Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In Other Words--Does it Have to Be Feast or Famine?


The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
Men will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD,
but they will not find it. ”
Amos 8:11-12

I've experienced times of drought in my life. Times when I've not regularly sought to spend time with God in Bible Study or prayer. I've known periods where I did not have good sound Biblical teaching available. I've become weary of lackluster preaching on cultural topics rather than delving into the difficult passages of God's word. The drought has been there intermittently in my life. Once or twice, that drought has taken hold and famine has set in.

fam·ine (fām'ĭn)
n. A drastic, wide-reaching food shortage.
A drastic shortage; a dearth.
Severe hunger; starvation.

One thing that I have learned over the years is that if there is a drought in my spiritual life, I probably started it.

In this passage, Amos is warning the people that they are going to become desperate for something that they are currently rejecting. The people were self-focused. They had no need for God, and they did not earnestly seek him. Any religious activity was more out of habit and ritual than significant relationship. The previous verses in the chapter paint a picture of not only pursuit of gain and money, but of oppressing those who were in need. God is essentially saying through Amos, "you are going to want me and you won't be able to hear me and you started it."

For the people in Amos' day, the famine was a clear and deliberate punishment for their ingratitude and behaviour. In my life, the famine is the natural consequence of not deliberately, consistently seeking God. Have you experienced this? How do you get back to a land of rain when you've allowed drought to set in? For me, I find at least five things that help me return. Maybe these will also speak into your experience.

First, I must confess that I started it. I must take responsibility that I have, whether consciously or unwittingly, allowed other things to take the space of my daily seeking a relationship with God.
In that confession, I must be specific about the things that are encroaching on that time and enabling the famine. Often the things that crowd out my study time are actually good things that our taken the wrong precedence.
When I've identified the famine causers, I must ask God to help me prioritize to keep those things in their proper place.
Then, I need to just act on it. I need to sit down and study or pray or wait before God. I need to put action behind the desire, recognizing that it may take some time before it becomes easier or natural. Just as the first drops of rain do not end a physical famine but are the hope of the end to come, so it is with my study. Those first "drops" of study are building for the hope of more to come.
Finally, I need to seek a friend who can hold me accountable. In college I had a friend who started letters not with "how are you" but with "how's your quiet time." I often did not want to answer the question, but I always did because he cared enough to seek the hard question. Sometimes that is the question I need to answer. Other times I need to answer "how many blogs about a relationship with God did you read today instead of developing your relationship" or "how many books about God did you read instead of the Bible". These are areas of good things that I can get out of priority.

Those steps can start me on the road back to health instead of starvation. They can keep me thriving in a relationship rather than fading in a famine. They also remind me that in those times of feasting, I need to store away God's word for the more difficult or busy times so I am less likely to become complacent and move away.

I don't know where you are today. Maybe you are feasting. Celebrate it! Enjoy it! But don't forget you are storing God's word in memorization and meditation for days that may not be this easy. You may be in the place I am right now--carving out the time for a relationship although it is not the feast it has been at other times. Let me encourage you (and remind myself) to stick with it, keep developing the relationship and not to become complacent. But maybe these were tough verses for you because you are in the midst of famine. I pray that something in this post encourages you. I would also consider it an honour if I could pray for you in this time. Just leave a comment or drop me an email (see side bar for address) and I will gladly do that for you.

Father I pray today that each reader of this will know a time of intimacy and relationship building with you. I pray that those who are struggling to find the time will take small steps to build that time into their lives. I pray that I will keep my priorities ordered with your priorities and I will not forsake the time of study and prayer. Thank you that even in famines of our own making, you are always willing to draw us back and bring back the rain. May we always seek your rain. Amen.

I am so honoured that you are joining us today for 'In Other Words.' I am looking forward to visiting your sites and reading how you interpreted these verses and how you keep the word of God forefront in your lives. Bless you for joining us. Please leave your link below.


Denise Hughes said...

"Often the things that crowd out my study time are actually good things that have taken the wrong precedence."

You've offered such practical help and insight here. Always a good reminder. I can easily fall into the rut of reading other great books about God and neglect reading the Book by God!

Thanks for hosting IOW today! I love it when IOW is Scripture!

Tami Boesiger said...

I love the reminder that the famine always starts with us. How true! Thanks for your practical advice on how to get back to feasting.

Thanks for hosting, friend!

Karen said...

Great job, I really enjoyed your words of wisdom. Thanks for today's quote from God's Word.

mamas*little*treasures said...

Thanks for hosting today and for the wonderful reminder that our experiences of drought and emptiness are the result of our own choices, and it just does not need to be that way! Blessings, Nina

LittleWomen21 said...

I really appreciated how you not only point how how the famine starts (with us), but how to fix it! First with confession, a specific confession, then checking our priorities with God, then acting on it (instead of just thinking about change), and finally making ourselves accountable to other Christians. I haven't been participating in IOW for the past two months because I've been busy with other pursuits and I know it ended up being a famine of the Word for me because when I read the verses for this week I was so convicted! So if you guys don't see me posting for a while, I would appreciate a comment to keep me accountable! IOW is a wonderful way to get focused on the Word and share where we are with others (though I think face-to-face interactions with other Christians are important, too! - online isn't enough)

Debbie said...

How true your words are; the famine begins with me. It can be easy to blog hop reading many Christian blogs. I so enjoy it and getting to make new friends. But there's nothing that satisfies like God's Word. And there's no substitute for it, that's for sure.

A great reminder and a wonderful quote you chose for us this week.