Today, my prayer is for an emptying of all things that are fulfilling and satisfying. Sound a bit off? Maybe! But I learned something this morning.
Taken from Genesis, the story of Cain and Able, I discovered a difference between serving God and serving beside God; a stark difference between praying for blessing and walking in the blessing already bestowed.
So, lets assume that Adam raised his sons, Cain and Able, with the knowledge of what God required from them now that sin had entered the scene. Only the blood of innocence can abolish the price of the consequences of sin, therefore, a blood sacrifice had to be made by God’s people before Christ arrived on the scene. The boys now old enough to tend sheep and crops, presumably know this well enough. Now, Able tended the sheep, but God provided the resources for the sheep to thrive and live. Able couldn’t provide these things, he could only tend to the sheep, seeing that they were offered what God was providing. Cain, tended crops. Again, God provided everything that the crops needed to grow, Cain only tended to the plants, unable to provide the right soil condition or weather.
The stark difference is that, when it came time to make the appointed sacrifice, Able offered God an acceptable lamb. Cain, instead of also offering an acceptable lamb, decided to take some of his crops before the Lord. God found this unacceptable.
At first, I always believed that it was unacceptable because it was not a blood sacrifice. But this morning, with the help of the study I am going through, I glimpsed a deeper issue. The state of Cain’s heart – in offering the fruit of his labor, he was choosing to place more value on his own work than on what God had already set up as pleasing to Himself. God addresses this in Genesis 4:6-7, where He encouraged Cain to understand that Cain himself was not being rejected by God, but instead of standing in the blessing God had already provided for Cain, Cain wanted his own work to be blessed, to gain him access to God – it was the attitude of works that God rejected in Cain. God called it, “sin that is crouching at the door, desiring to have you,” and told Cain, “you must master it.”
Most of us know that Cain was so frustrated that he filled himself with vengeful anger and took revenge on his brother. The *author of my study says it this way, “It is easier to attack those around us than to admit we have done things in our own way and by our own strength.” And, “When we work for God instead of with God, we lose perspective of God’s character, nature, and perspective. Our motives become distorted and mixed and we become proud of our accomplishments, religious, legalistic and judgmental.”
The thing is, everyone is able to receive God’s acceptance and favor, but it is given on His terms, not by our works, not by being blessed in what we do for Him, but by becoming hungry enough for His presence that we no longer desire to do for Him as much as we simply want to be with Him. A deep desire to be with God leads us to work beside Him, where He is already at work. The indication that you are at work with God is a surprising lack of frustration – though the work He invites you to participate in may be heart breaking and hard.
If you, like me, are experiencing frustration in your walk with the Lord and throughout your busy days, then, maybe it’s because we lack deep hunger for His presence. Something else I am learning, is that when I am full physically I don’t feel hunger and the same is true Spiritually. If I am full of accomplishing things that I have decided will fulfill me and therefore I’ll be satisfied, then I am not going to be hungry for the presence of God in these areas.
Frustration comes in when areas that I have given over to God reveal and clash with the areas that I am still witholding from Him. What we withhold from God we assert our independence from God in. We state, “I got this one, God, just leave it to me.” Frustration kicks in when our independent work in these areas doesn’t measure up and is not acceptable before the Lord. Especially when contrasted with the areas that we have given over to God, or in light of the work others around us are doing and receiving acceptance in because they are operating within the blessing of having stepped beside God. I believe that God has allowed this frustration to be present because it acts like a warning light. Indicating that we are too full, and need to become emptied so that we will hunger for Him.
Something I have learned over the years in my relationship with my Creator, is that in every area in which I ask for more of Him, there is more of me I need to release – to let go of and drain out – so that I can be empty, hungry, for Him. He promises that those who hunger and thirst for His righteousness will be satisfied. But at every turning point with God, more of me is required to be relinquished, more commitment on my part, more separation – habits in my personal lifestyle that need to be broken and replaced with life-giving patterns. When we are satisfied and fulfilled by what is already in us or around us, we don’t feel hunger.
This is why my prayer today is to be completely emptied of all things satisfying and fulfilling. I don’t want to be frustrated by my knowledge of God, I want to live out of hunger to be known by God, to step beside Him and be satisfied in His presence.
*Lisa Bevere in, Out of Control And Loving It!