Here’s an abstract and counterintuitive thought– empty yourself out and find yourself filled up. Some people would say that this is just a mental effect similar to when you empathize with somebody, you find yourself being blessed with the opportunity of the experience and companionship. The Bible goes further than the common shared experience found in empathy. If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. – Isaiah 58:10-11 I can get into the post-modern nonsense of “who is the hungry” and “what is the desire of the afflicted” but that would take too much time. Rather I want to simply say– forget giving a lot, just give it all. Stop holding back because you worry about what happens to you when there’s nothing left. This applies to our money, time, resources, but just as important, our hearts, minds and souls. I know it’s human nature to worry about such things because of economics, emotions and ego, but I want you to give it a shot. Just imagine what would happen if you went beyond what was asked of you and poured everything you received and everything you earned for the sake of something, somebody other than yourself. What would you see? What would you hear? More importantly who would hear from? If you can’t imagine what type of favor this unleashes into your life from God, I just want you to imagine your relationships. See your legacy on the very people you interact with. When you pour yourself out onto them, I am not telling you to flood them with your problems, so don’t say I told you to do that and it caused a rift that tore into a chasm. When you pour yourself out, you are making somebody else the priority over your own desires, wishes and needs. You’re doing this without reservation or any expectation of reciprocation. This is not the same as a compromise. This is giving everything you got despite what it is going to cost you. (Please don’t use this to cheat on a spouse and call it Biblical). When you do pour it all out for somebody, you would see life change, for you and for the person you poured yourself into. This would change the dynamic of any relationship entirely and ultimately redefine what you knew or had in that relationship. I know some of you have been hurt in the past while doing this, but don’t let that keep you from the favor that comes with trying it anew, but also don’t be foolish either. What would happen if you applied this to your business, professional life, school? Yes, you would be taking a huge risk by showing all your cards and playing them as you said you would, but look the reward God is offering for this type of obedience–He says, “you will be like spring waters that do not fail.” I haven’t even gotten to the best part of emptying yourself yet. These were just appetizers. Here’s what really fills you up: “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.'” God’s presence is your favor and He will be found by you as you pour everything out. Let’s pour ourselves out an re-imagine possible.
And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves….Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. – Daniel 10:7, 12 The picture that is being painted by Daniel in this chapter is simple: he had images, dark blurry visions he didn’t quite understand. The biggest question he had was what he was supposed to do with those vague inclinations of things that he sees and fills his heart and mind. In verse 2, Daniel says he was so distraught over what he was supposed to be doing with these visions that he went into mourning. He continues on to say in verse 3 that the “mourning” caused him to stop eating– that is, he deprived himself of eating nothing except to keep himself alive so that he can inquire of God and spend time inquiring of God the meaning of the vision. I can probably guess or tell you right now that some of us are deeply distraught, to the point of mourning, about the vision of our own futures. There is so much thrown into the air and left up for grabs and we just don’t know with any amount of certainty or even confidence whether we’re jumping into loops of fire for the vision God puts into our hearts or if it’s some bad joke. The good news is that there is a way to get a moment of clarity. This moment of clarity only comes when you stand firm and hold the course of seeking God’s will through the uncertainty. We learn from Daniel 10:12 that God is listening from the very onset you humble yourself enough to seek God for an answer to the vision He has for you. In fact, not only does God hear your words, your pleas, your cries, He responds to them. He is sending you messages back. I know for many of us, we just can’t see it. We just don’t get it. We just don’t want to accept the message. That is not uncommon. Some of us have even received a moment of clarity from God and shirked back from it. I would even say that some of us even fled the scene of the vision and the place where God sends His answers and we wonder why we can’t find God’s favor where we are hiding. That is not acceptable! Daniel wasn’t blessed because he was more holy or pious than the rest of us. He was blessed and favored by God because he humbled himself and asked God for a moment of clarity and was brave enough to stand and wait for God’s answer. When everybody else fled the scene of God’s response, he was the only one left to be favored. This morning I want you to humble yourself and ask God for clarity. I pray that you and I are bold enough and brave enough to face God’s response because you will need His favor to live into God’s vision for your life.
