Waiting for the Big One
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Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

The truth is, almost every single one of us knows that we need to change at least one specific behavior because it is harmful. Maybe it’s smoking, drinking, over-eating, or maybe it’s not exercising. Whatever the behavior is, we know, usually without any doubt, where that behavior will lead, and yet, we continue along our current path.

It’s not because we don’t know the consequences, right? Can any of us say that we don’t know where smoking will probably lead? Since the ‘60s we have been hearing that smoking causes cancer. Yet people continue to pick up their first cigarettes and begin smoking every single day. No amount of warning, it seems, will stop them.

Someone donated to my stash of teaching supplies this week, some empty cigarette packages from Mexico. Of each individual package, at least two thirds of the outside of the package is covered with warnings about the health risks of smoking, including horrifying photographs of cancerous lesions in someone’s mouth on one and a premature and underweight baby on another.

The packages are empty, though. Someone picked up one of those packages however many times it took to smoke every cigarette in the box, probably looked at the picture, absent-mindedly read the statistics listed on the side and lit another cigarette.

Smoking is kind of the easiest to pick on, but certainly not the only habit that leads to serious health problems. I know of several of my own behaviors that are equally dangerous, that I have not managed to quit. Knowledge alone does not change behavior.

Author David Brooks summarizes this concept nicely.

“Both reason and will are obviously important in making moral decisions and exercising self-control. But neither of these character models has proven very effective. You can tell people not to eat the French fry. You can give pamphlets about the risks of obesity. You can deliver sermons urging them to exercise self-control and not eat the fry. And in their nonhungry state, most people will vow not to eat it. But when their hungry self arises, their well-intentioned self fades, and they eat the French fry. Most diets fail because the conscious forces of reason and will are simply not powerful enough to consistently subdue unconscious urges.
“The evidence suggests reason and will are like muscles, and not particularly powerful muscles. In some cases and in the right circumstances, they can resist temptation and control the impulses. But in many cases they are too weak to impose self-discipline by themselves. In many cases self-delusion takes control.”[1.David Brooks, The Social Animal (Random House, 2011), pp. 126-128]

 

What needs to happen before we will change our behavior? What if the smoker thought he had cancer? What if the over-eater was told he was about to cross into diabetes? What if the impaired/distracted driver has a close call? Well, sometimes those close calls will help the person change the behavior, and sometimes not.

So imagine how much more difficult it is for God to entice us to repent of our sinful behaviors? The consequences are infinitely worse, and yet somehow not as immediate as cancer or diabetes or an automobile accident.

In the book of Joel, we can read about how God used a plague of locusts to remind His people (past and present) that we need to make our decision to follow Him soon. God has Joel tell people of the terrible time that is coming and how they can survive that time. Then He sends the Holy Spirit to lead them into readiness.

Why do you think it is that we often need some kind of major catastrophe to remind us of our need for God in our lives? The Bible tells us over and over again that having a relationship with Jesus Christ is our only hope to spend eternity with Him and yet, we let that priority slide into the background – we quit listening for the still, small voice.

But then, our God is so gracious, He will send the Holy Spirit to nudge us back toward Jesus again. He often uses something that is happening in this sinful world to catch our attention: terrorists, hurricanes, shootings, earthquakes, and any other natural or man-made disaster.

Whatever He uses, He’s reminding us that a time is coming when our decision needs to be made, one way or the other, and that we need to be ready for that time.

So, why isn’t everybody ready right now? Well, I believe that Satan wants us to think that we’re not so bad, that we have plenty of time to make our decision, and that we are able to get ourselves ready. And with Satan’s lies humming happily in our ears, we don’t hear the call of the Holy Spirit telling us it’s almost too late.

Ellen White calls those delusions an “imaginary religion.”

“The tremendous issues of eternity demand of us something besides an imaginary religion, a religion of words and forms, where truth is kept in the outer court. God calls for a revival and a reformation. The words of the Bible, and the Bible alone, should be heard from the pulpit. But the Bible has been robbed of its power, and the result is seen in a lowering of the tone of spiritual life. In many sermons of today there is not that divine manifestation which awakens the conscience and brings life to the soul. The hearers cannot say, ‘Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?’ Luke 24:32. There are many who are crying out for the living God, longing for the divine presence. Let the word of God speak to the heart. Let those who have heard only tradition and human theories and maxims, hear the voice of Him who can renew the soul unto eternal life.” (Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 626.)

