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Posts Tagged ‘John 5:17’

Jo 17I have discovered that, unless I am vigilant, I can sometimes become a lot more self-focussed and self-serving than I like to think I am. I may gladly agree to do something, but soon those selfish questions I am loath to acknowledge resound in my brain. What will I get out of this? How can I impress others as I complete this task? What if nobody sees all my effort?

Hmm!

One recent Saturday morning, I was ahead of schedule to get to a speaking engagement some distance away, so sat down to check over my input and read my Bible before leaving. I found I was up to the story in John 5 of how Jesus heals a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. This takes place on the Sabbath, so the Jews begin to persecute Jesus—and even more so after Jesus refers to God as his Father (5:17). Yet Jesus still proceeds to explain how he does only what he sees the Father doing and how he has received authority as the Son of  God to give life and to judge others (5:19ff).

Then the following words caught my eye:

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. John 5:30

Okay, I found myself thinking—Jesus chose to listen to his Father and not step out in his own strength. And he chose to please his Father rather than think only about his own wellbeing. What a challenge! If Jesus had that attitude in his life and ministry, then surely I should aim to do likewise—especially as I set out to speak somewhere.

I read on, admiring Jesus’ boldness as he addressed those Jews seeking to kill him: ‘But I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.’ (5:42) Wow—how confronting that must have been for them to hear! Yet I personally found his next statement even more challenging:

How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? John 5:44

As I drove to my speaking engagement, I found myself hoping I had heard my Father God well and prepared the message God wanted me to give. But then I asked myself: What are my real motives in it all? Is it just to receive praise from others—or is it to hear that ‘Well done!’ from God deep in my spirit and to know that is enough? Usually after I speak, someone will come and say something positive about my input—and I hope I have learnt to accept this with grace and not let it add to my pride. But if I begin to care more about that than about whether I have pleased God in it all, then something is sadly out of balance in my whole approach.

Sometimes our real motives for doing what we do can be well hidden, don’t you think? Let’s bring them into the light of day and check them out with our loving, caring, gracious God, who does not want to see us go astray.

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Last week, while promoting my books in a Melbourne bookstore, I had some interesting encounters I could never have imagined into any of my novels. They encouraged me so much that I wondered afterwards if I might well have been entertaining one or two of those angels the writer to the Hebrews talks about in Heb 13:2!

Take the gentleman I began chatting to as he was leaving the store. He asked where I was from and, on discovering I was from Sydney, told me he wouldn’t hold that against me! After I informed him I actually grew up in Queensland, we discovered we went to the same high school and that our time there had overlapped. Then when I told him I had ended up teaching at another Brisbane school a few years later, we discovered his wife had been a student there at the time. On and on our conversation went. How lovely it was reflect on the journey God had taken us both over the years since then and to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness!

Another wonderful encounter occurred when a lady came to the store especially to meet me. We had emailed off and on over the years in relation to recording my books for people with visual impairment. I knew my first three novels had been recorded, but imagine my delight when I discovered two more had been as well, that my non-fiction book Soul Friend was about to be recorded and that this lady planned to buy my latest novel The Inheritance so it can be also. What an encouragement! I had imagined their clients would have had enough of borrowing my books, but no, apparently they want more. I love the idea of being able to bless people in this way who are unable to see the printed word.

I was touched too when a young woman noticed Soul Friend on my display table and immediately came over to give me a warm hug. She had found the book so helpful, she told me, and was delighted to meet me. Later, a similar thing happened with someone who had read The Inheritance. Then just this past weekend, while book selling at a conference closer to home, I had another unexpected and encouraging encounter. I met a delightful lady who works in a Christian bookstore in a small, western New South Wales country town.

‘Oh, it’s so great to meet you!’ she told me. ‘We stock your books in our bookstore—our manager loves them! They’re in our local library too.’

Never would have I envisaged my books in a store in this little town, let alone in their library.

In all this, I don’t mean to be egotistical at all. I’m sure God didn’t allow these encounters for the purpose of boosting my pride! But I do believe God’s heart was to encourage me in these lovely, surprising ways—just as God desires to do for you. In John 5:17, Jesus tells the Jews: My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working. Are your eyes open to see how our loving Father is at work even now in your own life? Or, like me, are you perhaps in danger of not recognising those angels God has for us to encounter along the way?

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