“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12, NIV
I like to pretend I’m perfect. Not for my benefit, because I know I’m far from a perfect person, woman, wife, mom, ministry leader, friend . . .
Not with other people either because I truly believe that openness and vulnerability are the only way we can help one another through this thing called life.
I mostly like to pretend I’m perfect with God. When I sit down for my quiet time, I rarely pray, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV).
Instead, I usually pray something like, “God, it’s so great to spend some time with You. Please meet me here and teach me. Encourage my heart. I could really use some comfort and lifting up today.” In other words, “Tell me You love me and are proud of me and promise me blessing.”
This week I’ve been writing about how God’s Word is His intimate and personal revelation of Himself, a testimony of God’s activity in people through history, His love letter to us, and our daily bread. God’s Word is all those things. It is where I go when I need encouragement, comfort, peace, and a reminder of His love and it’s totally okay to ask God for help when I need it.
But, God’s Word does one more thing. It unsettles my heart. It interrupts me and my “perfect” plans. It calls me to account. It bruises my ego sometimes. As Lysa TerKeurst says, it “steps on my toes.” It shines a light on the dark places of my heart and reveals the hidden sins.
Sure, I’d rather just pretend I’m perfect and ignore the quiet nudging of the Holy Spirit, but I’d be missing out on God’s plans for me. In the vocabulary of child rearing, I’d be asking for perpetual positive reinforcement and never accepting discipline. Getting gold stars on my spiritual behavior chart is fine. Sometimes, though, in order for me to grow more Christ-like and thus become a more usable vessel for God to work through, I need a “heavenly time out” or a “Holy Spirit grounding.”
That’s why I totally understand where Asa is coming from in 2 Chronicles 14-16. Asa was a king of Judah who “did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 14:2, NIV). When the nation faced an enemy that was too powerful for them, Asa cried out to God.
God answered Asa’s desperate plea for help by totally routing the enemy. Then, to further encourage Asa, God sent a prophet with an encouraging message:
The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. . . But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your hard work will be rewarded (2 chronicles 15:2, 7 NIV).
I’d take that message from God any day! Asa had gotten it right. He was a good king with a heart for God. When he needed rescue, he cried out to God and was saved. As a result, God blessed him with encouragement and promises that he could hold onto in the tough times.
So far, so good.
Still, something happened in the later years of Asa’s reign. He faced a new enemy and instead of asking for God’s help again, this time Asa did something that seemed totally logical. He made a treaty with another king and they fought the enemy together.
So, God sent another prophet to Asa, this time with words that cut to the heart. He said:
Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand . . . Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war ( 2 Chronicles 16:7-9 NIV).
Ouch. Those aren’t feel-good words of encouragement for a hurting king. Asa was totally willing to accept encouragement and God’s promises in the past, but he wasn’t so willing to accept conviction. This time, “Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison” (2 Chronicles 16:10 NIV).
Later on in his reign, Asa became ill with a disease in his feet. Scripture says that “Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians” (2 Chronicles 17:11 NIV).
Asa never accepted God’s discipline. For the rest of his life, he placed his trust in himself or in other men, but he didn’t turn to God for help again—not even when his diseased body became a daily proof of his need for God’s rescue.
How we react to the conviction of God’s Word will determine God’s ability to use us. Maybe Asa could have defeated those enemies if he had asked for God’s help. Maybe his kingdom could have been at peace through the rest of his reign if he had repented. Instead, Asa chose a life of perpetual war and unending disease all because he couldn’t react to God’s Word with humble submission.
I don’t want to be like Asa, stubbornly clinging to my sin just because I don’t want to repent and respond to God’s convicting words.
In James 1:23, it says, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (NIV). God’s Word should have a transformational power in our lives. When He holds the mirror of His Word up for us and we see our sinful reflection, we shouldn’t ignore what we see and pretend we look perfect. Instead, we should be willing to let Him give us a heart makeover. It may hurt a bit and sting our pride. Yet, when we allow God’s Word to change us from the inside out, we grow more and more like Christ and are better able to reflect His love to those around us. When they look at us, they will see Him.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King