Listening – Day 3

"They also serve who only stand and wait"
John Milton

Listening, is intimately linked to waiting, but waiting is not exactly my favorite activity. Today’s quote about waiting comes from one of my favorite poems. I don’t know about you, but I love to read about waiting far more than to I like to experience it. Milton wrote this poem, Sonnet 19 (On His Blindness) because as his vision failed, so also did his hopes, ambitions and opportunities in life (or so he thought.) Though the poem does have a nice ring to it, what in the world does it mean? What kind of service would it be if our waiter at the restaurant, just waited. I want my food, my refill and my check in a reasonable amount of time. I am not all in on the guy or gal who is simply hanging out, leaning against the wall or hiding in the breakroom! But then I recalled a man in the Bible whose entire life’s ministry was to wait. His name was Simeon.

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Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Luke 2:25-26 ESV

Imagine an entire lifetime of waiting. Simeon grows up and watches other young men starting their careers, launching out into successful businesses or leading large congregations. His friends may stop by for tea and as they sit and visit, they ask him, “So, Simeon, what are your plans for this year? When are you going to get started on something new?”

But Simeon’s answer was always the same. “I am waiting for God’s Messiah and His consolation for us as His people.”

“But can’t you do something else in the meantime? Isn’t there anything you want to do or places you would like to visit?” But Simeon simply nodded his head and quietly trusted God while he said his prayers at the temple – week after week, month after month and year after year. Decades passed and yet Simeon’s hope did not grow dim and God told him to hang in there, because one day it would come to pass as sure the sun comes up in the morning. Simeon’s life reminds me of the proverb, –Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when the desire cometh it is a tree of life. – Proverbs 13:12

Are you waiting like Simeon? Are there dreams and hopes that God has planted in your heart that seem as far away as the other side of the moon? God has not forgotten you. If He has planted His promise in your heart, He knows what He is doing, and He will be faithful to make it grow in His own time. Just as God did for Simeon, the day will come when Jesus places in your arms all that He has promised you and then, just like Simeon, you will have a song and a joy that no one else could give you! And by the way, John Milton wrote his most famous work, “Paradise Lost” after he became completely blind by dictating it to others. John Milton, like Simeon, was standing and waiting, but He wasn’t just standing around!

Are We Listening?

In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Matthew 26:12 ESV

Many years ago, as we sat through an average Sunday service, our pastor began to preach about the cross. First, he described the terrible beating that Jesus received and how the crown of thorns was pressed down on his head. “Next they took the nails” our pastor went on, “And they drove them through His hands….” he was suddenly interrupted by a tiny voice that pierced the silence of our congregation. “EEEW!” a little girl in the back cried out. The rest of us heard the message that morning, but I believe that in God’s eyes, she was the only person actually listening!

In our scripture passage today, it seems that just like that little girl; only Mary seemed to be listening. Jesus had told them many times that He was going to Jerusalem to die. But only Mary, understood that Jesus would not be with them much longer. Only Mary, who chose to sit at Jesus’ feet listening, did something to give Him her blessing while she still had time. Other people were celebrating and relaxing at the supper, but Mary poured out her alabaster box of perfumed oil on the Master’s feet. Everybody listens to someone. Who are you listening to today? If we want to fill the room with the fragrance of the presence of Christ, it all depends on listening at His feet and then acting on the words we hear!

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Fighting Depression with Thankfulness

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: 
for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. Psalm 42:5 KJV

Some of my favorite memories and best life lessons come from the decades I spent working high in the treetops. This morning as I was struggling with the Winter blues and feeling overwhelmed with doubts, I remembered fighting with a heavy limb directly over my head that I was cutting while suspended sixty feet above the ground. My options were limited and the consequences of failure high, but then my foreman called up to me, “Just get mad at it Pete!” His advice got my attention just long enough so I could focus my energy on the solution and not the problem. A tree limb was not what David was struggling with in today’s verse, but his advice sounds a lot like something my old foreman would have approved of. With every reason to be afraid and a laundry list of problems facing him, David decided that the best place to begin was his own soul. He just gets mad at it! “Hope thou in God!” he cries. “Stop whining! Praising God is what your job is, so let’s get with it” (Okay maybe I stretched the Hebrew a little thin here, but you get the idea!) Sometimes we just have to read ourselves the riot act. Our soul is always looking for an easy way out of problems, but no matter our situation or how long the journey, we have to remind ourselves from time to time that God has not left the scene. He is still worthy of our praise, and able to help us. Our job is to be thankful, even if it means getting mad at the situation so we can focus again and put our trust completely in Him!

I enjoyed this recent devotional testimony from Join Eareckson Tada on how she fights off depression. Her battles are far more severe than most of us are facing and I love her idea of making a list of things to thank God for. We are all fighting the same enemy and there is nothing he hates more than hearing how great our God is. So, “Get mad at it!” if it helps. Join David in telling your soul to get with it! You just might be amazed how God will answer and come to help in ways we never dreamed!