Leanness or Overflowing?
Scenery in the Heart
During a cul-de-sac dinner a few weeks ago, a brother from another city was asking for input about a possible job relocation that would put him close to some other saints. A brother from the Church here asked him, “What would be hard about that for you?” He answered that going from the West Coast to the Midwest would be a slight challenge, as well as moving from the country to the city. He mentioned his children were concerned that they might lose their goats.
(Note: This is one of those situations where asking a question in response to a question is so much more important than simply answering the question. Our motives for doing something or not doing something tend to be the real issue, especially when all the options seem externally “moral” and could easily be argued from scripture to be God’s will.)
The brother here pointed out the absolute necessity of not allowing preferences in relation to geography, culture, temperature, job market, etc. determine where we will live. There are those who would hate to leave a place because the scenery (mountains, ocean, etc.) is so beautiful. But for those who are hearing God and following hard after Jesus, the beautiful scenery is IN YOUR HEART, not in your mind. Even so-called, “good things” like preferences about the amount of Kingdom activity can’t sway us. For example, “I want to be in the middle of God’s house” may seem like a Godly desire, unless God wants you to be grunting out the labor of bulldozing in some city where there is no house yet.
(SIDE NOTE: Three possibilities of where to move in relation to the House of God…1) Bulldoze where you are. 2) Join other people bulldozing. 3) Join yourself to an existing house.)
The Sediment that Deafens
If you are hearing God, you can live in the worst part of town where drugs are sold on the corner or in a castle like David. It just doesn’t matter. But, putting anything before God will prohibit you from hearing God. Lay everything on the altar. God will direct your path. Lay all preferences down for His Will. If we will lay those things down and have open hands, then, and only then, can we hear God’s voice as to what He would have us do and where He would have us go.
In the dialog with this brother, the scripture was brought up that says, “He gave them their request, but sent thinness (leanness) into their soul.” The brother could demand having goats for his children, but it could cost him and his family the inheritance of a hundred fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. Beyond that, when we give our hearts over to things, it’s like sediment build-up in a hot water tank. Over time, the more sediment that builds up, the less capacity there is in that tank for hot water—which is its original function. That is like our hearts. Even if there is a burning flame of fiery passion (hot water) to begin with, the sediment of worldly clutter can slowly build up to where the capacity for hearing God is less and less until you’re not hearing God at all, though you may think you are.
At this point in the conversation, one of the brothers involved turned to everyone, clearly changing the focus to include all present. He said, “Right now in this circle, there are at least 20 different serious situations where these issues are at stake. There are probably 100 less serious issues, but still related. The issues don’t have to do with motives for moving to another city since you all have that one down. The issues have to do with wanting to do something or have something to the point that you are willing to manipulate and connive to do it or have it. Outwardly, you may be painting it pretty, but inside your motives are selfish and have nothing to do with the Glory of God. It can include everything from the landscape of your yard to some relationship. And there are 20 serious issues where leanness of soul will result if you refuse to die to those things, if you refuse to lay it down at the foot of the cross. “Good and perfect” gifts do come down from above, but only for those who will lay their own desires “to have” at His feet so that He can choose to give where He pleases. If you will not lose your life, you WILL NOT find it.
And you’ll pay by not having the capacity to speak the word that sustains the weary, to effect a situation for righteousness sake. You may still be “alive” (the water heater filled with sediment still has some limited capacity to heat water) but you will never really know God the way you were intended to. What Jesus said of the Pharisees is that they had “NO ROOM” in their hearts for His Word. For them the sediment had completely filled the place that was meant for Jesus. And every misplaced priority, every unsanctified affection, every self-indulgent hobby, every inner craving for entertainment OR security OR respect OR human friendship, fills up some of the EXTREMELY LIMITED room inside of our hearts to know God for real. Our capacity to experience fellowship with the Godhead is directly related to how much room we have available in our hearts. And how much room is available in our inner man for Divine Life is directly related to what we have given our affections away to!
The Father Seeks Worshipers
To put it another way: “The Father seeks worshipers.” If He just sought “singers” then it wouldn’t matter what anybody frittered their lives away on. As long as they sang Him some songs for X-number of hours a week, all would be well. But it’s not like that. The Father seeks those, who by an inborn new nature, disdain earth and its hollow “cotton candy” life and stand in longing awe as they stare at the Father and consider His marvelous ways. There is no other kind of worshiper! So, when our shallow hearts get enamored with evil junk or even with “trivial” junk, it is idol worship! Our inner man just paid homage to the 3rd dimension and something inside of us just became a little hollower and our soul just became a little more “lean.” You can’t be a worshiper of the created shadow life and a worshiper of the Eternal God at the same time. As John said: “If any man loves the world, the Love of the Father is not in him.”
