Colson ends the book with a story of Dave Chapman and his journey of faith. As with all of his stories, there are vivid points that come out of us learning about a man that took awhile to get to where he really loved God and was ready to be used by Him. One thing that started things off in Dave’s faith journey was that his wife became a Christian and actively shared her faith through dinner parties. Though Dave had made a commitment to Jesus, he was more and more distanced from the whole affair.
Step two was prompted by a conversation he had with a dinner party speaker, a Dr. Newman. God used him to poke into Dave’s questioning heart. God used Dr. Newman as He did His surgery to get Dave moving. There were a couple of lines in the chapter that jumped out as Charles relayed Dave’s story.
1. Dave pondered that people can preach sermons (or teach lessons or tell people stuff) about God and man, but for all of their interpretations and illustrations, it is no more opinions from the bleachers unless it is lived out. James 2 tells us that we can’t just tell someone who is hungry “God bless you, be warm and filled,” and send them on their way. Our zeal is measured not by our words, but our action.
2. As Dave quit judging his wife’s Christian activities and relationship with God from a distance and God zoomed in on him through some critical incidences at his workplace, it grabbed him that he had fired an accountant who had cost their client millions of dollars. After he finished berating him for not knowing that tax law book frontwards and back, God convicted Dave that he only casually read the Bible. On page 224, he said “You will never know what God wants unless you seriously study the Word. But when you begin to do what He tells you there, you’ll feel His love.”
There are two parts to that realization. The first was that just as his accountant only casually read the tax book and failed, that’s where Dave was at with the Bible. I remember a pastor friend who knows the Bible well and communicates it marvelously saying that people have asked him how he knows the Bible. He said that he made up his mind that since he was a follower of Jesus that was the right thing to do, so he set a habit pattern of devouring it. He wasn’t a pastor then. He studied, memorized and did whatever he could to become well versed not just in what the Bible said, but in trying to actually put it into practice.
But if all we do is know the Bible and we don’t put it into practice, we fall short. And we don’t feel God’s love until we obey Him. That’s what John 14:23 tells us: “If you obey my commands, My Father will love you and We will make our home with you.” When I obey God by putting His commands into practice, I feel His love.
There are the general commands that God tells us to obey. They are not suggestions, but mandatory for believers. They are things like: love your neighbor; be kind; don’t steal; don’t let the sun go down on your anger; no sexual immorality or foolish talk; don’t get drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit; defend the cause of the weak and powerless. There are tons more just like that.
But then there are specific commands that God personalizes just for us through His Holy Spirit that speaks to us. It may be things like telling us when to apologize because we were rude to a coworker or family member, or putting poor and lonely people on our hearts that He actually wants us to do something with.
In Dave’s case, it was prisoners. It preoccupied his time and energy in place of his old habits of drinking too much or spending money on himself. Colson didn’t tell us how his story ended, but he was on the brink of sacrificing a position with the governor to blow the whistle on abhorrent prison conditions in his State.
I don’t think we wake up with zeal for God that translates into specific action that bears fruit. That comes from doing just what Dave and my pastor friend did: pour over the Word as a habit pattern. It is there that God gives us zeal and a spiritual appetite and then tells us what to do and how to do it.
God used Dr. Newman in Dave’s life. Who can you spur on that is following God at a distance?
How has God been working in your heart in reading the book Loving God that you need to put into action? Take some time to really process this, because otherwise we are just hearers and not doers. And we won’t feel God’s love, because we won’t be obeying Him and following after His eyes and heart. They seem to be on the poor, lonely, powerless and defenseless the most.
How can we do it together? Alone we can do little, but together we can do much.