In the book of Joel, God is pleading with us to repent and come back to Him now so we will be ready when He comes to take us home.

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.” Joel 2:28-32

Am I waiting for the next major catastrophe or health crisis to change my behavior and find God? Or am I listening for the still small Voice? What do I need to change in my life so that I can hear that Voice? I want Him to make me ready, don’t you?

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Waiting for the Big One — 20 Comments

  1. It is a deceiving thought to think that we have 'tomorrow' to make our decision. Jesus' warning is so solemn, 'watch ye therefore, for you know not the hour...'. Although Satan constantly feeds our subconcious minds with many harmful subliminal messages, thank God there is a permanent 'subliminal' imbedded in our minds that has a huge potential to superimpose all other - 'the enmity that God put between us and Satan! This is what gives us the slightest conscience of the sinfulness of sin. But the sad thing is that the pleadings of the Holy Spirit are always pushed to the back of our minds. Habit-forming is mechanical - it goes from harder to easier with practice. Whether it's studying the Bible or learning to smoke! This is also true for the de-forming. It's hard to decide to quit a bad habit by just going without and not replacing something in it's place because temptations to fall back will be all around. For success, develop another wholly different habit that will widen the gap between the adopted and the former habits. (My own experience gives me confidence to say this). Victory over sin comes in no other way than to purposefully choose Jesus purposefully cultivate the relationship by starting and maintaining the right habits - Bible study and cherishing the sweet hour of prayer!

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    • This devotional is so inspiring to me because I know that there are a few areas in my life that need to change. Breaking bad habits is extremely hard. I understand now that they can only be overcome with prayer and studying God's word. I have chosen recently to really serve God and that in itself is a challenge with everything that goes on from day to day. Sometimes it is hard to stay focused but I completely agree with the fact that in order to truly let go of bad habits, you have to replace them with good ones. It is so important to work on breaking bad habits because, we as Christians don't really understand the effect (long term and short term) that they have on us as individuals. The bad habits we develop don't just effect us, they effect others around us as well. Have you ever noticed that the people closest to you start to also pick up on your bad habits? I feel so bad when I see that a sibling or a child or friend starts to mimic the habit I am trying to break. I see things for what they are now and those habits need to be broken in order for me to be able to witness for God and to serve him whole heartedly.

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  2. Yah it is heart breaking to realise that the things dont want to do i find myself doing. i sometimes feel im far away from God and i need to be rewed. i need to be closer to God.

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  3. I met an old acquaintance yesterday, he has diabetes and only few days ago lost one of his leg. I thought this to be really tragic yet after a few moments sympathizing with him another person came on the scene with a cigarette and first request from my now one legged friend, was can I have one? I tried the tell him that's the last thing he needs at this time- even tell the other person, "dont kill him off now with this." His reply was "don't deny the man what he wants, it could be his last wish."

    I wish I could get us to understand that we are killing each other when we give support to the bad habits of each other. I must keep this in my prayer always. Please help me to pray that as the people of God we will strive to make a difference before it's too late. Thank you Miss Lillianne.

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  4. What a message for me this morning! I too want to hear His still small voice and be ready when He comes. Let's pray for each other. Happy Sabbath.

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  5. This is very well expressed...God be praised Sr. Lopez! The choices we make don't match the knowledge that God has given us! Let's pray so that the Holy Spirit would compel us to stop procrastinating and make the first step in obeying God's law and principles. May this verse "Don't just be hearers but doers of the Word" never be addressed to any committed child of God...Thank you Sister Lopez for this eye-opening devotion! God bless!

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  6. Most interesting part in this text is about what is preached from pulpits. E.W. in qotation said, "only words from Bible!" She said that, "Bible is robbed from its power." That is truth. That happened. Stories and themes are given and even personal thoughts. Reform the Pulpit and there is promised power in the Word.

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    • I think one of the most refreshing aspects of worship for me is when people share their personal experiences. It's inspiring to hear how God's been leading in the lives of my church family.

      I wholeheartedly agree we need the Bible and the Bible only, however I believe it's a principle that needs to find expression in a variety of creative expressions. I like to think of the media we use as windows that allow God's Spirit to shine into our hearts - when we allow the power of his Word to 'keep the windows clean', Jesus will be seen clearly, and the windows will be invisible.