In the movie, “Wizard of Oz” the cowardly lion says, “What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk?” Just the cowardly lion has multiple iterations of the word, when we think of the word “courage” we find ourselves questioning the intrinsic value because all of the connotations and implications surrounding the word. But we know that the “right” partner is somebody who embodies a visible courage and an invisible faith charging his or her own courageous action. Today I want to radically redefine what an act of courage is. The reason I want to do this is because we often overlook practical, everyday courage that can be embodied by those of us who are seemingly weak by the world’s standards. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? – 2 Corinthians 11:29 What does this statement made by the Apostle Paul mean? Isn’t this just empathy? Isn’t it just jealousy? It may seem that way; but I dare you to ask whether you ever had these feelings and thoughts and done anything about them. The reality is that we probably felt these things at some point but was petrified from the thought of them and did nothing. So we are cowardly and constantly not courageous. In the Book of Hebrews we learn Jesus was so courageous that he embodied humanity to walk in our shoes and amongst our sin and through the world as we experience the fallenness of it. This becomes our model of courage, to embody the weakness of those feeling weak and to walk with them and to journey through life with them. I am not saying we need to be weak for them, but I am saying we need to embrace the weakness of them and work at it with them. This is everyday courage. It is a courage that loses itself in the lives of people and finds strength to persevere through it together. Courage is the anger rising out of love for another person which does more than allow somebody make bad decisions. It is the move towards intervention in spite of feelings being hurt. We been there, standing in between friendships and somebody’s self destruction, we need to do something and be the “right” partner for them in their circumstances. The cowardly lion concludes his monologue, “What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage!… What have they got that I ain’t got?” If you can’t find yourself walking with the weak around you, you have no courage. If you can’t be angry enough to correct somebody close to you, then you have no courage. I write this for people like me, who don’t care enough and don’t want to be bothered by other people on most days– have courage and be the “right” partner for somebody who desperately is crying out for one.
Somebody asked me who was this man “Obadiah” that the Book of Obadiah carries as it’s namesake. I didn’t even know there was a book in the Bible called Obadiah. So I encourage you people who read this blog, open your Bibles and start reading, there’s a lot to discover by the grace of God. Secondly, because I don’t think I ever stopped to check in with Obadiah, I write this of an incredible warning we must take to heart about the apathetic nature of middle-classdom, living in America. What do I mean practically– remember when you were younger and watched the bully beat up a kid and did nothing about it because you didn’t want to get involved? Yeah, that’s where it starts. Because you probably, very recently in fact, probably witnessed injustice and did absolutely nothing about it! You probably had your reasons for it– you were sick, you were tired, you were running late, you had no power to do, etc, etc. So enters Obadiah, a prophet called not to Israel but to Edom.
On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. – Obadiah 1:11
We learn here that if we do nothing, we might have as well been the person committing the atrocity. That’s right, talking about something to raise awareness is nothing. Minding your own business is guilt. The notion of minding your own business and “not judging” is a laughable farce created to help people sleep at night. It’s a devilish tool employed to to be satisfied with the world to blindly sleep through a lifetime without asking why or what could be done. To this notion Obadiah writes in verse 3, “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?'” We are no different than anybody else. In fact, one of my mentors used to say this to me all the time when I’d get filled up with an arrogance of indifference, “we’re just one paycheck away from being on the other side.” Now, this goes further than just doing nothing about an injustice. You can say that by doing nothing to help somebody struggling through life is as unjust as doing nothing about an injustice. How could you watch somebody struggle and not help? I am not talking about watching a baby struggling to walk here, I am getting at watching over and over a person, a friend, a family member struggle to get on his or her feet and through no fault of his/her own. Yet we refuse to get dirty ourselves. We believe for some reason we are too good and cannot be bothered by somebody else’s struggles, I mean we have our own struggles to deal with! At the end of the day, we will be called to answer upon our actions and our in-actions because an inaction is the act of not acting. Just as we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr today, I want to encourage all of us, from the greatest to the least of us, the importance of doing something. Don’t sit by idly watching because it’s not your business or because you’re too busy or to weak. God could have easily have done nothing, but He did something and that saved us. You too can be an instrument in the work of salvation that Jesus offers the world. Stop Doing Nothing.