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The country preacher says, “When trouble or trial comes, you’ve got to dig into God like a tick on a hound dog!” Jesus put it differently, He said that when God pulls out His pruning shears, abide in the vine (John 15:1-8) but they both mean the same thing: turn to God with your whole heart and all of your strength.
Joel 2:12-14 NKJV
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.
Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him —
a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?
The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). We make excuses for our sinful thoughts, words and deeds. “He made me angry!” we say. “It’s your fault!” we argue. We do this because we want to be right even when we are wrong. This pattern of self-deception leads us towards calamity. We do not change our course though we have many opportunities to do so.
Is it only pride that keeps us from admitting we are wrong? Or do we come to believe our own lies?
Even on the verge of calamity and complete destruction, the merciful God in heaven cries out, “Even now, return to me with all you heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning” (Joel 2:12 HCSB).
We cannot be half-hearted or we will quickly turn back again to our own destruction (e.g. Jeremiah 34:8-32). Jesus said, “Be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19) or as we would say it, “Get RADICAL and CHANGE.” We need to go all in. How?
God calls for fasting—self-denial. The person who does not deny himself cannot serve Christ or follow Him (Luke 9:23-24, Matthew 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-35, Luke 14:26-27). We take delight in indulging ourselves but God takes delight when we deny ourselves.
God calls for weeping and mourning—a formal time of separating yourself from the pursuit of worldly things—a time to make yourself uncomfortable with where you are (see Overcoming Loss). God was calling on them to set aside a minimum of three days and up to thirty days! This was a radical call.
“Rend your hearts and not your garments.” Stop with the superficial and temporary changes. Change the way you think, act and live. Start over and build the life you want in God and stop settling for less than that life. Be renewed and transformed! The trial, trouble or calamity does not have to destroy you. It was sent to destroy only sin. It will destroy you only if you cling to your sin instead of clinging to God. It is sent to cut off that which doesn’t bear fruit and to prune that which does—to bring you into much greater fruitfulness. If you will seek the Lord and draw near to Him and are renewed and transformed, God may also leave a blessing—a gift in which you can rejoice.
There is a life I want to live in God that I am not measuring up to. I have excuses but they do not excuse me before God.
To live life well—with no regrets or excuses—requires constant change and growth in Christ. Therefore, it is time for me to get RADICAL and CHANGE. It is time to seek the Lord with my whole heart and all of my strength.
When calamity or distress, challenge, trouble, trial or temptation arises, it is then we choose: Is God my source? If we choose to draw what we need from Him and He is our source, then we will grow and bear abundant fruit.
Therefore, I must choose today to make God my source. He is my life, my joy and my reward. He alone satisfies my soul.
Understanding this, I choose to don the black garments of fasting, weeping and mourning. I choose to rend my heart and change my ways so that God may relent and perhaps leave a gift behind.
Lord God, Merciful Father, You are my life, my joy and my reward, yet I have not lived for You with my whole heart. I choose today to draw near to You with my whole heart and not just superficially. You are God. I am Yours. I commit myself to You today. Have mercy on me and forgive me my many shortcomings and failures. I choose to set aside the days ahead to seek You instead of my own pleasure. I choose to heed Your warnings and listen. I choose the path of repentance.
In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.