Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts: Once I was having trouble with spiteful thoughts against someone who had been causing me much anguish. I asked the Lord how on earth could it be possible for me to love this person as myself. The Lord said, “By My love being shed abroad in your heart.” I then asked that He pour out His love in my heart and laid the subject aside, thinking He would accomplish this without any further effort on my part. Days went by and the spiteful thoughts persisted, so I approached Him again about the matter. This time He said, “Today is the day of salvation. Draw near to Me and I will draw near to you.” I stood condemned and without excuse, a hypocrite, having walked contrary to His will. I vowed to seek Him and His strength, to seek His face continually. I saw this as an absolute necessity; for apart from Him I could do nothing but sin.
Procrastination and hardening the heart are one and the same: I have heard it said that we need only be willing and that God will work obedience in us when He feels we are ready. This is absolutely not true. It is just a form of procrastination, a subtle way of shunning our responsibility. The Word says, ‘Today if you hear His voice,’ and ‘Today is the day of salvation.’ To tell ourselves we are waiting for God to work obedience in us is to use the very Person whose command we refuse to obey as an excuse for our not obeying. Perhaps we could wait for the Lord to pull the right strings if we were puppets; however, being servants, we are required to accept responsibility for our thoughts and actions, and to govern ourselves accordingly. We are required to prove ourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. To him who knows to do good and does it not, to him it is sin.
The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar: Many people procrastinate obedience out of fear of being vulnerable. Assuming it is safer to be in control, they postpone obedience and wait for circumstances to meet with their approval. Hardening their hearts, they delude themselves, and adopt the attitude that God doesn’t hold them accountable for their stubbornness. Ignoring that He disciplines them for their good, they try His patience by letting their fear of vulnerability override their fear of Him, and, like the children of Israel, they never enter His rest.
Now is the acceptable time: For whatever reason one is disobedient, it still remains that for every temptation, there is a way of escape; for every fear, there is sufficient love in the heart of God to cast it away; for every commandment, there is sufficient grace to help in time of need. It still remains that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. It still remains that those who hunger may partake of the true manna, and those who thirst may drink from the fountain of living water. It still remains that if we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.
Now abide faith, hope, love, these three: Will He who gives delivery close the womb? If we ask for a fish, will He give us a stone? The children of Israel feared He might. Feeling vulnerable to the hazards of the wilderness, they tried to entice Him to prove Himself, prove that He would be true to His Word. Faithless and unbelieving, they grumbled each time a problem arose, each time circumstances didn’t meet with their approval. And although this is still the habit of some today, we who believe rejoice in the very thing Israel questioned, —the integrity of God. Accepting that His character is above reproach, and thereby making it impossible for Him to lie, we who believe simply obey His commands, trusting that He would not require of us more than we are able to bear, and that His love would not allow Him to lead us in ways other than for our good.
Rather than succumb to the temptations to grumble and complain, we who believe strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for our feet, anticipating that the rigors of discipline will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. We are neither disheartened, nor are we intimidated by circumstances. On the contrary, — armed with the conviction that He who promises a land flowing with milk and honey would never leave us to the unpredictability of the wilderness, we press on toward the mark for the prize of His high calling in Christ Jesus, as if in defiance of circumstances.
Shining as lights in the world, our lives inherently proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son, as through Him He demonstrates the integrity of His character by fulfilling in us His exceeding great and precious promises; to the extent that we have the very substance of all that we hope for and the evidence of the things unseen. Inheriting these — these promises made by One who cannot lie — works spring forth from faith; endurance emerges, fashioned from hope; and the law of Christ blossoms to fulfillment in love.
Embracing this wonderful gift, this great salvation from the Father of lights, we who believe count as loss anything and everything, that we may know Him who loves us and be found pleasing in His sight. Bowing to the name of His Son, our gratitude becomes visible in obedience; obedience is forged into discipline; discipline ripens into maturity; and maturity rests in the bosom of God. This we believe — this we proclaim — His lovingkindness is better than life.
Jon David Banks, God’s most unworthy servant