Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Death Grip on My Kingdom

Let me introduce you to my new friend, a king named Balak.

I recently studied about Balak in Numbers 22-25 and I saw myself. If you know Balak's story, you know that this could prove to be unfortunate.

As the Israelites were camped on the Promised Land's border, Balak was the king of a nation called Moab. Moab's people watched as Israel defeated Sihon and Og, their neighbors to the north. The Israelites defeated the Amorites, who had previously defeated Moab. In Balak's logic, that must mean the Israelites could and would defeat them too.

By faith, Balak could have turned to the true and living God for help. The Moabites were descendants of Lot, Abraham's cousin. (Genesis 11-14; 19). [Though Lot had a messy and inconsistent faith, He is remembered as a righteous man. (2 Peter 2:7-8). Righteousness does not come from being "good," God credits faith as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6).]

Sadly, Balak forgot, either intentionally or through neglect, some truths about the God of his forefathers. He forgot that Lot's God is true, living, active and totally sovereign. If God wanted the Moabites inhihilated, they could do nothing to stop it. Or, maybe Balak intentionally ignored God's sovereignty because He didn't want God messing up the kingdom that he had in his possession and power. Turning to the true God might disrupt Moab's deeply entrenched pagan culture and habits. Balak's approval ratings as king of Moab would surely plummet.

Forgetting God's true character led Balak to fear, worry, and stew over the Israelites impending march on the Promised Land. Rather than being delivered from his fear, Balak was driven deeper into it. Without faith, Balak grasped for control of destiny, seeking help from a well-known diviner named Balaam. Divination uses supernatural knowledge and dark powers to gain control and an advantage in the universe. Balak offered Balaam large sums of money to curse Israel. When Balaam told Balak that God commanded that Israel could not be cursed, Balak spent untold resources sending his people to travel all over with Balaam trying to convince him to curse them anyway.

Balak's efforts were futile. God is sovereign. He can't be manipulated. His plans can't be thwarted.

Balaam not only refused to curse Israel, he blessed them.

God was on Israel's side. No human or worldly power was going to prevail against them.

If we know Jesus, God is on our side. No human power can prevail against us.

In my last post, I gave this definition of fear: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc.,whether the threat is real or imagined. The impending danger to the Moabites was imagined. Unbeknownst to Balak, God had said to Moses, "Do not harass the Moabites or provoke them to war, for I will not give you any part of their land. I have given [it] to the descendants of Lot as a possession." (Deuteronomy 2:9).

If Balak had just waited patiently, God's plan would have unfolded -- a plan that left the Moabites' territory unscathed. Instead Balak wasted a lot of manpower, brainpower and other resources trying to prevent something that wasn't even a real threat. He was determined to stop this "impending" danger that he had concocted in his own mind. Balak would spare no cost, and would stop at nothing, in order to keep his grip on his kingdom.

Here's where I began to sense the similarities between Balak and me. When I forget God's true character, I worry, fear, and stew over the future. I find myself holding onto my life with a formidable death grip, imagining all kinds of impending dangers that could threaten my plans. These dangers are not "real." They might be thoughts that are confirmed to be true later. But, as I'm worrying, none of them have actually come to pass.

As fear spins around and around in my head, it grows bigger and begins to take on a life of its own. Those imagined dangers become my brain's warped reality. Sometimes fear can lead us to do some crazy things. But, it can also lead us to do some things that aren't so crazy. Things that are rational. Things that the world would say are acceptable, even commendable. For example, Balak's use of a diviner might seem crazy to us, bringing to mind late night informercials for psychic phone lines. But, in that culture, diviners were a very logical option. No one would have thought twice about divination's validity. According to worldly standards, Balak was making wise and savvy use of his country's resources in order to gain an upper hand and control.

What seems wise in the eyes of the world is often foolish to the Lord. "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them." (1 John 4:4-5). What God cares about is me having a heart that trusts Him. He wants me to believe and act as if His Word is true. His Word says He is in complete control, He loves me perfectly, and wants what's best for me. If that's true, why would I follow the way of the world by trying to control my life?

In Philippians 4:8, we are exhorted to think on whatever is true, which doesn't leave room for ruminating on the dangers, toils and snares that my brain has imagined. Like Balak, I want to keep my "kingdom" the way I have it, under my control. Also like Balak, any control I fancy myself having is smoke and mirrors. Whether or not I remember or choose to believe it, God is still totally sovereign. His plans can't be thwarted. "He is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him" (Psalm 115:3).

This truth used to totally freak me out, just like it had Balak scrambling to keep his kingdom. When I first began wrestling with God's sovereignty, I would almost meltdown. The lack of control it gave me was enough to give me a full-blown panic attack. I thought I needed that control. I thought I wanted my life just the way I had it. I liked my husband, children, house, Suburban, homeschool, cookie baking, perfect Christmas card, Bible study life. The thought of any piece of it crumbling was just too much for me.

Then my life blew up and some of the pieces of my kingdom imploded. And it was hard and it was painful. But, I saw God and I knew that He had a plan and that I could rest in it. I would even tell you that I'm thankful for the pain I walked through, because it changed me in the best way possible and I would never go back to the way I was before. I resolved to never doubt again. To hold loosely to things in this life. And I wrote posts about being Fearless and handing all of my stuff over to the Lord and letting Him have His Way.

But . . . as life went on, I acquired new pieces to my kingdom. And, I found myself once again holding on to them with a chokehold that would squeeze the life out of the most formidable opponent. I found myself full of fear and anxiety that something might not go the way I want it to. And I found myself acting in my fear, wanting to control everything, wanting to manipulate things to help God get it "right." Forgetting that those things are not really mine, they are His because "the earth is the Lord's and EVERYTHING in it." (Psalm 24:1).

Thankfully, God has stepped in and said, "enough." He's not letting me keep circling the same mountain of fear and anxiety that I've circled before. Praise Jesus. By His Grace, He's breaking the cycle. He's using the lessons He taught me before to help me choose a different way of doing things. Every time I turn around, He's helping me to be willing to have my kingdom shaken up a little. I'm learning to rest in whatever His plan might be. It takes intentional practice to wait patiently and see what God is doing behind the scenes. He's shown me that I don't want to continue in Balak's footsteps, fighting for a kingdom that wasn't in jeopardy.

For the past week, I've been listening to a song on repeat that says: "So let go, my soul, and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know His name." The same Jesus who showed me He was trustworthy four years ago, and worthy of being trusted with my kingdom, is still the same Jesus today. I knew I could be fearless because the storm had no choice but to obey Him. Nothing has changed. He's given me everything I need to let go of my futile attempts at control and to just wait for His good plans to unfold.


Anonymous said...

I am always fed by your thoughts and perspective. God is using you in ways you may not even be aware of. Thank you so much for sharing your insight from the life of Balak.

triple girl said...

I have listened to that same song "it is well" over and over and over this past year! Love it!