The mother of a mischievous boy sent him to talk to their pastor, hoping the young fella would see the error of his ways. The pastor asked the little man, “Where is God? The boy clamed up and didn’t say a word. Again the pastor asked more emphatically, “Where is God?!” The boy slid to the edge of his chair as he tightly clinched its edge, but still didn’t say a word. Again the pastor asked, “Where is God, young man?!!” This time the boy bolted for the door, ran straight home, and exclaimed to his mother, “Momma, Momma! They’ve lost God down at the church, and they think I’ve got something to do with it!!”
It’s true. Sometimes the people of God do in fact lose God, even if he’s as close as the nose on our face. Israel and Judah had lost God in the blinding mist of idolatry. 2 Kings 21, tells us that King Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, had led Judah into idolatry and wickedness that was even worse than that of the Canaanites (See God’s warning in Lev 18; Dt 8). He even flooded the temple itself with idols and wickedness. Prophets of God warned them, but they refused to listen. In the days of the following king, Josiah, they found the book of the law that had been lost in the temple, underneath all the idols I suppose (2 Kings 22). When Josiah and the people read the book of the law, they realized that they had not only lost the word of God, they had also lost the God of the word. What they discovered when they found God, is it was actually they themselves, who had been lost all along.
Josiah and the people repented and they experienced revival, but it was short-lived. After Josiah died, the succeeding kings led the people back into sin until eventually all was lost. The 17 month Babylonian siege led to hell on earth in Jerusalem, and this was just the prelude to the destruction of the city and the temple, which was burned to the ground. The people of Judah were expelled from the land; they were in exile. All that God had blessed them with was lost. Lamentations is a short poetic book of the Bible that captures the pain and horror of this devastating loss.
In the midst of describing the excruciating experience and feelings of hopelessness, Lamentations 3:21-25 says this:
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. (ESV)
Sometimes it takes losing everything to find the only thing that really matters; the only thing that really matters is the one and only Someone, who deserves our all.
Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom to truly begin building our lives on the Rock of Ages. Everything else is sinking sand.
Sometimes it’s the hard things that awaken us to the truly good things that ultimately matter. When you’re up the creek without a paddle or a boat or a life jacket, up to your neck with all the forces of death and hell dragging you down, is when you just might begin to look for the Lifeguard who sent his only Son as a life raft.
Israel, including the northern kingdom headquartered in Samaria and the southern kingdom of Judah headquartered in Jerusalem, found themselves in just such a place. Samaria had been decimated by Assyria; Jerusalem by Babylon. When all was lost, some of them realized that all they had left were the promises of a faithful, forgiving, and merciful God. Sometimes it takes losing all else before people will really begin to look for God. But there is a limited window of opportunity to actually find God.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. ~ Isaiah 55:6-7
And you can’t find the Lord if you aren’t really serious about seeking him.
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. ~ Jeremiah 29:13-14
In order to find God, we need to know what day it is. Today is the only day we really have, and every today is the day of salvation, the time to seek the Lord. Thankfully his mercies are new every morning! But those todays won’t come forever; eventually the window of opportunity will close.
In order to find God, we also need to know where we are. Where are we? We are always on the brink of the eternal judgment of God. We are always on the brink of losing everything we have in this world. The question is will we find God in time to find ourselves standing on the promises of God when all else is lost, for “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Is 40:8).
Our culture has lost God. In many school districts this Thanksgiving, kids will learn about the pilgrims without ever hearing about the One they followed. They will read about how they gave thanks without hearing of the One to whom they gave thanks. God is not only lost to our culture, in many ways he has been intentionally hidden by outright rejection or by distorting his true identity. The same is true for much of the church that has been conformed to the world. The nation and the compromised church is on the brink. Like Israel and Judah they have been convinced by false prophets and priests that “it can’t happen to us” (Lam 4:12-13). In the face of warnings and lesser judgment before exile, Israel in pride declared they would rebuild even better and stronger than before without God (Is 9:8ff); the lying prophets of Jerusalem filled the people with vain hopes that disaster would never come as they encouraged the wicked (Jer 23:17). They were disastrously wrong and eventually they lost everything, which gave them the opportunity to begin seeking the only blessing that lasts forever.
One day we’ll all discover that there is only one thing that will give us ultimate security, and that is faith in the Lord and God, whose steadfast love and faithfulness endures forever. We may have the promise of social security, but what we really need is the eternal security that only God can provide. You can be buried in your RV, but without God eternity will be anything but a picnic. The truth is we brought nothing with us into this world, and we will not be able to take anything with us when we leave it (1 Tim 6:7). Eventually everyone will lose everything, but only some will find the only thing that lasts forever with blessing, a true, loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. ~ 1 Tim 6:17-19
Sometimes it takes losing everything to find the one thing that really matters eternally. If we will seek God with all our heart, we will discover that it wasn’t really God who was lost after all. If we will seek him, we will find him to be faithful and forgiving, gracious and merciful, abounding forever with steadfast love.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:13-18