In October 1962, there was a standoff between President Kennedy of the United States and Premier Khrushchev of the Soviet Union over planting missiles in Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis was probably the closest we have ever been to World War III, but it was averted because communication was established. In the days before mobile phones and contemporary ways of instant messaging, it was decided to put one red telephone on the desk of the President of the United States, and another on the desk of the Premier of Soviet Russia. The communication link was called the ‘*hotline*’. If at any time there was a danger of misunderstanding they could simply lift up the phone and communicate. Communication is vital to all relationships. Setting aside time to build and nurture communication is essential. Jesus has given you a ‘hotline’ to God, but it is not just for emergency use – it is to be used all the time.
Open up before God
How can your desires be fulfilled? The psalmist, David, says, ‘Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart’ (v.4). Rather than pursuing the things you desire, if you delight in God he will give you the desires of your heart. Letting God give you things is so much better than trying to get them for yourself. He promises:
1. Faith in the midst of your fears
There may be lots going on that could make you afraid and even panic. But three times David repeats, ‘Do not fret’ (vv.1,7b,8b). Nor are we to be envious (v.1b). Rather, turn to the Lord, bring him your fears, and ‘trust in the Lord’ (v.3). Faith is trust. It is the opposite of fear and panic.
2. Guidance in your decisions
‘Commit your way to the Lord’ (v.5). This is the key to guidance: bring the decision to God, ask him to act and trust in him. Over and over again, I have used this verse in my own life. I have also used it when praying with others who are struggling with decisions, especially about their jobs or potential marriage partners.
It is a simple three-part process. First, to commit the decision to God in prayer, asking him to open the doors that are right for you, and to close the ones that are not right. Second, thereafter trust that he is in control. Third, watch in faith for him to act as you continue on your ‘way’, in the expectation that God will act.
3. Peace in your heart
Make use of your hotline to God. Set aside time to ‘be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him’ (v.7). This is the source that makes your ‘righteous reward shine like the dawn’ (v.6). This is the way to avoid fretting and anger and to find peace and hope (vv.8–9).
Lord, keep me from fear, envy and anger as I trust in you. Today I want to commit my way to you. I will be still before you God. I will delight in you.
Luke 4:40, 42, 5:4–6,8a
Listen to the word of God
Your hotline to God involves two-way communication. It involves both speaking to God in prayer and listeningto his words. This was the secret of Jesus’ own ministry. No one has ever had a more powerful ministry than Jesus. No one has ever had more demands on his time and energy than Jesus.
Everyone wanted his help. When they asked for Jesus’ help to heal Simon’s mother-in-law, he healed her. He laid hands on all who were brought to him and healed them. He kept on preaching the gospel (4:44). He healed those with leprosy. The crowds increased; ‘crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their illnesses’ (5:15).
How could he do it? What was his secret? What was the source of his power? ‘At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place’ (4:42). ‘Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed’ (5:16). You will never cope with the demands of life in the kingdom of God unless you are being recharged through your hotline to God.
The crowd was pushing in on Jesus ‘to better hear the Word of God’ (v.1, MSG). Using the boat for a pulpit Jesus taught the crowd (v.3). Hearing the word of God through Jesus transformed Simon Peter’s life.
Peter not only caught a big catch of fish, he also caught a big vision of what God could do with his life. Three years later, he preached a sermon in which 3,000 people were converted in one day. He laid the foundations whereby 2,000 years later over two billion people profess the name of Jesus. What lessons can we learn from this acted-out parable?
1. The potential is vast
They had not caught any fish but there were plenty to catch. In the Sea of Galilee there were phenomenal shoals of fish that covered the sea as if it were solid for as much as an acre.
Although cleaning nets is important for fishermen, the primary purpose is to catch fish. The primary task of the church is mission. Jesus says, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch’ (v.4). There are so many people who need to hear the message about Jesus.
2. Nothing is impossible with Jesus
Peter’s first reaction was negative and pessimistic. He didn’t think it would work, ‘We’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything’ (v.5a). However, possibly after a long pause, he says, ‘But because you say so, I will let down the nets’ (v.5b). Jesus made what seemed impossible possible. ‘When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break’ (v.6).
3. It cannot be done alone but only in partnership
‘So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink’ (v.7). Partnership is the key to mission. Disunity is so off-putting to those outside the church. Partnership and unity are very attractive.
4. It is a vision worth going for
Peter’s first reaction was to sense his own unworthiness: ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ (v.8). At the same time, he and the others were astonished at the catch of fish (v.9). They must have been very daunted but Jesus said, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people’ (v.10). They saw it was a vision worth going for: ‘So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him’ (v.11).
Lord, thank you that you have given me a hotline to you. Help me, like Jesus, to seek solitude with you, to withdraw to lonely places, pray and hear your words.
Numbers 15:28, 16:10a
Prioritise communication with God
As you read the Old Testament and particularly some of the passages for today, you may find them quite shocking. There are no easy answers or glib explanations. There are many things that are hard to understand. Perhaps it is better to focus on what we canunderstand.
What is clear in this passage is the vital importance of your relationship with God and spending time with him. The expression ‘pleasing to the Lord’ appears several times (15:7,10,13,24). Offerings were required to make ‘atonement’ (v.25). ‘At-one-ment’ leads to us being at one with God. For this, forgiveness is required (vv.25–26,28). All this was preparing us for Jesus’ offering of himself, which brings total forgiveness and atonement so that you can have a hotline to God.
Jesus transformed our understanding of the Sabbath. The people of God placed huge importance on the Sabbath as a day set aside to spend time with God. The Sabbath rules may not still apply, but the Sabbath principle of taking time out to rest and spend time with God still stands.
The purpose of Sabbath rest is to force us to pause and stop ‘the lusts of [our] own hearts and eyes’ (v.39) becoming our idols. You are supposed to be consecrated to God (v.40) and God wants to bring you near to himself (16:9). It is because of the importance of this relationship that any threat to it, caused by insolence or rebellion (vv.1–2), is taken so seriously (vv.1-35).
We are so privileged to live in the age of the Holy Spirit and to be able to enjoy the freedom that Jesus has brought through the cross and resurrection. This enables you to enjoy a hotline to God without fear. These passages encourage you to make the most of this extraordinary privilege and to spend time alone with him, delighting in his presence and bringing your requests before him.
Lord, help me to lead a life that is pleasing to you, to stay close to you each day and to find time to spend alone with you.
‘Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart’ (v.4)
I try to keep remembering that ‘delight’ has to come first; it is not just that ‘he will give you the desires of your heart’. But it is still an amazing promise – if we do delight in him, he will give us the desires of our heart.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790. Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.