I don’t think I’m the only one who experiences things like this. All too often, I find myself “lured” into obedience to the Lord rather than doing it out of a sense of real heart desire, or ‘inward’ desire, as it were, to please God. God has to ‘get my flesh’ before he gets my heart.
An example of this is that one day, I had this urging to buy some cheesecake (that’s ‘fleshly’ of sorts). The urge was so strong that I decided to ‘go for it’. The first place I went to had prices so high that I decided to reconsider. There was a place, however, that I knew sold good cheesecake. While driving there, I suddenly happened to remember that I had made a commitment to meet with this man to talk with him about the Lord. He was a non-Christian, and he just ‘happened’ to work at a shop ‘en route’ to where I ‘thought’ I was heading (turns out I never bought the cheesecake that I ‘thought’ I was going to buy).
This type of thing has happened far too much for it to be a coincidence. In fact, I am sensitive to the fact that these are specific ‘God-incidences’ — these ‘fleshly’ desires that so often come upon me. Before I go on, however, I’d like to remind us that a desire to have a cheesecake is not wrong — it is not the same, for example, as the desire to steal, or commit adultery. No, the desires that I am talking about, that God has so often used in my own life, are ‘genuine desires’ that appeal to my flesh, even though they are not, in and of themselves, wrong. Nevertheless, I find it somewhat of a disappointment that God chooses to use ‘these’ desires to draw me into obedience, rather than simply communicating to me the fact that ‘so and so’ needs to be visited down the road!
Why does God do this? He does it because we are naturally trained to desire food, and things that are good in the natural realm. He knows that he can speak to us through these means, in order to ‘lure’ us unto obedience in the spiritual realm. Another example of this might be if you loved antique cars. You might have a desire to visit an antique car showroom one day, and that desire might have been ‘implanted’ into your mind by the Lord. God might well ‘set you up’ with someone ‘en route’ to speak with about the Lord.
In Scripture, we have an example of God doing this same type of thing, in fact. The passage I am thinking about is found in 1 Samuel and is the story of how God used a ‘natural’ incident to provide spiritual direction in a person’s life. It is the story of Saul’s father’s lost donkey. You will recall that Saul’s father had commanded his son and servant to look for the lost donkey — that is a natural event, that appeals to a man’s natural desires. ‘En route’ however, it turns out that this is more than a ‘natural’ incident: it is an incident about how God used something in the ‘earthly, fleshly’ realm, to provide guidance for a man in the spiritual realm. For it was this incident that God used to ‘send’ Saul to meet up with the prophet Samuel, in order to be ‘set apart’ as the first king (and, albeit one of the worst kings) of Israel.
“And the asses of Kish Saul’s father were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son, ‘Take now one of the servants with thee, and arise, go seek the asses’ … And when they were come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant that was with him, ‘Come, and let us return; lest my father leave caring for the asses, and take thought for us.’ And he said unto him, ‘Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can shew us our way that we should go.’ … Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, ‘To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin'” (1 Samuel 9:3,5-6,15-16a)
We are not, unfortunately, ‘perfected’ to the point of perfect obedience. That is a sad truth that I must wrestle with daily. God chooses, then, to use things of the ‘natural, fleshly’ realm, to ‘lure us’ into obedience for his name’s sake. He does it by way of lost donkeys, or the desire for cheesecake, or whatever it happens to be that we find ‘attractive’ in the natural, earthly, ‘fleshly’ (though not necessary wrong) realm. We serve an awesome God who is able to do these things, not once, or twice, or three times in our lives, but rather all the time. Maybe, just maybe, there will come a day in each of our lives where God actually does not have to do this. But until such time, let us learn to be ‘extra sensitive’ to him, even in the midst of our daily pursuits, which, on one level, may ‘appear’ to be only earthly in nature, but may in fact have a whole lot more to do with the spiritual side of things than we think.
“Lord, make us more like you, so that we may hear your voice, and obey it, even apart from these lures which you so often bring into our lives. For it is in Christ’s name that we pray, Amen.”