go well. “Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you,” God said through His prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:23b NIV). Here Jeremiah was reminding the Hebrews of God’s promises in Leviticus 26 in return for their obedience. In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses wrote: “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess” (Deuteronomy 5:32-33 NIV).

Several years ago one of our church small group members described an epiphany he experienced while driving. “If you stay within the speed limit,” God told him, “you remain under my covering of protection. But if you speed, you move out from under that covering.” Speed limits have been imposed in an effort to protect folks from the consequences of irresponsible driving; God’s precepts have been given to protect folks from the consequences of sin. Remain obedient and things will go well for you.

When Hannah disobeys us then asks why we’ve disciplined her, Mary and I sometimes paraphrase what the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, regarding the Fifth Commandment: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’–which is the first commandment with a promise–‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV). The alternative, we tell her, is for us to eat her. A little hyperbole never hurt anyone, but it sometimes leads Hannah to paraphrase back to me Paul’s next line: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children . . .” (Ephesians 6:4a NIV). Smart aleck.

Obedience to God’s commands also leads to power. In Deuteronomy 11, Moses instructed the Hebrews “If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow–to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him–then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you” (Deuteronomy 11:22-23 NIV). And in Deuteronomy 28:1, God promised to raise Israel “high above all the nations of the earth” as long as they heeded His voice and obeyed His commands. In Deuteronomy 28:9 (NIV) Moses reiterated this truth: “The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him.”

As we keep God’s commands as grace-covered children of the New Covenant, as we yield ourselves to God’s authority, as we love Him and fear Him, we open our hearts and our lives to receive His unlimited power for His Kingdom, His glory, and our joy. As Jesus said to his apostles before His arrest, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:12-14 NIV). And later He promised the disciples, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24b NIV).

Obedience to God’s commands also results in prosperity. “Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses,” David told his son, Solomon, before he died. “Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go” (1 Kings 2:3 NIV). In the Second Book of Chronicles, the Chronicler described Hezekiah, one of the most upright kings of Judah, as a man who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 29:2 NIV). And as a consequence of “doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God,” Hezekiah flourished. “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:21 NIV).

Obedience to God’s commands also leads to long life. After Solomon asked God for wisdom instead of long life and wealth, God told him “if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life” (1 Kings 3:14 NIV). And again, the Fifth Commandment says “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Deuteronomy 5:16 NIV). Whenever Hannah questions the wisdom of what we’re asking her to do, Mary and I remind her that obedience leads to things continuing to go well for her. Then we throw in Bill Cosby’s famous line for punctuation: “I brought you in this world, and I can take you out” (Bill Cosby, Himself).

(continued)

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 4: Joy in Trusting God [2 of 2]

In my quest to buy myself out of the hole of unfulfillment I’d dug for myself, I fell for every get-rich-quick scheme that evil could conjure: multi-level marketing, a militant goal-setting program on cassette tape, gold coins, penny stocks, the stock market, even my job.  And with each failed attempt to make my million, jump off the hamster wheel, and get on with my writing career, God kicked out another pier holding up my fantasyland of trusting in money.  Isn’t it ironic that “In God We Trust” is printed on every paper bill and etched on every U.S. coin minted in recent history?  It should be a reminder that money is only a tool, a servant, as P.T. Barnum declared, a means to a greater end as long as it’s framed in the proper perspective.  But I didn’t comprehend that truth; I built a road paved with the green stuff in all its fickleness, power, and empty promises.

The road I constructed meandered from greed to false hope to despair.  It doubled back on itself, leading me from fear to depression to grief.  It spun in ever widening circles of mistrust in myself, other people, and, ironically, in money.  I developed a deep disgust for people working in the financial industry because each one I’d ever dealt with had led me down a path of financial loss.  And financial loss equated to loss of hope in the dream which tried again and again to germinate in my stony heart.  I had lost all trust, especially as I watched in horror as the Great Recession swept away hundreds of thousands of dollars I’d saved over the course of my career.

As I writhed from the shock of the financial meltdown and its gut-wrenching effect on my 401K, and as frustration grew over the stagnation of my job’s financial reality and potential, God propelled me into slaying my lust for money and convinced me to place my trust squarely in Him once-and-for-all.  “God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him,” the apostle Paul promised the Christians living in first-century Rome (Romans 8:28 NIV).  Not some things.  Not most things.  All things, both good and bad.  And when God released me from the shackles of self-delusion and opened my eyes to the connectedness of the past and the promise of a joy-filled, prosperous future, I accepted His permission to step out in faith and step into His will.  As King Solomon urged in Proverbs, I finally submitted:

 

  Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

  in all your ways submit to him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

–Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

 

After years of false security and unfulfilled promises, the spirit of mammon finally spit me out.  That’s when God picked me up at Fully Alive, shifted my eyes away from the love of money and the bitterness of unforgiveness, and refocused them on His love, His abundance, and His security.  “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians. “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1).  In my new freedom I took off my yoke of slavery and relocated my trust from the burnt-out tenements of mammon to the unlimited glory of the One Who created me.  I was no longer a slave but a free man, and not only a free man but a son of the One True God.

“Trust that I am right now creating these paths and opportunities for you,” God had told me at that men’s retreat in January 2011, “Enjoy and be filled with joy!  This is the path.”  Like Abram trusting God’s call in Genesis 12:1 to “leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you,” I took the leap of faith and began to trust.  I mean, really deep-down-in-my-heart trust God and His promises.  But it wasn’t easy.  In fact, because of the decades of my reliance on money and the false hope of a secure future based on its sandy foundations, it took me another year to relinquish the hold it had on me, and still another year to jump feet-first into the river of trust.  I divorced a steady six-figure income and the promise of a six-figure retirement to re-marry the One who “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV).  Like Abram did, I “left as the Lord had told” me (Genesis 12:4).  I’m still holding my nose as I’m being swept away from my old self by the stream of living water, but each “coincidence,” each kiss on the cheek from God the Provider, each unexpected financial blessing inches me toward complete and total trust in the One Who “created [me] in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for [me] to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).

The psalmist wrote in Psalm 91:1-4:

 

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High

    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my

    fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare

    and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,

    and under his wings you will find refuge;

    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

 

God’s faithfulness is my shield and rampart; He never gave up on me even when I gave up on Him.  He never let me go even though I let Him go.  He does hide me under His wings.  The God Who created me and predestined me according to His plan “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11 NIV).  I can trust that “he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).  Finally submitting to God and trusting His will has changed my life forever.  I trust myself again.  I trust God again.  And in that trust is an ever-abiding joy.

 

Copyright ©2013 by David C. Hughes

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