Motives: the Battleground of the Ages
This discussion is so important. The Proverb writer says, “Guard your HEART for it is the well spring of LIFE.” God said that the greatest commandment was to Love God with ALL (100%) of our heart.
The heart (our motives and affections) is where the battle of the ages is being fought. Giving our heart to a french fry, a computer, a rose bush, a relationship (whatever your thing is… and, if you’re honest, there probably is at least one area that your heart is tempted to go out to) is such a tragic mistake and can bring such loss so quickly.
What makes issues of the heart so tricky is that they can seem so easy to hide and they are so difficult to touch. No one wants to go around asking, “Why are you doing this.” No one wants to be the motivation police. But our motives are where so many battles are lost or won. Our motives determine whether we will progress with God or whether we’ll stalemate and die. When someone questions an activity, you can give a thousand reasonable and right-sounding answers. But the real question is, “Did the Spirit motivate you to do this? Does this really have the progress of God’s Kingdom in the hearts of men as its goal or is it for your good pleasure or comfort or peace?”
When we spend our energy manipulating and twisting to get our wills accomplished, we miss so many of the opportunities around us. We become so preoccupied with our own agenda, we fail to see the good works that God has prepared for us before time. What tragedy.
Some Related Excerpts from previous e-mails, etc.:
All that grieves is but for a moment. All that pleases is but for a moment. Only the Eternal is important. A trial comes. It will pass. In a few days, or months, or years, we shall have forgotten it. The way we MEET that trial —our inner attitude towards it—belongs to things that are ETERNAL. All that we are, all that will ever be, in us and in others, in the entire universe, past-present-and future, is effected for all eternity by how we RESPOND to temptations, or trials, or victories, or defeats. The issues themselves are irrelevant. The ETERNAL: how we respond in our inner hearts—those are the only things that matter. All else will pass and be forgotten and trivialized by time and space. It does not seem so now. We feel, ‘If I could only have ____. If only this problem would go away. THEN, ____.’ Yet we must be reminded of what we know. The pleasures pass. The trials, though they seem long and difficult, are a vapor. If we could have what we desire, or shed what we disdain, we would, WITH THAT ATTITUDE, only suffer dreadful loss in the Eternal realm. The Scriptures say, ‘He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.’ Let us look to Him and invest in the Eternal, not that which only passes away.”
This first thought is devastatingly simple: What you find your life’s pleasure in, what you need and want in order to be truly happy, the place where you find your comfort and strength…this is the place where you must also find the salvation for your soul. It is either Jesus, or it is an idol.
Frankly, most people either find their comfort, identity and happiness in evil vices, or their occupation, or man-made religious activities, or some sport or hobby, or in physical family ties. Some combination of these “drug addictions” allows the average unregenerate person to “be happy” and contentedly comatose in this fallen world. These are nothing but DRUGS, illegal substances that dull the senses to the REALITY that might be theirs in Jesus and His Kingdom. Yet most people, instead, harden themselves with the substitute “high” of these “drug addictions.” Sports (as an escape or vice, or affection and conversation consumer), or job or family… are for many no different than worshipping idols. Why? Because looking to these things for happiness, strength, peace, bonding, or identity… is to turn away from Jesus.
“No man can serve two masters.” One can either be self-seeking, or Jesus-seeking… but never both. Those that “love the world” (and the “things of the world”) are “enemies of God.” Those that “live for pleasure” are “dead even while they live.” What DO we find our comfort and identity and happiness in?
People might know you as one who knows a lot of things about Jesus, about His Kingdom, but rivers of living water gushing from within? NO WAY, if your heart is captivated and given to and enamored by things of this earth. Cups of water don’t result in gushing rivers. Unless you find yourself saturated with Christ, you will never have rivers flowing from the inner man, as Jesus promised you could. You could! He said, “to all who believe, rivers of living water” (John 7). To all who believe! For those who have faith, there really is every opportunity to get more than just one drink of water at a time. Water by the cupful will never accumulate enough overflow for you to share with other people. It doesn’t work that way. If you find yourself empty handed at work or in your neighborhood or even in your own bedroom at night when you’re trying to pray, it may well be because you’re seeking after things rather than finding Christ as the fullness of your identity, as the fullness of everything that the Father could ever possibly give.
Leanness or overflowing: It’s your CHOICE!