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  7. It seems to me that what we need most are two things: to know our own weaknesses and deficiencies and to understand where the source of our power to do really comes from. As I read the Bible the lack of those two things seem to be the reason why Israel failed as much as they did.

    I keep coming back to the difference between the old and new covenants and the realization that they never went beyond their original promise to God, "All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient" (Exod. 24:7 NKJV) with a big emphasis on "WE." They never fulfilled that promise because they relied on themselves rather than God and never understood that, "He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5 NKJV).

    The new covenant is different because the emphasis is on God not us. He is the one who does everything through us. So it is by faith in God's promises of power through the working of the Holy Spirit that we are able to do what we are commanded to do (2 Pet 1:4). All we need to do, then, is to make a firm decision as far as direction goes for God will not override what we decide which is what the devil works on most. He cringes when God's people cling to the Lord for power and help for he well knows that, "with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26 NKJV) but only if you really believe (Mk 9:23) and only if you really want to do things according to the principles of God's government.

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    • The beautiful New Covenant: Matthew 11:28-30

      Israel's (and our) failure is unbelief. Every soul is convicted of "sin, righteousness and judgment", but few act in faith upon it. The clear choice for most is; "my will be done!" Jesus' yoke will bring a different response to the convictions of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) as we surrender fully and receive the power promised to fill every empty vessel. Empty of self, as was Jesus. (Philippians 2:5-8)

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    • Amen and well said Mr. Tyler Cluthe! Amazing!! Thank you for posting that. I needed to read it today. Happy Sabbath to you and your family.

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  8. Laodiceans!! Lets stop fulfillimg prophecy on the wrong side, because whether we want or not,this current earth will be closed. The Scriptures have been handed over for milleniums now,some have died to save it, the Lord Himself protected them from being extinct,but today we formalise their context, quote for our own benefit and even misquoting, take for granted what warnings are there, I write this mostly to the Youth, do you know that not even a single vowel is there by mistake but by God's intention for our benefit?.. Wisdom comes from God, and only the wise will be delivered. It was the gospel to the other churches, but now its frightful that most of our own fellow members are worse than infidels and unbelievers. Reminder: God is fair, just and true.

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    • Ruzane,

      I have no problem with the idea that we are often Laodicean in attitude, but I rejoice in the enormous dedication of our youth who have taken the Gospel to heart and are spreading it in ways that I have not even dreamed of. There is much to be proud of (in a spiritual sense) of what our dedicated young people are doing. They set us older folk an example! I would hesitate to characterise most of my fellow church members as worse than infidels and unbelievers. In fact I have a great deal of respect for my fellow believers and while recognising that we all fall short of God's ideal for us, I turn to my community of believers for support and understanding. In return I hope that I give that support and understanding to others in the church as well. The church is the object of God's love.

      On another issue: Your comments about the Bible seem to indicate verbal inspiration "that not even a single vowel is there by mistake". This has never been the position of the church. We rely on the Bible alone for our understanding of salvation but have never claimed verbal inspiration.

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  9. Beloved - Glorify God in your body!

    Our bodies were made in the image of the Almighty God. We were formed by his powerful and Holy hands and are filled with his life giving breath passed down from Adam and Eve. God chose our bodies as His temple, that he might dwell with us all of our days, and we should be good stewards of what we have been given from The Creator.

    The Gospel, or good news, isn't just that Jesus was born, lived, ministered and then Died for our sins (Praise God for Jesus!). The Gospel is also health reform, healthy living, how to worship God, how to pray and communicate with God, and how to walk in His Spirit. We need only choose to OBEY The Word, which is God, and He will direct us:

    : If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. http://bible.cc/1_john/1-9.htm

    1 Corinthians 6: 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

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  10. [Moderator's note: Please remember to use your full name]

    We need to ask God to give us hearts that will not harden when He calls us, so that even in the midst of crises we may see His hand and hear the small still voice calling us to be reconciled with His divine will.

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  11. I am so impressed by this commentary and what has struck me the most is the fact that the pulpit has lost it's power. I see in my church were speakers have used the pulpit to state their own grouses and the precious word of God has not been emphasized enough. Oh that we would wake out of our slumber and realize what time it is. We are way too casual. We must realize our mandate and it should never be out of our minds and our hearts. The passion must be felt and we are to realize that everything we do is a witness. Lord please help us!

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