jonathan stone's blog

. . . posts on faith and life

Out of Sync

Have you ever felt like you were out of sync with God? Ecclesiastes 3:1 states, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” When people get out of step with God it is not necessarily that they have done something that God never allows (obviously, that happens too). Often it is simply a case of not recognizing the season that one is in, and therefore taking the wrong approach. There are plenty of examples of this in scripture. For example, some people came and asked Jesus why it was that John’s disciples and the Pharisees fasted, but His disciples did not. Jesus offered this response, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast” (Mark 2:19-20).

However, there are other times when we are out of sync with God because at some point we have failed to crucify our will and pick up the will of God. Jesus noted that the generation around him seemed to always be out of step with what God was doing. He observed that when John the Baptist came “neither eating nor drinking” they said he had a demon (Matt. 11:18). Yet, when Jesus came eating and drinking they said he was a “glutton and a drunkard” (Matt. 11:19). So, he compared them to children in the marketplace who are frustrated because when they play a song on the flute no one dances and when they sing a dirge no one mourns (Matt. 11:17). They were frustrated because they could not get God to line up with their agenda.

When the voice of the prophet speaks to us it is often our first instinct to reject his message. That is because there is such a strong tendency to settle into our agenda, our belief about what God is or should be doing in the world. We want to see bliss in the world when the prophet sees chaos. We look for prosperity when the prophet is crying, “Destruction!” This happened to Jeremiah. When he saw the destruction of Jerusalem the masses thought he was preaching heresy. He preached that message for nearly forty years before the word of the Lord came to pass. Once it did God gave Jeremiah new visions. They were visions of hope and a future. The masses scoffed again, “How can you have hope at a time like this?” Jeremiah had mourned the destruction of Jerusalem for four decades. Now he knew it was time to move forward. Throughout his lifetime he was rejected by those around him because they could not accept his message. They could not accept his message because they were not willing to lay down their agenda and take up the agenda of God.

In his classic book, The Prophets, Abraham Joshua Heschel put it this way:

The prophet is human, yet he employs notes one octave too high for our ears. He experiences moments that defy understanding. He is neither “a singing saint” nor “a moralizing poet,” but an assaulter of the mind. Often his words begin to burn where conscience ends.

As Christians we do not try to put ourselves out of step with those around us. However, if we are in step with God we will certainly find ourselves at times out of step with the agendas of various people. In turn, those people may find themselves frustrated with us. It has been this way ever since sin entered the world, and will continue to be so as long as sin remains in the world. Yet, there are other times when the reason everything feels frustrating to us is because we have picked up our agenda and discarded the agenda of God.

How can we know the difference? Do we feel out of sync because we have unknowingly stepped back from God, or because we are living the lonely life of the prophet? There is only one way to find out. We must turn to him. We must acknowledge that we do not trust ourselves (rightfully so, as the human heart is deceitful above all things), and that we need his help to discern the truth. We must draw close to him, knowing that he will receive us with his loving grace whether it turns out that we were being fiery prophets or frustrated children. If you are feeling out of sorts and wondering where God is at in your life today turn to him. You might be surprised how quickly he transposes the music, and how sweet his loving melodies will sound.

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