Today, let us start with a basic question. Why do we come to church?
Our church is a small congregation, and hence the number of responses we can get here might be limited. But if you do a poll in a large church, there are many common answers to this question. Some of us come because it has become a habit for us. When we were children, some of us came because we were dragged to the church, some of us came voluntarily, because it was a chance to escape the home discipline and get a chance to play around with other kids, some of the parents come to church, because of the kids; they want the kids to grow up in church environment, and they want the kids to attend Sunday School etc. Some of us come because we can fellowship with others. There is a social angle to church attendance. Then there are some of us come because we want to be significant, we come not seeking what we can get, but thinking what we can give. There are of course many other nefarious reasons for which some might go to church, but I don’t want to get there.
But above all of these, if we really look deep into our own hearts, we will realise that we come to church seeking God. It might be comfort that we are seeking, it might be healing, it might a deliverance from a serious problem, whatever it is, it might be to be prayed for etc, but we come seeking God, and that is the ultimate reason why we come to church.
This morning I would like to dwell on that thought for a few moments. I want us to ask three questions this morning
So let us address the first question first; “What happens when we Seek God”
In life there are only two outcomes to seeking. When we seek something, we either find it or do not find it. When we look for something or some place, we either find it or do not find it. When we ask the world for something, we either get it do not get it, isn’t it?
So what is it with God? When we Seek Him, do we find him? Let us look into the scripture for an answer to that question.
Let us look at the discourse of Moses to the Isralites in Deuteronomy Ch 4. After giving them warnings after warnings abut the perils of neglecting the true God, and falling into sin, and idol worship etc, comes the comforting words of Moses. Deuteronomy 4:29-31 (NKJV) “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice (for the LORD your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them.” Moses is basically telling them three things here. Firstly, whatever place we are in, however far we may seem to be from the presence of God, I found this particularly comforting, Deuteronomy 4:27 (NKJV) says “And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you.” I found this particularly comforting in the context of BBF which has seen yet another crisis in its history over the last six to eight months. This has happened to BBF before, we have had many instances where we have had to ask ourselves, Is there a purpose for us to exist, and amazingly, we have always found the answer in the affirmative. Deuteronomy 4:27 read with 4:29 says, even when you are scattered, and when you are few in number, you can seek the Lord, you can find him. However small we are in number, we can seek and find God. So that is the first message from Moses. Our act of seeking God is not dependent of how big our gathering is, or where we are. We can seek God from anywhere.
The second message that comes out of this verse is the sobering thought that afflictions are brought upon us at times to turn us to seek God. Moses is in effect telling the Israelites, “When all these problems come upon you, and when you are in such distress, it is to be hoped that you will turn from other activities and turn to God, who is merciful.” Again this point is something that we need to consider in the context of BBF. The afflictions that we go through as a congregation, could it be that they are designed to bring us closer to God as a congregation?
The third and final thing that stands out in these verses is the most comforting. If you seek Him with all your heart and all your mind, you WILL find him, for He is a merciful God, and He will keep His covenant”. It is an assurance, it is a certainty. If we seek him with all our heart and soul we WILL find Him. It does not matter what is our present condition, it does not matter how far we have moved away from Him or disobeyed Him, it does not matter what afflictions we are going through, If we seek Him with all our heart and all our Soul, if we seek Him earnestly, we WILL find Him.
That answers our first question for the day, What happens when we seek God? The answer is we will find Him for Sure.
You will see this reaffirmed at other places in the scripture. Jeremiah 29:13 (NKJV) says “ And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Psalm 145:18 (NKJV) says “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.” Paul tells the Greeks in Acts 17:27 (NKJV) “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;’ Our first question is answered unequivocally, When we seek God we WILL find him.
That brings us to the second question. “What happens when we find God?” To find an answer to this let us to go with the Prophet Isaiah. After highlighting, lamenting and complaining about the sins and corruption and incorrigibleness of the nation and waring them what could happen, Isaiah finds God. Isaiah 6:1-4 (NKJV) “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.” Isaiah had a magnificent encounter with God. When we seek him and Find Him, We can experience the awesome presence of our God in our lives. That is a quick answer to the second question; What happens when we find God? Answer: We have an awesome encounter with Him. Abraham has that encounter (Acts 7:2). Moses has that encounter (Exodus 3:1-6). Gideon has that encounter (Judges 6:11-12). Paul has that encounter (Acts 9:1-9). Yes, when we find God, it is not an ordinary day, it is not just any other day, it is a awesome experience, it is an encounter with God.
So let us say that you seek the Lord and find Him and have an encounter with Him. I want to close with a more important question, how will others know that you have had an encounter with God? How do you respond to such an encounter?
Let us continue to look at the response of Isaiah when he had that awesome encounter with God. Isaiah 6:5-8 (NKJV) So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Again there are three key instances here. The first thing that happens when we encounter God is we become acutely aware of our own shortfalls, our own inadequacies, our own sinfulness. The second action is from God, he cleanses us, he strengthens us, he fortifies us, he equips us. The third action is again back to us, and that is the key part of this message to me this morning, it is at last, we obey. Isaiah says “Here I am Send me”.
You will see this pattern in the other encounters we looked at. Abraham obeys God’s commands and engages movers and packers right away without questioning (Genesis 12:1-4). Moses, like Isaiah first realises and complains about his shortcomings and inadequacies, and his is a much longer list than Isaiah, but God helps him to overcome all of his problems equips him and Moses finally obeys the command. (Genesis 3:1- 4:18). Gideon does the same thing, but finally obeys the Lord commands (Judges 6: 11-27)
Let us go over to the New Testament and look at someone who had a miraculous encounter with God. Yes, I am talking about Saul, who became Paul. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees, a devout Jew, practicing all the law, zealous for the law to the extent that he went around persecuting, arresting and putting Christians in jail and endorsing their death sentence. This is till he had that blinding encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul himself narrates his conversion story to King Agrippa in Acts Chapter 26. It is interesting to see what happened after that conversion. After Paul heard the Divine Imperative through Christ’s words in Acts 26:14-18, he confesses to his reaction. Acts 26:19-23 (NKJV) “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come– that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” Paul’s reaction was of complete obedience to the Divine Imperative. “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision..” he says. “Having obtained help from God, I stand witnessing to small and great..” he says.
So that is the affirmative answer to the third question’ What happens when we have an encounter with God? Answer, We simply obey!!
So here we are. We are here to Seek God, and we have the promise that when we seek Him with all our heart and soul, we WILL find Him. When we find Him we have that awesome encounter with Him, it is not going to be an ordinary day. When we have an encounter, we will naturally obey his calling.
May today be an extraordinary day, when we have an encounter with God? May we begin our obedient journey after that encounter?