Monday, June 14, 2010

Knowing God, Ruth

It was a cold day at Sunset Lodge in Michigan, and nearly 100 teens were gathered for our annual winter retreat. I was one of the teens listening to the speaker as he urged us to remain pure and godly, and he said something that shaped my entire dating life. He said to pray for your future wife, asking God to protect her, keep her pure, and make her more like Christ. From that point on I prayed that prayer every day. While I waited, I prayed, and allowed God to lead me to the woman I eventually married. After we were married, we had Trinity, and when Trinity was a little over a year, we wanted to have a second child. We again had to wait, because (for reasons we still don’t know) for a time we could not have anymore children. We came to the point of adoption, and began to discuss options with those who had already gone through a successful adoption process, and while we waited we prayed, and then God allowed us to have another child—Tommy.

You are waiting for something today. Either you are waiting on God for someone to marry, someone to call your child, the right job to open up, enough money for medical expenses, a cure for a sickness, someone who needs Jesus to come to Him, a friend or relative who is making bad decisions to make right ones, or world peace. Everyone is waiting for something to happen! While we wait—you must trust in God!

Today we’ll see 4 Lessons from Ruth as a model for what you can do while you wait for God

Ruth is someone who we should not even be talking about, an unlikely hero from an unlikely region—Moab, an unlikely gender—female. Our story opens with Ruth having married Mahlon, son of Elimelech and Naomi, from the 200 person town of Bethlehem. Mahlon and his parents, along with his brother Chilion, traveled from Bethlehem to Moab, going at least 50 miles around the Dead Sea to find food during a time of famine. Even though they were close geographically, it was possible because of the landscape for one area to have plenty while another had famine. In 1931, the same thing happened in that region, where Bethlehem had famine while the other side of the Dead Sea had plenty. In the land of Moab, Ruth and Mahlon remained married for 10 years until Mahlon, his father, and his brother all died. Ruth was a widow with only her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. So Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, heard that God had provided for His people (1:6) and so she said goodbye, and Ruth’s sister-in-law decided to stay behind. But we’re told with very strong Hebrew language that Ruth “clung to” Naomi, with a strong, unconditional love. Ruth made a strong statement of faith and dependence on God, despite her desperate situation, saying “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God,” (1:16).

The first Lesson we can learn from Ruth, is while you wait for God, love people.
1) Love people unconditionally
God shows His unconditional love to His people, who are supposed to show it to others
Ruth took a step of faith by clinging to Naomi, disowning everything and trusting in Naomi’s God, and helping Naomi. God showed His hesed for Naomi in 2:20 through Boaz providing for Ruth and Naomi. So the way God shows His unconditional love for people is many times through other people!
It means that when you are hurting, suffering, praying, begging God for help, continue to have others in mind and devote yourself to loving others. If we stop loving others because we feel bad, there will never be a time when we love each other.
It’s like your family, how you stick together, stand up for each other, defend each other, give of yourself to each other—God’s people should be like that to their family, church family, and even those who aren’t Christian.
Who has God put in your path who is also hurting? Love them.

The second lesson we learn from Ruth is not only to love others unconditionally, but to:
2) Lean on God
God has a redeemer for those who decide to trust in Him, so trust in Him!
Leaning on God does not mean sitting still. In fact, Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God,” but doesn’t mean being sedentary or lazy. It means stop trying to do things your way and do things God’s way! Ruth did what the law provided for them—she gleaned in the fields of grain, picking up the leftover grain that fell as the harvesters cut it down.
Boaz noticed her, and her work ethic, and offered her better grain, more grain, and protection. Ruth met Boaz, who was kind to her and also trusted in God
While she waited for God to provide, Ruth did not just sit still, seek free money or handouts, or give in to laziness. Ruth worked in the fields gleaning grain in order to do what she could.
Leaning on God means we do our best and after you’ve done everything you can do, leave the rest up to God! Leave room for God! It means when your money runs out, your sin overflows, and you’re lonely and discouraged, you should stretch out to God and lean on Him!
Remember the words from that song, “Lean on me, when you’re not strong, I’ll take your hand, I’ll help you carry on,” is not just for one another, but for God! Lean on God more than anyone or anything else!
A few weeks ago Trinity and I were playing with helicopter seeds from a maple tree. We decided to take a few seeds and plant them in a pot of dirt I mixed together, and then we watered the seeds in. A few days later, someone accidentally took most of the dirt out of the pot, and Trinity was sad that the seeds wouldn’t grow. Two days ago, we noticed a healthy 4 inch maple shoot sticking up out of that pot. That’s perseverance!
You can be exactly like that, as you trust in God, despite life’s problems, in spite of people taking things from you, in spite of bad decisions, in spite of obstacles, you can still grow if you lean on God! God can provide everything you need!
Lean on God by trusting Him while you wait and persevere. Don’t give up! God has a redeemer for you who trust in Him! Now is the time when people need to see your faith in God. Now is the time people need to see a Christian who endures suffering! Now is the time when the world full of violence, fighting, crime, sexual perversion, abuse, broken families, crumbling nations, weak economics—now is the time they need to see that Jesus Christ didn’t just die on the cross for your sin once upon a time, and rise from the dead once upon a time, but He is alive today and giving strength today, and you have hope today in Him, and you know that you know that you know that you know you have eternal life, and an abundant life now! That’s leaning on God!
Steven Curtis Chapman came out with an album on November last year, called "Beauty From Ashes." The secular music industry praised it more highly than a Christian Contemporary artist’s album has been praised in a long time. Why? Because it was about how he still believed in God even though he lost his five year old daughter. The entire album is the story of his grief, worry, pain, joy, and hope. Leaning on God

3) Leap in faith by asking the redeemer to save you
when people want God’s redemption, they must take a step of faith
Ruth took a leap of faith in order to find redemption, by going to the threshing floor at night and proposing to Boaz. Read what happens in chatper 3 (3:1-18, skim). Ruth had already taken refuge under God’s wings (2:12) and Boaz noticed it. Now she knew Boaz was a redeemer, and Naomi commanded her to pursue it, and she did!
When birds are in a nest, there comes a time when they need one day to take a leap of faith! Don’t’ stay in the nest forever, you eventually have to go out in faith.

4)Let God work and be redeemed
God redeems those who trust in Him for redemption
Boaz showed unconditional love towards Ruth and Redeemed Ruth. But beyond Boaz, God was the One who orchestrated this marriage. God worked so that Ruth had been married for 10 years and hadn’t had any children before her husband died, and that must have hurt. God had planned for Ruth—someone who wasn’t supposed to be accepted in God’s community—to marry Boaz (someone who did not have to redeem Ruth) in order to provide for Ruth and Naomi, in order to provide for the line of King David (Israel’s greatest king and leader to this day), and in order to provide a Messiah for the world! Ruth 4 tells us how Ruth’s lineage led to David, and Matthew 1:5 shows us David was an ancestor of Jesus Christ.
This means that when you let God work to save you from your problems, you get better results than when you come up with a solution that is ungodly. This means that after you worked
Ruth’s act of faith
You may not need to be redeemed for salvation, but someone today does! And they are waiting to see if you will Love, Lean, Leap, and Let God work and bless you.

Nichole Nordeman sang a song "Brave," where she said "I am small and I speak when I'm spoken to, but I'm willing to give it all for you . . . so long status quo, I think I just let go, You make me want to be brave."
While you wait for God, love people, lean on God, leap in faith into God’s hands, and let God work.

No comments: