Beyond His Hand

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Patrick Wood shares that sacred remembrance allows us to move beyond the ability of God’s hand to the substance of His heart.

We often have a strange tendency when it comes to answered prayers: although we may witness God’s hand at work in awe-inspiring ways, we can miss the deeper purpose behind these wondrous acts—the Person of God Himself. Or to put it another way, we become more enamored with what He can do than with Who is behind the doing.

This is nothing new for humankind. Consider, for example, the Israelites’ situation as they wandered through the desert in exile. Among other provisions, God had just freed them from slavery, parted the Red Sea, and supplied manna with the flavor of honey and wafers. You’d think this would be enough to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8), not to mention all-powerful. Yet missing the comforts of their life in Egypt, the skeptics wanted more—namely, meat, and specifically, quail.

So the Israelites demanded meat from God, not because they established confidence in His kindness, but because they were still testing His ability, as though it should remain on trial (Ps. 78:18-19). Thankfully, God stuck with His people. He provided quail and more—water from the rock (Ex. 17:1-6), supernatural healing (Num. 21:9), and clothes that wouldn’t wear out (Deut. 8:4). But once again, His intention was not simply to shower the Israelites with awesome manifestations but to help them meditate on His nature.

That way, when circumstances would call for a provision they hadn’t yet witnessed—such as the ability to defeat giants in the Promised Land (Deut. 1:28)—their faith would already have been bolstered by God’s previous actions. They would recognize the overarching truth that Yahweh’s the kind of God with whom all things are possible. He’s the kind of God who keeps His promises, so why wouldn’t He help them now?

Sadly, this wasn’t their train of thought. Instead, the Israelites failed to trust in the consistency of God’s character. As a result, the ability to defeat the giants and take hold of the Promised Land would be given instead to the next generation (Josh. 11:21). Such is the tragic outcome when we witness God’s work but overlook Him.

Yet here’s the good news, according to Scripture: There is greater hope for you and me because we have the Holy Spirit living within, equipping us not to repeat Israel’s mistakes. Not only does He help us stay on track in a general sense, but more specifically, He brings to mind those things God has said and done in our lives and increases our understanding of them (John 14:26). This aspect of His ministry especially lends itself to the practice of “sacred remembrance”—the discipline of intentional thanksgiving, which will safeguard us from losing hope whenever we face obstacles. We do this by periodically reviewing all the awesome things God has done for us personally, whether in the company of fellow believers or privately through writing or prayer.

Sacred remembrance revives our confidence in the Lord’s character, strengthens our faith, and empowers our prayers.

Sacred remembrance shifts our attention from focusing only on what God has done to also appreciating who He is.

Psalm 105 serves as a template, which highlights God’s major acts of faithfulness toward Israel as a nation. Incidentally, the psalm begins with “Thank the Lord” but ends with “Praise the Lord!” In the book of Psalms, these phrases complete one another; in a similar way, sacred remembrance shifts our attention from focusing only on what God has done to also appreciating who He is. Likewise, you might find it encouraging to write your own version of Psalm 105.

For instance, create a timeline of key prayers and desires God has fulfilled over the years. Think of them as specific “landmarks” that once solidified your confidence in His character. These acts of His goodness are much more than momentary “fireworks”— short bursts of care that quickly come and go. They’re statements about His enduring nature: He is your provider, and always will be.

There’s a reason the apostle Paul says our requests of God should be made with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6)—genuine gratitude takes us into the courts of praise. And once inside, there’s something about beholding the One on the throne that puts a lot in perspective, including what we think and pray about.

Sacred remembrance will help you move beyond the ability of God’s hand to the substance of His heart. And when you arrive there, you’ll be even more inclined to come as a beloved child and reach for His hand simply to hold it— which has a way of empowering whatever yours touch.

The article was selected from In Touch magazine.

 

 

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