I’ve talked to several people in the last few months that are in tough situations. Problems with their finances, their children, their marriages, addictions, you name it. What has shocked me in every instance is their lack of desperation. They’re complaining, crying, and even asking for help…but they really don’t want to make a change. So much so that I wonder if they’ve grown attached to their pain. It has tagged along for so long that it’s become their pet. They feed it, water it, and complain because it’s not house-trained yet, but they’ve come to see it as their new reality. Seriously, it’s scary.
So the next time I hear, “I just don’t know what to do anymore, I can’t continue living like this…” I’m going to ask this question.
“What are you going to do about it?”
It’s the same question I would pose to you.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector. The Bible says that he was “chief among publicans”. Highly ranking, and very rich. Jesus was passing through Jericho, and this very rich tax collector was desperate to see him. There was just one small problem. He was short. Too short to see above the heads of the masses of people that had crowded the streets for the “event”. So he ran ahead and climbed a tree. He was desperate to get a glimpse of this Jesus. I don’t know what he had heard about Jesus, but I’m sure that stories of His miracles and powerful teaching had reached Zacchaeus’ ears. When Jesus saw him in the tree, He called him down and invited Himself over to his house for lunch! Ignored the masses and invited Himself into the life of one very wealthy, very short, and probably dishonest, tax collector. The crowd was furious- why would He spend time with a cheat and a thief? Tax collectors were the arch enemies of the people! But Zacchaeus promised in that moment to pay back four times anything that he had previously gained dishonestly, and give half of his wealth to the poor. Jesus promises him that he and his household will be saved. I can’t help but think that those were the very words that Zacchaeus had been praying to hear.
That’s all we know about Zacchaeus- you can find the story in Luke 19:1-10. What drove him out to the streets that day to look for Jesus? I don’t know. What kind of deep desire sent him up that tree? I can’t tell you. And where did his outrageous promise come from? Pay people back four times over and give half of his money away? That’s crazy. This outrageous promise probably turned him into a pauper. But…he was desperate.
Another person who made a rash promise in a moment of desperation is Hannah. Her story begins in I Samuel. She couldn’t have children. She had a wonderful husband that loved her and longed to make her happy…but her desire couldn’t be satiated by his love and devotion.
Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow:
If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
By giving me a son,
I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you.
I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.
It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He approached her and said, “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!”
Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman hard used. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.”
Eli answered her, “Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.”
“Think well of me—and pray for me!” she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant.
I Samuel 1:10-18, MSG
Hannah so longed for a son that she promised to give him back to God if He would only grant her request. Out of desperation, she gave her son away before he was ever born. And you can read the rest of the story- she drops little Samuel off at the temple after he was barely weaned of her breast:
“She stayed home and nursed her son until she had weaned him. Then she took him up to Shiloh, bringing also the makings of a generous sacrificial meal—a prize bull, flour, and wine. The child was so young to be sent off!
They first butchered the bull, then brought the child to Eli. Hannah said,’Excuse me, sir. Would you believe that I’m the very woman who was standing before you at this very spot, praying to God? I prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for. And now I have dedicated him to God. He’s dedicated to God for life.’
Then and there, they worshiped God.”
I Samuel 1:24-26, MSG
What were the results of Zacchaeus’ and Hannah’s desperate promises? For Zacchaeus, it was salvation for him and his entire household, and freedom from a life of greed, deceit, and condemnation. For Hannah, it was a son…and we see later on that God gave her 3 more sons and 2 daughters!
When you get desperate- really desperate!- God answers. When you finally get crazy enough to relinquish control of everything- EVERYTHING- He gives back to you far and above what you “lost”. Hannah didn’t lose a son- she gained the honor of being the mother of Samuel- a prophet, priest and the last judge of Israel. PLUS…5 more children! Three more sons! Two beautiful daughters. She didn’t LOSE anything!!! Zacchaeus may have lost his fortune, but he gained eternal life and PEACE in his heart. The richest and poorest of men will tell you that there is no price for peace.
The enemy tells us that we’ll have to give everything up in order to live for God…but what he doesn’t tell us is that God gives back to us a hundred times above and beyond what we surrender to Him.
My point? Are you desperate? Ready for a change? Then fall on your face before God as Hannah did. Who cares if everyone around you thinks you’re crazy (or drunk!)? Or like Zacchaeus, climb a tree if you can’t see above the heads of the giants facing you. Lift up your head! Prepare for the King of Glory to come into your impossible situation and show off His power! Get ready for Him to rescue you! When you get real with God, He gets down to business.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
Psalm 24:7-8, KJV
The King of glory will fight your impossible battle for you! He never meant for you to carry the load, anyway- the load of this life and its battles are too big for you. Only His shoulders can carry their weight.
Respond to His invitation tonight:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30, MSG
Are you desperate? Really desperate? It’s time to lay down that heavy burden and chase after the God of the impossible.
Are you ready?
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/marleahjoy/13153221935/”>MarLeah Joy</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>