Thanks for Asking!

Our company had hired John from a nearby competitor, and as he and I got to know each other, we discovered we knew some people in common, including Tom. I had met Tom a few times at industry events, but John had co-labored with him daily as managers for the same employer. “What I really respect about Tom,” John began, “is the fact that, no matter how many people are in a meeting, he is unafraid to admit that he doesn’t understand something, and he will continue to ask questions until he does.” Until this point, I could be counted among the timid souls who preferred to sit quietly in ignorance than to risk the embarrassment of revealing it, but I immediately decided to take courage from this story of Tom’s honesty and henceforth to pursue a matter until I understood it.

Encouraging His disciples in His final hours, Jesus said, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”1 We are left to wonder about the blank stares, the less-than-convincing head-nods, and the length of unknowing silence before Thomas audibly confessed what surely all silently wondered: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”2 He had been one of the quiet disciples, but in this moment the world needed one willing to set aside personal pride for eternal truth—the world needed Thomas. For Jesus’ answer to his question has echoed for millennia a truth-claim that will never cease: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”3

We call him “doubting Thomas”—a moniker well-earned, though perhaps a bit judgmental—but I think we could just as easily think of him “honest Thomas.” Understanding and certainty were so vital to him that he stepped into the momentary leadership vacuum, speaking courageously and seeking clarity, not content to be without it. And aren’t we glad! Yet Thomas will learn more—much more—in the next two weeks of his life, for as important as it is for us to seek truth and understanding, we must also reach the point of trusting what we do not see or cannot fully comprehend. It’s called faith—not just any faith, but faith in Jesus, who, as we now know, is the way and the truth and the life. We come to the Father through Him. (Thanks for asking, Thomas!)

Father, thank you for hearing us when we seek to understand you and for speaking truth to our soul—your word is truth. Strengthen us to live this life by faith in your Son who loves us and gave Himself up for us. In His name we pray. Amen.

1 John 14:3, 4
2 John 14:5
3 John 14:6

Lifelong Learning

James Thornton is a friend of mine; we attend a Bible study together, and we work out at the same fitness facility. One day I mused to James, a captive audience on the treadmill, “Isn’t it frustrating, the fact that we learn so many important things late in life, things that would have made life so much better had we only known them sooner?” A seasoned smile spread across his face as he slowly shook his head. “No,” he replied, “it tells me God has more things for me to do here, so He’s still working on me. He’s teaching me new things for a reason.” James was right: God never stops molding us for our good and equipping us for His purposes.

Through a life of strife, Jacob shows us the reality that coming to love and trust God takes time, and being transformed into His image, even longer. It is not natural to set aside our will for God’s ways, rather it is the tireless work of His Spirit that changes us through lifelong care. This is to the glory of God and to our favor, for it illumines the depth of sin from which we have been saved and magnifies the beauty of His patience and grace. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,”1 wrote Peter. The pace of change that frustrates us as being painfully slow, whether in us or in those we love, is to God quite purposeful—He molds each of us at a tempo that turns us safely to Himself.

To Jacob, God had been the God of his fathers, but not his own. So God waited as Jacob, over time, suffered under the consequences of his own decisions and limited power. Having run from Laban and now toward Esau, both of whom he had cheated, Jacob began see what truly mattered—the futility of his ways and the character of a holy God. “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac … I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant … Save me, I pray … for I am afraid.”2 God remained true to His promises, and after Jacob had reconciled and found favor with his two adversaries, he set up an altar3 and named it not after the God of his old name, Jacob [“deceiver”], but the God of his new name, Israel [“he wrestles with God”]. The God of his fathers was now the God of Israel, too.

Father, I confess you transform me not on my timeline, but yours. You know what you’re doing in me, and what you’re doing in me is good. Thank you. Be my God, and help me rest in you as you transform me into the likeness of your Son. In His name, I pray. Amen.

1 2 Peter 3:9
2 Genesis 32:9-11
3 Genesis 33:20

Committed

When she taught high school, my mother had one particularly unruly student—you know, the one who pushes the limits, seemingly daring others to reject him, while inwardly hoping someone won’t. His antics were unacceptable, of course, so Mom occasionally made him stay after school in detention, where he challenged her even more. “But I saw something in him,” she recalled years later, “and I wasn’t going to take the bait.” Over time, he began to trust her acceptance, and his behavior started to change. Following graduation, he pursued what would be a productive, lifetime career in the armed services, and when he came home on leave, he would visit my mother and thank her for not giving up on him.

Just as He did for Abraham and Isaac, God promised rich blessings to Jacob, but what his father and grandfather humbly received in trust, Jacob selfishly seized by treachery—helping himself to the blessings, while rejecting the God who gave them. It is the kind of brazen behavior that infuriates us and compels us to sever relationships now, completely and forever. But “God cannot be tempted by evil,”1 and He will not compromise His character by any antics we can devise, however plentiful or diabolical they may be. We can wrestle against Him all we want—as did Jacob—but His love for us will not wane; if anything, our combativeness only magnifies His patience and faithfulness. So, Jacob wrestled alone with God2, an unavoidable moment of truth. Their struggle lasted a nighttime, but reflected a lifetime, and when daylight broke, so did Jacob—his hip wrenched and his name changed. He was no longer Jacob (deceiver), but Israel (he struggles with God), because he had “struggled with God and with humans and [had] overcome.”3

Self dies hard. We all wrestle with God, to different degrees, perhaps, and each of us in our own way. So, it is by God’s grace that we eventually come to see the self-centered life for what it is—“hostile to God”4 and “contrary to the Spirit.”5 Yet God remains true to His people and committed to His promises. “The Lord your God is God,” said Moses to the people gathered before him, “he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”6 God sees something in us—a creation in His image—and though we struggle with Him, He remains unchanging in character and unwavering in love. We overcome because He never gives up on us.

Father, thank you for being true to your word. May we cease from our struggles against you, and rest entirely in you, for you are good to your people and faithful to your promises. Amen.

1 James 1:13
2 Genesis 32:24
3 Genesis 32:28
4 Romans 8:6
5 Galatians 5:17
6 Deuteronomy 7:9