A Riff off Oswald Chambers

This year I have been reading through Oswald Chambers’ classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest. At six months into the year, I am exactly one-half way through his collection of daily inspirations that call me to yield more and more of myself to the One who deserves my all. What follows is a “riff” off Chambers’ journal entry for June 5.


    Hebrews 13:5-6


The Bible is loaded with promises to God’s people. Promises of protection. Promises of His blessing. Promises of His never-ending love. And all of His promises—whether addressed to the children of Israel in the Old Testament or to the followers of Jesus in the New Testament—are extended to us today. They are for all of us, not just for those who lived thousands of years ago.


But while I know His promises apply to us today, do I really believe they are for me personally? Sometimes, if I’m honest, I read a Biblical promise of God and try to absorb its weight and meaning, but all too quickly, I move on, returning to my own worries and concerns. I end up giving too much space for my own thoughts rather than continuing to mull over and apply the God-promise.


The thing is, we have to learn to read these promises with a “so what?” response.


“I will never leave you or forsake you” is the most amazing promise! And yet how long do we really sit with this promise, and others like it, allowing the full weight of its glorious truth to change us? All too often our own thoughts and fears quickly bubble back up to the surface to silence this God-promise.


Chambers puts this concept in musical terms when he asks, “Have we learned to sing after hearing God’s key-note?” Every God-promise to us from scripture is a key-note, an opening chord, inviting us to respond with another note in the same key. And note builds upon note until our entire life is a riff off God’s key-note promises.


The writer of Hebrews shows us what this riff-off can look like. God declares His truth to us in verse 5 of chapter 13 when He promises, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” And we are to pick up the key-note from there with our confident reply in verse 6: “the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”


Isn’t that amazing? God promises us His part (the key-note in verse 5), which leads us to our confident response (the riff in verse 6).


If we stop after reading a God-promise and don’t allow our spirit to move to the place of making a confident response to that promise, nothing within us changes. Then, as Chambers declares, “when we realize how feeble we are in facing difficulties, the difficulties become like giants, we become like grasshoppers, and God becomes a nonentity.”


We may remember God’s words for a few hours, or a few days perhaps, but there’s nothing we have instructed our own spirit to do in response. Don’t let God’s perfectly pitched promises to you just dissipate in the sound waves. Let them reach their full resonance in you by riffing off His key-note with a bold, confident assertion of what that promise means for you personally.


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