Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Last Sunday was Father's Day. Since my son left for camp a couple of weeks ago, we celebrated a week early. So when actual Father's Day came around, it was just another Sunday filled by my responsibilities at Radius, and then a drive out to my son's camp for a visit. Except, it wasn't just another Father's Day. It was the first Father's Day in my 39 years without a biological father. My dad passed away back in January and I've been working through dealing with it ever since.
I had time to prepare before he passed. We knew it was coming, eventually. But as I'm sure you know, you never really know how you will react until it actually happens. We had a few really good talks before he died and I think we were in a good place in our relationship when it happened. My only regret is that I didn't get to know my dad the way so many other people in his life knew him. However, I'm one of only two people that knew him as dad. Though we weren't close, he was still my dad. We might not have said "I love you" very often, but we both knew it was true.
So sitting in gathering on Sunday and listening to Blake talk about the story of David, I was trying to figure out if I was the kind of person that was seeking my dad's approval, or not. And if not, then who's approval do I seek? Am I too focused on gaining the approval of people? Or, do I seek God's will above all else?
David was the least of all his brother's. He was the one who did the work that no one else wanted to do. And while I am sure he complained at some point, from all outward appearances, he just did that work without question. Whatever David was called on to do, he did...that kid wanted what God wanted. He understood that God is ultimately in control. He knows that God's will for his life far surpasses his own will for his life.
I don't see much of me in David. I have my own goals and dreams. I have my own vision of my future. I have things I need to do and things I want to do, and I look for ways to move my life towards those things, hoping that they are in line with what God wants, but really more concerned about what Rob wants.
But here's the thing...in those times when God's will and my will are in alignment, life changing things happen; career moves, financial blessings, new and exciting experiences and opportunities. When I flex my will over God's, it usually ends in regret, shame, failure, and guilt. So wouldn't it stand to reason that if you are going to seek anyone's approval it should be God's? I mean, if we are to spend eternity with him as our king, shouldn't his will for our lives take priority over a promotion, a relationship, or that thing that you hope no one ever finds out about you? If you have experienced God's love, even once in your life, can't you agree that that feeling beats out anything and everything else in your life?
We strive to gain the approval of our friends and co-workers. We strive for the approval of our significant other. We even strive for the approval of our pastor. But how often do we consciously choose to do something for the sole purpose of gaining God's approval? I don't know. Probably, not as often as we would like.
So how do we go about changing this?
Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.
What does that even mean?
I think the Book of Mark paints a pretty vivid picture of what this means.
...“It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
Oh. Yeah, that stuff. That's the ugly stuff. The stuff we hide on Sunday morning. The stuff that doesn't go on social media. So if this is the stuff that lives inside us, then how could we ever hope to do God's will?
Well, the cool thing is that we can still do God's will. Thanks to the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been cleansed of these wicked things. God loves us so much, and cares so much about us experiencing his blessing that he removed the barrier between us and him...the barrier which we created when we chose to turn from him.
We can guard our hearts by being more conscious of what's going into our eyes and our ears. The world wants to fill us with lies about who we are and what our purpose here is. Now, I'm not going to tell you what you should or shouldn't watch, listen to, or otherwise allow to plant itself in your brain. That's between you and God. But, the more pure your mind is, then more pure your heart will be. The less noise from the world that we allow to penetrate our hearts, the clearer God's call will be on our life. Replace the lies with truth, and the truth (as we've heard) will set us free.
I don't think I spent much time actively seeking the approval of my father, but I am certainly guilty of seeking the approval of people instead of the approval of my creator. That needs to change.
How about you?