There's a story of a young naval ensign who took his first cruise overseas. It was his responsibility once they were overseas to command the vessel and head it back toward the U.S. Well, he spouted out commands and managed to get that huge ship sailing back. As they were going out, a seaman walked up to him with a radio note from the captain that read, "My personal congratulations. You completed the exercise according to the book at amazing speed. In your haste, however, you overlooked one of the unwritten rules: make sure the captain is aboard before getting underway." That's the key factor in living the Christian life: make sure God is on board and calling the shots.
We can see this principle in the life of Abraham. God made a marvelous covenant with Abraham and told him what He was going to do, and Abraham believed Him (see Genesis 15:6). But when we get to Genesis 17, God required something unusual of Abraham. And there was something Abraham did in return that we should pick up on—a principle, a prerequisite for our lives.
"God said to Abraham: 'As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised'" (vv. 9-10). Abraham was Semitic, so he knew that every contract must be sealed with some outward demonstration, but I don't think this is what he had in mind. He was ninety-nine at this point; I'm sure he was thinking, Nobody told me old age would be this tough! But he followed through; he obeyed (see vv. 23-27).
Here's the point: we must permit God to speak into our lives, even if we don't like what He has to say to us. It's funny how we gravitate toward certain promises in the Bible, but then we avoid other verses of Scripture that are also promises. We love texts like Philippians 4:19—"My God shall supply all your need"—and that's good, but we shy away from promises like "In the world you will have tribulation" (John 16:33).
That brings us to an even greater point. Some people who call themselves Christians really don't allow God to speak into their lives. They have cleverly devised barriers to keep that from happening. They will read passages they like and avoid those they don't like, read books that tickle their fancy and stay away from the edgy type, or listen to a sermon only until it gets uncomfortable and then tune out.
At what point will we allow God to be God and speak His truth into our lives? Now, He primarily speaks to us through His Word. Does it hurt? Sometimes. That's what the writer of Hebrews said: "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). God's Word often goes for the jugular, doesn't it? Sometimes sermons comfort the afflicted, and other times they're meant to afflict the comfortable.
But we have to allow God to speak His truth into our lives. We can't erect barriers, tune it out, or think it's for somebody else; rather we must say, "God, what are You trying to tell me?" Some people say, "Well, God doesn't speak like He used to." I'll contest that—I think people don't listen like they used to.
Examine your life. Maybe that naval ensign describes you: you're charging through life at breakneck speed, but the problem is that God's not aboard. You need the Captain to speak truth into your life so that you can respond to it. May we be those who permit Him to speak into our lives regularly, and may we portray His mark in our lives as His Word penetrates our hearts.
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