Today’s reading: John 8:21-59

OpeningSpirit, calm our hearts and open ourselves to your truth. Let us listen first and rejoice in your words. Amen.

ReflectionIn John 8:42-47, Jesus teaches us to listen to God.

Do you struggle with hearing what God has to say? Oftentimes, I find myself questioning if I am responding to God. Am I really hearing what God is saying and acting accordingly? Are these thoughts from God or are they from my desires to do what I want? Am I misinterpreting what I am hearing, obscuring God’s clear message to fit my own purposes?

A couple years ago, I felt pushed and pulled in so many directions. I felt that I had to use the skills I had to help anyone I could! No one possibility felt wrong. So I said yes to everything! I agreed to volunteer for Chinese American kids. I agreed to spent my Sunday nights talking about identity with friends. I agreed to start a writing project with a friend that focused on what it means to me to be Asian American. I just knew that God had prepared me for all these opportunities and I should do them!

Slowly, the pressure began to mount. Juggling my job with all of these opportunities made it harder and harder for me to function. I was doing these things because I thought God had provided them, but my time with God was slowly being replaced with these activities. I was rushing to meet a deadline for my writing project. Instead of reading the Bible, I was planning a discussion. As the pressure mounted, I felt like I was disappointing God. God provided and I am failing! What can I do!?

With all the pressure and time constraints, I had never felt so distant from God. Rather, I just found myself living for the next thing to do. I found no reason to rejoice while writing, volunteering or discussing. Ultimately, I felt empty in all of those opportunities and more empty in my faith.

In John 8:39-41, Jesus used Abraham as an example to teach us to think not only about our actions, but why we act. What did Abraham do? In Genesis 22, we see Abraham listening to God and sacrificing his son Isaac was a test of faith. Abraham acted as a response to God AFTER listening.

Today, I know that rather than listening to God first and then responding, I agreed to do things because I COULD, not through the Spirit’s guidance. Even though each task was never a particularly bad thing to take on, I chose to do them in spite of God, rather than because of God. Even though God had given me the ability to work on these projects, I placed my worth in these projects over God. Now, before decisions like this, I listen and ask: God is providing me with this opportunity, but does he want me to take it?

To answer that question, Jesus reminds us in John 8:56 that Abraham didn’t just listen and respond, but rejoiced at the thought of Jesus. This isn’t the type of joy you get when you do something like eat ice cream though! This is the joy found when you place your faith in God and act accordingly.

Perhaps then, even more important than listening and responding, the joy you find in the tasks God guides you to is essential.

Recently, after many months of prayer, I joined an organization dedicated to providing for a community of survivors. Rather than the feeling of pressure that accompanied my previous activities, I feel rejuvenated with this work. Before each meeting, I spend time in the Bible. With each conversation and email, I am filled with joy. But what is so different about this organization? Nothing in particular. Rather, I find joy because I placed my faith in God and am acting because of God. And that brings unmeasurable joy.

ClosingThink about moments in your life where you listened to God and God has responded. How have these moments influenced you? Where do you find joy?

Created by: David Yang

Image by: Dae Jeong
About the artist: Dae is a photographer, ex-pastor, and stay-at-home dad. He lives with his wife and two children in Maryland. He is a recovering Calvinist. 😉

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