Last week I shared how the Father first tries privately to get us to change our ways, and only takes things public if we refuse - patient to wait even decades for us to change. His ways in this are the same whether He uses the 'cattle prod' method of poking us, or the gentle and private internal workings to get us to grow up and lay aside sin.
Here are examples of both the cattle prod and the internal dealings in the heart of man.
The 16 year old speeding
...he got pulled over and warned against speeding from a small-town police officer. The kid admitted he had a habit of driving too fast and God was dealing with him about slowing down. I told him God tried first in the heart, and now because he wasn't obeying, the Lord was taking it to a new level of a warning ticket. I told him next time he may get a ticket and fine. Evidently he didn't judge himself, for a few weeks later I learned he did get a ticket and fine. A few weeks after that he had a non-injury accident. That accident got his attention, and to my knowledge he has driven focused and within the law ever since.
I was an unpaid Associate Pastor at a church in the Boulder, Colorado area, and each Monday from 1-3 I led what I called 'Healing School', in which each week I took 1 example of healing in the NT and taught how the Lord brought healing to that person or persons. (I have a cd/MP3 series called 'Healing School' that is from a Bible school seminar where I taught based on those teachings.)
The stubborn man
It was one of those times that I had a stern word from the Father for a man who usually attended. I asked if he wanted it given privately or with our small group, who were by this time good friends. He said to just share it, so I did. I heard the Father by His Spirit saying, "I have been dealing with you about your smoking and losing weight, and the time of that grace is nearly ended. You need to obey my dealings with you." He acknowledged it was true, and asked for prayer...but nothing changed...
About 3 months later he had a very severe heart attack, but he survived much to the surprise of the doctors, though with some damage to the heart muscle. He then immediately changed his ways, losing about 35 pounds (16k) and immediately stopped smoking. The last I had heard he was lean and strong as if he had never had a heart attack.
Understanding spiritually what is happening
Back in the days of Job, his friend Elihu spoke accurately about the Lord. In fact Job and his other 3 friends had to repent for saying things that were wrong about the Lord (like, 'the Lord gives and the Lord takes away). Job admitted: I spoke of things I knew nothing about, I abhor myself... That means we dismiss things Job and his friends said about the Lord as having been spoken out of ignorance or in error.
Only Elihu did not have to repent - what He said of God was accurate, including telling Job that 'God does not afflict*', and 'Far be it from the Almighty that He would pervert what is right*'. Elihu also explained to Job how the Lord had been trying privately to reach him privately, though Job resisted. *Job 34:12, 37:23
You may recall that Job explained why he was in the condition of the eruption of Shingles, or boils or blister like lesions on his skin, in 3: 25-26: "I have not been in peace, neither have I been able to sleep nor rest. What I greatly feared has happened to me. I have not felt safe, nor at peace, nor at rest, but only turmoil."
If you were a doctor and this patient named Job came to your office telling you his skin had erupted in sores from the stress he was under, the fear, the lack of sleep - what would you do? You'd tell him to take a holiday, delegate his work, and prescribe medicines to help him sleep - or at least some herbal tea!
Someone wise in the things of the Spirit would know Job opened the door to his condition and it was only God who was sparing his life at each attempt the devil was making. But his refusal to cast his cares on the Lord, do what was right in the natural by better managing his various business interests, and take rest, opened the door to his condition.
Elihu told Job that God had been trying to reach him, in chapters 33- 36 in particular, and includes some of my favorite verses in the whole Bible:
"God speaks once, yea twice, yet man perceives it not...
...In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep comes upon man, then God speaks to try to open his ears and gives instruction, that He may withdraw man from what he intends to do, and repent of his pride, that He may keep his life from going into the pit, and his life from perishing. If he resists, he will have pain in his body..." Job 33: 14-end
This lays out the progression of God working privately in the hearts of people, through the eventual public revelation of their struggle with sin - in this case he was speaking of Job and his physical illness. That isn't to say every sickness is God making some secret sin public, not at all. But you have seen in these examples that things happen in a person's life because they won't obey the Lord. God was trying to save Job's life and placed limits on what the devil could do to him, and without the Lord's efforts Job would have surely met a premature death.
A person not privy to the situation might see a speeding ticket given a 16 year old and make a comment about boys and their cars, but have no idea what God had been doing for months before.
Another might see an overweight man who smoked, have a heart attack, and say, 'What did he expect?', not realizing God's work in the inner man.
The friends of Job saw their friend in pain and suggest everything from God is doing it to him to a secret sin, not realizing the very private efforts of the Lord to deal with Job about fear, stress, worry, and his business and kids.
Personally, that's why I usually limit my comments to the fruit of a person's life, for the heart is the realm of the Lord to know.
Next week we forget the cattle prod and look at how He leads us like a shepherd. Until then, blessings,
www.cwowi.org and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org