In “O Brother Where Art Thou,” three inmates escape only to be found but miraculously pardoned. Not knowing they were pardoned and not caring they were pardoned, the lawman chasing them finds them and plans to kill them. For the first time, the pardoned convict who was most resistant to God during their entire journey calls out to God for help. Everett (played by George Clooney) asked God for forgiveness and asked God for a miracle so he can one day see his wife and girls again. In that exact moment, the valley floods saving them from certain execution. Everett’s buddies Pete and Delmar see this moment as a direct answer to prayer!
As he is floating in the very water that saved him and holding onto a casket he would have been buried in, Everett quickly changes his tune and explains away the miracle as something completely explainable.
Have you ever found yourself playing hide and seek with God?
Maybe God has found you, but then you go and hide again? You found yourself in a tough predicament and you prayed for help. Just after a miraculous rescue or miraculous answer to prayer, you explain it away as a coincidence. Rather than allowing this to draw you close to God, you head right back to where you were before that moment.
Where are you at with God?
- Maybe you aren’t sure God is real.
- Maybe You’ve always believed in God, but He’s always felt so far away.
- Maybe you felt close to Him when you were a kid or maybe you have walked with God for years only to find yourself slowly drifting away….
- Maybe you feel good about your relationship with God, but you know there have been times when you felt so much closer to Him.
- Sometimes God feels far away from us, and we aren’t sure why or how that happened or how to even feel close to Him again.
Is this all there is or is more even possible?
Believe it or not – God is not playing hard to get. All too often, we are the ones who are playing games. In your relationships, are you hiding or seeking?
Have you played hard to get with God? Whether you have walked with God for years or are still trying to decide if Jesus is who He said He is, do you really even want to let God guide your life?
Hiding in the midst of a childhood game is absolutely fun and acceptable and the entire point of the game.
In real life: hiding from God and from others actually hurts us and at best keeps us from becoming all we could be.
Do you really want to be found?
Do you play hard to get in your relationships? I don’t mean that you have set up healthy boundaries. I mean, have you intentionally made it difficult for others to get close to you? In your relationships, Do you really want others to know you?
The game of Hide and Seek doesn’t usually just involve someone who seeks. There are others in this game. Our relationships with others matter. Some of us are hiding from God and from others.
Throughout the Scriptures, our relationship with God is compared with our relationships with others.
- Our relationship with God can be closer than a brother. “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24
Jesus replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” – Luke-Acts 8:21 BOOKS
- God expresses Himself as a friend and as a loving Father.
Jesus said: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:15
Jesus’ closest friend John writes: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” – John 1:12-13
- Even marriage gives us a glimpse at how close God can be to those who want Him to be close. Paul writes: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her….” – Ephesians 5:25,
I realize some of us have not had healthy relationships with our brother, our friends, our father, or even our spouse. It is hard to understand what a meaningful relationship with God is like when we cannot understand what a meaningful relationship with anyone is actually like.
But just for a moment: consider the best moments you’ve had with others. Maybe it was dancing with your spouse at your wedding, maybe playing football with your brother as a kid, crying on the shoulder of your closest friend, or a moment you knew your Dad was there for you. Can you think of at least one moment when you felt a deeper type of closeness with someone else? That best moment with a brother, friend, father, or spouse pales in comparison with the kind of relationship God offers us through Jesus.
God is not far away.
He is with us, but we will only find Him when we draw near to Him.
Here’s a promise from the Scriptures:
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” – James 4:8
God is seeking us, but too often we are hiding.
The letter written by James is quite insightful into why our relationships with others lack intimacy. Our greed and selfishness keep us from getting close to others or to God. We look to others to meet the needs only God can meet. As a result, we are always frustrated with others AND with God.
Listen to more from James:
“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
– James 4:2, 3, 8-10 NIV
So much insight and so much promised to us!
When we seek after God, we will find Him. When we ask for mercy and forgiveness, we will receive it. When we humble ourselves and admit we need His help, He will lift us up!
Eugene Peterson, an author, pastor, and sage, wrote this same passage with a more direct tone trying to help us understand the principles in this passage. In his version of the Bible called The Message, he writes this passage from James 4 this way:
“You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way. You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way…. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.”
– James 4:2-10 MSG
Often, we don’t feel close to God because we don’t want to!
We are playing hide and seek with God and hoping he does not find us!
Some of us may be thinking: “I’m not hiding from God, He is hiding from me!
God is not hiding. He’s right here for us! God is right here with us, even if we don’t see Him or feel Him or notice Him.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Did you hear that scientists recently discovered an animal that had never been classified before? This is huge news! Scientists seem to discover new bacteria, new insects, and maybe even new deep sea amoebas, but finding an animal is quite extraordinary!
I’m fascinated by things like this! I love the Discover Channel, Animal Planet, and the other cable channels that look into the mysteries of our planet and the animal kingdom. Since I still want proof that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster exist, I look for shows like this on these channels, but I am always disappointed. The only new creature these channels seem to feature are rednecks! Did you know that there are currently 12 reality shows filmed in Louisiana?!
Seriously though, scientists found a new animal! It has been described as a mix of a cat and a teddy bear face.
Here’s what is fascinating. We had an olinguito in captivity for years and never realized it!
In an Associated Press article, Seth Borenstein wrote: “Imagine a mini-raccoon with a teddy bear face that is so cute it’s hard to resist, let alone overlook. But somehow science did – until now.
The critter leaps through the trees of mountainous forests of Ecuador and Colombia at night, according to a Smithsonian researcher who has spent the past decade tracking them.
