There are a number of action words in this passage which will be our focus this morning. Why? God's plan for us is not for us to just come to him and then think it will be "life on a silver platter" moving forward. He wants us to realize there are actions required of us - as with any other relationship - it must be developed, maintained, and continually refreshed in order to remain vital, flourishing, and able to be reproduced in others. Let's see what God says:
MAKE: Hearing is sometimes not as easy as someone speaking and the other person just somehow having the words "sink in" so they have their desired effect. In most cases, things might need to be said again, in a similar, but different way just so the other person will even have their interest in "hearing" tickled a little bit! If you have raised children, you know exactly what I am talking about on this one - kids all "hear" at a different level because they are selective about what and who they actually "listen to" in life. They will hear the same message time and time again from their parents only to somehow think they heard it the very first time from their best friend! We often need to ask God to help us to hear - because we don't always want to hear the truth. The truth might just make us a little uncomfortable, so we might want to avoid it. God doesn't "make" us do anything - he relies upon our willingness to do it. When we finally come to the place where we admit we haven't been listening and that we actually desire to hear, he is more than willing to make the adjustments in our lives to help us to hear. Beware of this request, though! It carries with it some adjustments we may not realize when we pray it! Hearing is not always possible until there has been an adjustment in our attitude. Attitude adjustments require some movement on our part - so don't be surprised if asking to hear brings some attention to those areas which might not be exactly as they should be in our lives.
TEACH: Walking isn't learned through osmosis. We don't just wake up one day and find ourselves walking with stability, strength, and perfect balance. It is trial and error, at best, and we find ourselves falling a lot in the process. Our psalmist isn't just asking God to show him how to walk, but to actually teach him how it is done. A teacher does more than stand at the front of the room and demonstrate something. The teacher repeats the instructions, oversees the efforts of the student, and encourages them when they make the right steps toward the desired results. If adjustments are needed to ensure they are learning in a way which produces a stable process in achieving the end result, they are guided in those adjustments. It is foolish for us to think we can simply wake up one morning knowing how to take each and every step along this path we call "being a Christian". Finding balance between what we want to do, what we should do, and when it should be done is hard. We need more than the rule book to guide us - we need someone to interpret the rules and show us how to live them out in a very practical sense!
RESCUE: Many of us think this walk with Jesus will be kind of "trouble-free" and are a little surprised when we find our there are pitfalls along the way. I think of the disciples who found themselves smack-dab in the middle of a pretty tumultuous storm in the midst of their attempting to cross over from one spot in their journey to another. Their boat began to toss to and fro, the waves almost causing them to be out of control, while waters filled the boat and the rowing they attempted wasn't seeming to get them anywhere closer to the safety of shore. Their journey was far from trouble-free, even with Jesus right there in the middle of the boat. Their intent was to go about what they normally did - finding themselves in the midst of something they didn't count on or know if they'd actually be able to ride out despite the presence of Jesus with them. The storms of life sometimes catch us up, give us a few more challenges than we might expect, and seem like they are about to take us under - even with Jesus right there along for the ride! Oftentimes we want deliverance, but haven't quite realized the one who is right there along on the ride - because he is silent, almost "obscure" in his presence. Yet, when we turn to him for rescue, he is immediate in his response just as he was to calm the storm and silence the winds that night.
ALLOW: Doing the will of God and getting to our destination on "level ground" isn't always the easiest of tasks for us - we like to complicate things by taking paths not quite as level as we might have been up to handling. As I hiked in the forests around Northern Arizona over the past week, I wanted to be constantly cognizant of staying on the trails as they were marked out for me. As we neared one particularly stretch of trail, there were warning signs indicating veering from the trail could cost us both a fine and possibly get us put into some kind of situation where we could even face charges for trespassing in a protected sanctuary for the bald eagle. So, needless to say, we heeded the warnings - as neither of us were really keen on spending time in jail or giving up our hard-earned monies for some glance at an eagle's nest! These patches of forest land were not for us to pass through, while the other paths were well-marked and indicated a safe passage. We were "allowed" passage along the perimeter of the nesting area, just not passage into it. Sometimes the will of God is like the trail system - we are allowed certain passage unrestricted, but at other times we are encouraged to avoid passage in another direction. Why isn't it that the restricted things in life aren't "fenced in" with some type of barbed wire to keep us from passing into them? I think it is because God is really looking at how well we have heard, learned, and trusted. In essence, he is seeing if we have been good students! Just sayin!