As I mentioned yesterday, in 2014, I wrote the book The Pleasure of His Company, which was easily my best. It is a devotional on connecting with God’s heart.
I shared several posts from the book a couple of years back. We received our best responses from you regarding this short series. So, for a few days, I’m sharing from that book. Then, as always, we will pray.
Today’s post is entitled:
Yesterday we saw God as a seeker, always searching for those who have hearts that want to know Him. The reciprocal must be true, as well. In any true relationship, there can only be fulfillment if the pursuit is both ways. When it is, the seeking becomes an exciting adventure and leads to the joy of discovery.
Judging by kids, there’s something born into our hearts that makes us enjoy the pursuit. Whether it’s a treasure hunt, an Easter egg hunt, or hide-and-seek, the buildup of anticipation and expectation adds a sense of mystique to the process, and the search becomes an adventure.
I started playing hide-and-seek indoors with my daughters, Sarah and Hannah, when they were young. Early on, they weren’t good at it. I could always find places to hide where they couldn’t find me - under a blanket, in a closet, under a table. Wanting them to enjoy the game, however, I would make small noises to reveal my hiding place. They would fling open the door or jerk back the blanket and shriek for joy as I acted bummed out because they’d found me. They knew, of course, I wasn’t really upset, just having fun. I actually loved it when they found me.
God plays hide-and-seek with His kids, as well. And He, too, loves it when we find Him. “If you seek Him, He will let you find Him,” said Azariah, an Old Testament prophet, to Israel (2 Chronicles 15:2). The people listened to Azariah and sought the Lord, and, just as God promised, He allowed them to find Him:
“All Judah rejoiced concerning the oath, for they had sworn with their
whole heart and had sought Him earnestly, and He let them find Him.
So the Lord gave them rest on every side” (2 Chronicles 15:15).
When we “discover” God, as He allowed Israel to do, we find far more than just the pleasure of His company, as wonderful as that is. We also find our purpose. Jeremiah spoke of finding both God and purpose in the following verses:
“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
The Hebrew word translated “future” in this passage is achariyth. It also means “destiny”(1). “When you search for Me with all your heart,” the Lord was assuring them, “not only will I let you find Me, I’ll also allow you to discover My plans and purposes for you. Pleasure and purpose are both found in My company.”
As with any created thing, our purpose can only be found in the heart and mind of our Creator. When we seek Him, we are actually pursuing destiny; find one, you’ve found the other. William Wilberforce, the great English statesman who was used by God to end slavery in the British Empire, is a great example. Wilberforce sought God, found Him, and in so doing, also discovered his destiny as a reformer. In the movie chronicling his life, Amazing Grace, there is a scene in which Wilberforce’s butler stumbles upon him praying and meditating. This was unusual, so the butler asks Wilberforce if he has found God. “I think He found me,” was the poignant response.
When the seeking starts, sometimes it’s hard to know who finds whom! Did we find God, or did He find us? Actually, it’s both. He initiates the process by pursuing us; we respond by returning His love. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This pattern occurred several years ago in my life in a most dramatic way.
It was 1973, and I was attending college, traveling fast but going nowhere. I had been running from God for two years, serving the god of alcohol, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Though I had been raised in church (Dad was an evangelist and then a pastor) and had surrendered my life to Christ at a young age, at seventeen, I turned away from God. My rebellion started when my dad had a moral failure, divorced mom, and married someone else.
As you can imagine, our lives were shattered. Mom found a job in a meat market, my brother and I found part-time jobs, and somehow we survived. At least physically. We didn’t fare so well emotionally and spiritually. My brother, Tim, and I rebelled, turning away from God and everything associated with Him. My younger sister, Deana, was also emotionally devastated; obviously, so was Mom. Deep within my heart, I knew this wasn’t God’s fault, but nonetheless, I was angry and bitter. The pain was so strong and my confusion so great that I simply couldn’t cope with it. And I certainly couldn’t understand it. Perhaps the lowest point in my life was the day when, as a seventeen-year-old, I held my mother in my arms and listened to her sob and tell me she no longer wanted to live. At that moment, I became a very bitter and hate-filled young man.
God was very patient with me. He knew my rebellion was caused by my pain. He allowed me to run, loved me through my pain-filled responses, and didn’t take them personally. Two years later, at a bar named The Boar’s Head - aptly so, since I was a prodigal and this was one of my pigpens - while I was listening to a rock band and stoned out of my mind, He “found” me.
“What are you doing here?” He asked. The Lord’s voice was so clear it may as well have been audible. The question wasn’t a rebuke but rather a tender prompting of my heart. “You know this is not who you are,” He continued, “and you’ll never find the fulfillment and peace you’re looking for through this lifestyle.”
Shocked and amazing that God would pursue me into this place, my first response was, “What are YOU doing here?!”
Instantly sober, I went outside to walk and think for a while. The Lord and I had several more conversations over the next couple of months, until I was finally healed enough to respond to His seeking. I sought Him back . . . and He let me find Him. Like the prodigal returning to his father’s embrace, I walked back into the loving embrace of Papa God. When I did, I found more than pleasure; I discovered purpose.
Realizing that the field of study I was pursuing was not what I was created to do, I withdrew from college, leaving behind a nice scholarship. As He had Wilberforce, the Lord had found me and was now awakening passions and desires from deep within. Just as I had done with my girls, He started making small “noises,” and I experienced the excitement of discovery.
I entered into a passionate pursuit of God, became active in a good local church, and connected with other hungry seekers. I also began going on short-term mission trips, serving missionaries and the poor in Guatemala. Eventually, realizing I wanted to serve God in full-time ministry, I decided to attend Christ For The Nations Institute (a Bible college), in Dallas, Texas. There I discovered God over and over - and eventually, I discovered my wife, to whom I’ve been married for over forty wonderful years. It has been a great journey.
When the Lord pursued me and helped me find Him, my destiny truly was launched. Finding Him is finding the source of everything good. Out of the deep resources of His nature, all good things flow. He and I have been pursuing each other now for fifty years. I have found Him in forests, on mountains, at the edge of streams, riding in my truck, in front of fireplaces, and yes, in worship services. The discoveries require time and effort, of course - any worthwhile relationship does - but each time I rediscover Him, I realize again that He is life’s treasure.
I’ll bet if you listen closely right now, you’ll find that He’s making some noises. Why don’t you go find Him?
Pray with me:
Father, thank You for pursuing us with Your unconditional love. Thank You for understanding us when we’re hurting and, yes, when we’re running from You. And thank You for being willing to visit us in our pigpens. Like the father of the prodigal in Scripture who hugged his son while he was still dressed in slop-covered clothes, You embrace us first, then clean us up. Thank You.
You are the source of pleasure and purpose, dreams and destiny. We determine to pursue You, seeking Your face all the days of our lives.
We know, Father, that there are billions of people whom You love that do not yet realize who You are. We are asking for the greatest of all revivals through which You can reveal Yourself to them. They will taste, and they will see…Do this, please. Pour Holy Spirit life into regions until a flood of people find You. Crush all opposition, remove every obstacle
We ask in Christ’s name. Amen.
The “pig pens” of this world will soon become birthing rooms!
Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company and published by Baker Books.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
James Strong, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), ref. No. 320.