But the adorable olinguito (oh-lihn-GEE’-toe) shouldn’t have been so hard to find. One of them once lived in the Smithsonian-run National Zoo in Washington for a year in a case of mistaken identity.”
The little zoo critter, named Ringerl, was mistaken for a sister species, the olingo. Before she died in 1976, Ringerl was shipped from zoo to zoo… to try to get it to breed with other olingos.
“It turns out she wasn’t fussy,” (zoologist Dr. Kristofer) Helgen said. “She wasn’t the right species.”
Helgen later led a team to South America in 2006.
“When we went to the field we found it in the very first night,” said study co-author Roland Kays of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “It was almost like it was waiting for us.”
In another article, Jane O’Brien of BBC News quoted Dr. Helgen as saying:
“This reminds us that the world is not yet explored and the age of discovery is far from over. The olinguito makes us think – what else is out there?”
Bigfoot – you are next!
In this cosmic game of “Hide and Seek,” God has already shouted out: “Ready or not, here I come!” He is already revealing Himself to you! Do you see it? Have you noticed?
God is not hiding! He is seeking!
He’s been here all along, and He wants us to join Him in seeking.
There is a version of Hide and Seek where once you are found, then you help the Seeker find the others.
God wants us to connect with Him, and He can help us connect with others.
So if we want healthy relationships with others, and we want a healthy relationship with God, what do we do?
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He reveals God’s loving character and made a remarkable promise that helps us know how to connect to Him even when we feel far away.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:7-12
Sometimes, we do not receive because we do not ask!
- What is it God wants to give to you, but you have been too distracted or too lazy or too foolish that you have not asked?
- What do you think is the good gift God wants to give to you, but you have been too afraid or too skeptical to ask? Healthy relationship with Him? Healthy relationships with others?
Now sometimes, we don’t receive because we ask with the wrong motives as James reminded us in the earlier passage.
Some of us do not receive because what we are asking for is not what is best for us or we aren’t ready for it because we are too judgmental or not taking our relationship with Him seriously enough. We are faking it rather than truly following Him.
Before and after this promise, Jesus warns against judging others and He challenges all who hear His message to take the narrow vs the wide gate, to be a true rather than a false messenger, to be a true rather than a false follower, and to be a wise rather than foolish builder.
Some of us do not receive because we have stopped asking.
In Luke’s account of the life of Jesus, he records this same promise (“ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened”) just after Jesus told a story about an audacious friend. Jesus described a situation where a friend came over to your house in the middle of the night asking for 3 loaves of bread to provide food for another friend who is passing through town. The story picks up in Luke 11 with the following:
And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you….” – Luke 11:7-8
Be audacious! Do not stop asking!
Trust that God will give to you what is best for you! Often we do not know what that actually is. He does, and we can trust Him.
Some of us do not receive because we do not believe!
There was a story at the beginning of the New Testament in Mark 9 of a father whose son was extremely troubled.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered… But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24
Maybe you want to believe but find it difficult. Try the father’s prayer: “Jesus, help me overcome my unbelief! Help me believe!”
God can give you the gift of faith!
Be honest with your doubts and fears. He can help you believe!
You can choose to remain skeptical or try it.
- Tell God you want to try for one week to live as if you believed He was closer than you think.
- For one week, you will accept miracles as miracles (rather than coincidences).
- Ask Him to help you trust Him.
God is pursuing us!
God reveals Himself through Creation, in history, through the Scriptures, through others that have come into our lives and pointed us towards Him.
God reveals Himself within our heart when we sense there is more to this life!
God came to find us in person, and His name is Jesus.
Jesus came to rescue us! He lived a perfect life, taught with authority, healed the sick, fed the hungry, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and offers us life when we trust Him and follow Him!
Do you want to be found? For the first time? For the 1000th time? We wander away even though He is right here pursuing us!
- We don’t see the miraculous because we are too busy looking for the explainable.
- We miss the extraordinary because we are looking for the ordinary.
- We look for the predictable because we want to be in control, but God is unpredictable!
God’s Response To Our Prayers
- Sometimes, God says “yes” when we refuse to stop asking.
- Sometimes God provides when we refuse to stop looking.
- Sometimes God helps us when we are willing to become the answer to our own prayer.
A single man who prays for a wife has a better chance of getting married when he is also asking women out on dates.
A couple desperate for a healthy marriage has a better chance when they are willing to go to counselor.
A woman needing physical healing has a better chance when she goes to the doctor and gets help.
How does God want you to be the answer to your own prayer?
How does God want you to be the answer to someone else’s prayer?
Some of us have wandered so far away that now we are lost! We thought we could just come right back to God whenever we wanted, but now we are so far gone we don’t think we can find our way back.
Jesus said: “I have come to seek and save the lost.” – Luke 19:10
He is ready for you. Are you ready for Him?
Are we willing to get serious about our relationships?
Are we willing to work on developing a healthy relationship with God and a healthy relationship with others?
Even when God says “no” to our prayers or “not yet” to our prayers, are we willing to trust Him?
Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.
– Proverbs 11:27, 30 NIV
Stop hiding and start seeking God and seeking others! You and I can find favor when we seek after God and when we seek to follow His ways. You and I can live a life that is fruitful! You and I can even save lives!
We need to start asking, seeking, and knocking not just for what we need, but for what those around us need. We need to start asking, seeking, and knocking on behalf of our city!
In the last sentence in the last chapter in the book of the prophet Ezekiel is something I want us to pray would be true for our city:
“And the name of the city from that time on will be: the Lord is there.”