Frustrated by God

Revelation 2:17 ESV
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

You get more because you win. You win because you got more. It’s a friendly cycle in which we all want to participate. The church at Pergamum was able to win because Jesus spent the last few verses explaining how. Then, because they won, He promised to give them more of what caused them to win in the first place but was hidden from their understanding.

REALLY?

One aspect of God that seems to frustrate everyone in relationship with Him is that He withholds. All. The. Time. He knows what we want to know but won’t tell us. He sees what we haven’t seen but won’t show us. I suppose He does eventually tell us and eventually show us, but the time gap between asking the question and hearing the answer is bothersome.

If this were a real marriage, like the one we are used to, we would be in therapy. If this were a real partnership, like our bosses have, the company would be a toxic mix of hide and seek. But our relationship with God is not a mano-a-mano. He is Lord. Our pleasure needs to be that He would speak to us in the first place. Ever. When we elevate Him in the relationship, suddenly we become more content in the waiting. As if it will be worth it. And it will be worth it. The search for hidden manna is exhausting but the meal at the end of the hunt is glorious.

PUT ME IN COACH

Here is where we find ourselves off the bench and back on the field. The great theologian Jonathan Edwards once said, “God’s ultimate end is the manifestation of His glory in the highest happiness of His creatures.” Our waiting is for His glory. Our preaching, helping, giving, encouraging, loving, mentoring is all for the manifestation of the glory of God upon the earth. We were created for Him (Ps 104:31, Rev 4:11, Co 1:16). By His sovereign admission, He has chosen us to complete His work in our communities for His glory (Jn 15:16). We must willingly submit to this process that we may stand perfect in Him (He 10:14). We hang on every last word, working every detail until we win… and then we get the next word.

But until we do- the manna remains hidden.

The tension is this- we don’t do what we do for the purpose of getting another carrot but we get another carrot when we do what we do. It’s crazy. The only remedy for selfishly following Jesus is to keep our eyes on Him (He 12:2, Co 3:1). His sacrifice makes ours seem bearable. His design makes ours seem too simple. His position next to the throne of God makes ours seem unsatisfying. So we keep listening, that we might fulfill His will for us and ultimately be seated with Him.

Like a puzzle, we’ve seen the end but must search through a maze of possibilities for the next match. Starting with the easy stuff, those obvious flat edges and then working inward with each match. One by one. Those pieces don’t come with numbers, and that’s the difficulty. They can be matched in any sequence but only one way. This is another beauty of God. The next word isn’t given early because it hangs on our appropriation of the last. How we move according to His last word determines the substance of everything that follows. If we can’t go forward without fixing a few things, He gives us a message of repentance and waits for us to do so. Once we follow that word, He communicates another.

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT

In the absence of that next instruction, we are content to wait because we know any supposed forward progress is senseless without divine direction. Our own doing never fulfills us because we know works are not the goal. Obedience is the goal. Obedience requires His voice.

There are times this waiting can breed stagnate faith. Motionless. While this puzzle called life is a gift- we still must put it together. We can’t be content with everything in a box, scrambled, while staring at the pretty picture on the top. Don’t be fooled- the pieces still must be put together. They still must be lived out. They must come alive (Eph 2:4-8). Enter the movement of faith. Faith hears whatever grace is speaking and then puts it together- working in an exhausting way according to the grace of God (Ro 10:17). If our emphasis is grace alone, the picture never comes alive. If our emphasis is faith alone, we may be working on the wrong picture, even though we have the right pieces. But when we cooperate with the grace of God, by faith, our lifeless piece of art is suddenly made alive by the breath of God. His glory- manifest.

So- we must keep hearing.

Hearing focuses our dependence on Him. Two of the seven churches in Revelation had nothing to repent of- they just needed to be faithful where they were. Lead where they were. Remain content with what they had. However, the other five churches needed to repent before they could move on. The only way to know the path is to hear. In the hearing, the hidden manna is revealed.

Suddenly we win. Our story becomes a victory.

And then we get another puzzle, another new journey.

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