Several years back, I was downstairs in the furnace room where we have both a natural gas furnace as well as a natural gas hot water heater, and I thought I smelled the smell of natural gas. Of course, natural gas is odorless. However, a specific odor is added to it to help in detection of leaks. Well, in the end, it turned out to be nothing more than the smell of residual gas which may occur at the time that a furnace first kicks in, but at the time, I didn’t know that, so I called a gas technician to come and examine the installation. As they say, better off safe than sorry, and my wife and I personally know of two people who suffered natural gas poisoning due to a furnace related problem, and they were probably not too far from losing their lives over it, as well.
The gas technician came over and did his examination. He said everything was all right. Now with the technician at my home, I thought to myself, “This might be a good opportunity to try and see if this man might be open to hearing about the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Well, it turns out that the man was indeed very open to hearing about the gospel – in fact, he was so open that he said to me, “Yes, I know about this already. I am a Christian.” This got us to talking about some other related matters. In a matter of just a few seconds, the man began to open up to me and to share about an experience he had one day. I don’t know the year this happened, but it sounded to me like it was within the previous ten or so years related to the time that we spoke (which itself was quite a few years ago now).
The man shared with me an interesting – and in fact disturbing – story about faith, obedience, and consequences of disobedience. I must say, it was quite shocking. He told me a story about his own life, and what happened one morning, in the very early parts of the morning. One morning, he said, as he was lying in his bed, half asleep and half awake, he said that God spoke to him. Now it was not an audible voice that God spoke to him in. Rather, it was a very strong impression, but he knew and he believed that God was indeed speaking to him. In fact, the “instructions” that he said that God was telling him were quite specific indeed. Obviously, there was something very specific about this, it was not just the pizza he had for lunch or tension from a hard day at work the day before!
The man said that he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was telling him to drive to a certain city that was about 1 hour away by car. Now mind you, it was in the wee hours of the morning that this occurred. The man said that when he received this message from – what he believed was – God, that the very first thought that came to his mind was, “I really do not have enough gas to be able to drive to that city right now.” Think about that, if you will! His first thought was not, “Is this God?” But rather, his first thought was, “I really do not have enough gas.” If the “person” or “being” speaking to him was last night’s dinner, or stress, you would not think that he would have answered in this way. It appears that he genuinely was receiving a message from … well, it seems, God. Of course, the Bible says to “test all things” and especially to “test the spirits” to see if they are from God (1 John 4:4). It would be correct to test this, because the Bible says we should. But how do you test something like that? I suppose one way to test it is, first, to pray to God, and, second, if you feel peace about it, and your spirit appears to bear witness with the Holy Spirit who indwells each believer, then that is a “pass” on at least the very first test.
A second way to “test” and see if the message or thought was really from God would be to, well, actually get in the car and start driving! See what happens! I know that may sound a little strange to some, but think about it. Abraham was commended for his faith when God spoke to him, and do not we proudly associate with Abraham, whom we declare is the “father of our faith”? In Hebrews 11, the great chapter on faith, we read of Abraham, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8) I find that many people like to associate with Abraham. Unfortunately, not as many who say that Abraham is their father in the faith actually practice the faith of Abraham. We are too worried, generally speaking, about whether or not there is gas in our car (or money in our bank accounts). Perhaps that is why the Christian church appears so inadequate in the western nations. While calling ourselves Christians, we have failed to live up to the standards established by us in the example of Abraham.
The man grievously told me that he actually wrestled in an agonizing way regarding not driving to the place where he said he “knew” that God was telling him to drive to. The man became quite emotional at this point, and declared to me, “The worst part of it is that I knew it was God who was speaking to me!” In other words, he was confessing to me that he was deliberately disobeying God. You will remember the quote I just quoted from Hebrews in the previous paragraph. That verse is Hebrews 11:8. If you go back just two verses from there, there is another very well known verse, Hebrews 11:6, which says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Notice the part that says, “He is a rewarder of those who seek Him”. Plainly put, our faith should lead us to obedience. And the end result is a great reward. But if we are disobedient, other things happen. In fact, sometimes the results can be quite tragic indeed.
In the morning, the man woke up. He had not slept well because he had grieved the Holy Spirit. Thus the man did not wake up with a sense of peace or encouragement, but rather discouragement and unrest. That is where a lot of our problems lie in life. We may mask them sometimes with emotional pain-killers, or anti-depressant medicine, but largely, we are a rebellious, disobedient, bunch of people. And we reap the consequences of our actions. This day would not be a good day for this man. For soon he would learn the sad news of a terrible tragedy that had occurred in that same city that God had told him repeatedly to drive to! God had told him, “go!” but he had not been willing. He was God’s chosen man for that particular situation. But the chosen man backed down and said “no“. Sadly, tragedy may befall us, and our family, when we say “no” to God. The reasons bad things happen is often because the ones chosen to fix the problem simply say “no”. The man had said, “no” and he would forever live to face the consequences of his actions.
It just so happens that the man had several wonderful friends who were living in the city that God had told him to drive to. While he slept and disobeyed, a fire burned and raged in the house of his friends who were living in that city. In all, six people died, three of whom he personally knew. The same God who told him to drive to that city no doubt would have provided the gas, if needed, as well as the exact directions to the house, so that he could make it there on time to save his friends. But the man was simply not willing to take the very first step! Now my dear Christian friend, what is your problem today inasmuch as you are not willing to take the very first step in obedience to the Spirit of God? Is it fear of being ridiculed, mocked, put down, put to shame, or rejected? Is it fear of provision? Is it fear of failure or fear of success? What is it that is holding you back from accomplishing your God-given mandate, and how long will you wait to do that very thing that God has called you to do?
Perhaps you are afraid that you will run out of gas – but while you are still sleeping in your bed, it is “illegal” and “unacceptable” in God’s eyes, to disobey the Spirit of God! Surely getting your clothes on, is not hard. And stepping into the vehicle is not hard. Your snare is in the imagination of your mind, and in the manufacturing of circumstances that will never come to pass as long as you are fully obedient and willing to exercise the faith of your father Abraham. Abraham is indeed your father, is he not? And if you call him your father, then it is time to step out in faith like Abraham did – not a foolish faith, or an unwise faith, but a responsible, courageous, faith, that is in keeping with the laws and principles laid down for us in the Holy Bible, God’s Word. Meditate on Hebrews 11:8 today, and then put it into practice.
“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)