Are You Even Listening to Me? (Prayer Devotional for the week of September 13, 2015)

Sometimes I feel like a broken record, except that my kids don’t really have a frame of reference for scratched vinyl albums, so the cliché is lost on them. The point, as many parents will agree, is that I feel like my words go in one ear and out the other. I don’t talk just to hear myself speak, for cryin’ out loud!

 

Sometimes I wonder if God feels the same way about us. He communicates with us through his word, the Bible. He also communicates through messengers, like the sermon on Sunday morning, a worship song on the radio, or a godly friend’s counsel. He communicates through prayer and the nudges of the Holy Spirit on our hearts. Case in point: Have you ever heard a particularly poignant sermon that echoed something that had been on your heart for a while, and then a song came on the radio that was spot-on about what you were dealing with? Lo and behold, you open your Bible later and seemingly coincidentally stumble upon a passage that reiterates everything God has been trying to tell you?

 

God is so patient with us; isn’t he? In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul explains that scripture comes from God’s inspiration, and it is not only useful to teach us, but also to redirect us, point out our mistakes, and build character. All of these things, in turn, work together to equip us to do the work that God calls us to do. Think back to when you started your current job: you might have attended an orientation, gone through training, perhaps even had a mentor. You probably weren’t an expert on Day One; it took time to learn the ropes.

 

Our spiritual journey is not much different. We have ample training opportunities through church and studying the Bible. You can build mentorship connections through Life groups. You can gain on-the-job training by serving in a ministry. Even people who have walked with the Lord for decades will admit that they have much to learn, but each day should find us growing closer and closer to the Lord. Check out Philippians 1:6 – God is in the business of finishing projects, and how wonderful for us that he never throws in the towel!

 

Isaiah 55:11 reminds us that God’s word will not return empty-handed; he speaks to be heard, and he communicates with us in order to bring us into a deeper relationship with himself. Are you listening?

 

Salt of the Earth

I have heard lots of sermons about Matthew 5:13 over the years, and the messages I can remember focused on the useful benefits of salt – particularly, how it makes food taste better and serves as a preservative. One message that I vaguely recall from my college years even included an unappetizing and detailed explanation of how salt was used in ancient times to preserve meat, jerky-style. The point, I believe, was that since we are “the salt of the earth,” our lives should be appealing (tasteful) to help draw others to Christ.

 

While I don’t disagree with that perspective, two things dawned on me recently that caused me to see Matthew’s analogy from a new angle. First, I have been trying to get rid of weeds that invaded our property during the summer, and one recommendation was to make a concoction out of vinegar and salt to spray on the area. The salt not only kills the plants, but it hinders the soil from growing anything ever again.

 

Second, we are just a couple of months away from the first snow of the season, which means the snow plows will be driving through town in the wee morning hours to clear the roads. The maintenance workers always spread coarse sand on the streets, instead of salt. Why? Because salt is corrosive to the paint and undercarriage of vehicles.

 

This seems like a mixed message. Salt is tasty and has valuable preservative properties, but it also has the ability to destroy. So, I wonder if part of our calling to be “the salt of the earth” is not just advice to live an appealing kind of life to those around us, but to be willing to take a stand – alone, if necessary – to combat the corrosive things of this world? (See Romans 12:1-2)

 

When the enemy plants invasive weeds in our lives and tries to choke out our spiritual growth, we can be “salt” to rid ourselves of those negative influences and stand in faith. Or, when we allow sin to take the driver’s seat instead of relying on the Lord, our prayer partners and Life groups can be “salt” to help us realize that sin is corroding our lives. Let’s go out this week and be “the salt of the earth” to encourage each other and to hold ourselves accountable.