“I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). I first heard this verse many years ago when someone used it to bring me encouragement. I had gone through some terrible ordeals, and I held onto this verse as a promise that someday things would be better. I often wondered though how God could restore to me what was taken… I mean, was he going to give me back my innocence? My youth? It had been a very long time since I had even thought about it. But this week, after a house church meeting, I was thinking about the fact that satan had interfered in my life at such a young age and wondered why. What might have been different if he hadn’t? I had the potential to influence many people. I was a natural leader. What might God have accomplished through me if I had followed Him all of that time? Was there something that satan was trying to keep me from doing? Then I heard that verse again, “I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.” Suddenly it became apparent to me that the verse is not referring to what God will restore to me (for my own benefit), as much as giving me the opportunity (again) to do for Him what He had set out for me to do. I looked up the verse in Joel to read it in its context. After the devastation of the land, God promises to restore the land so that others will know that that He is God (Joel 2: 27). Then He will pour out His Spirit (28) and “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (32). God has a plan and He has given us gifts and talents to be used to further that plan.
Right on the heels of this revelation came a stern warning though: “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam 15:22). This verse is found in the chapter where King Saul disobeys God’s direction and as a result God rejects him as king. Saul was not rejected because he made a mistake. David made plenty. Saul was rejected because in his heart he did not follow God. He was going through the motions but modifying God’s directions as he saw fit. This prompted an examination of my own heart and motives. Isn’t there things in my life that I have not been dealing with? Things that I tell myself are ok because of one excuse or another? Things that are contrary to God’s direction? Yes. I know them. Jesus tells us in Matt 7:15-20 that a good tree bears good fruit. But if I were really being honest, doesn’t my tree have a blend going on? Haven’t my tongue and my attitude left much to be desired on many occasions? How can I expect to complete the task God has given me, clearly hear His voice and obey Him if I haven’t been consistently doing it in my life now? The bad branches in my life are killing the rest of the tree. Some pruning is required. There will be no increase in number or quality of good fruit until the pruning is complete. There is no longer room to close my eyes and ears to the things that God is asking me to take care of. He reminded me of the warning to the Laodiceans in Rev 3:14-22. Verse 16 says, “because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.” He goes on to tell us that we do not even know the extent of the mess we are in and that because He loves us He disciplines us. But finally He ends with this encouragement, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I overcame and sat with My Father on His throne” (vs 20-21).
I believe we are on the cusp of a great move of God. Time is of the essence and there is no more room for half-hearted obedience. He is gathering His harvesters and handing out assignments. Will we be rejected at the start line or will we be ready to be set aflame with the fire of a new outpouring of His Spirit?