There are pivotal moments in everyone’s lives when what they believe to be true about God is revealed. It could be the stubbing of the toe, the loss or denial of a job, an uncouth tone of voice from another person, an unfortunate destruction of something one has created and loves, being stuck in heavy traffic while heading somewhere important, the loss of someone dear, and the list goes on.
These moments are not always monumental in and of themselves. In fact, they are often quite ordinary. These flashes in time are shown to be pivotal, however, when we consider what transpires in our hearts and minds when they occur, and examine our patterns immediately following that revelation.
One day at church I was carrying a meal that someone had prepared. I tripped on something and the dish went everywhere (except still in its previous location in the pan that is). I had wasted someone’s hard work, had a floor before me to clean, and onlookers to assuage. A range of emotions quickly flooded my heart and mind: embarrassment, guilt, shame, and most notably, anger.
As you look at this list, one emotion clearly stands out from the rest: anger. You see, in a moment of time when something rather insignificant (in the grand scheme of things) had occurred that did not go my way, I instantly became angry—at God! Somehow, in milliseconds, I had construed the unfolding of this simple accident as though it were God’s fault; as though God had arranged that brief series of events to do me harm.
The gravity of my anger was quickly revealed to me, and what followed was a gift of God’s marvelous grace and kindness toward me in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Four things happened that I will never forget:
God made me aware of my sinful disposition, namely anger at God for allowing discomfort in my life;
The Holy Spirit quickened my heart, bringing me to a very specific repentance for my sin of unbelief in God’s promise to use everything in my life to conform me into the image of Christ;
I realized that this was more than a fleeting emotion—that I tended to blame God for things that do not go the way I wanted; and
God’s kindness in salvation motivated me to spend as long as it would take in my life to bring this sinful tendency under control, something He had empowered me to do because I am a Christian (Gal. 5:22-23).
In one of the most helpful books I have ever read, A.W. Tozer famously wrote:
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us… Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God. (emphasis added)
My mishap with a dish that day became pivotal not because of the event itself, nor because of my momentary sinful anger, but because of what God did in my heart through the process. In that moment, when my sin was ever before me (Ps. 51:3), God faithfully revealed a deeper, more fundamental flaw in my thinking about God than simple anger. This reality broke my heart and, by God’s grace, I submitted myself to Him at that revelation (James 4:7).
What are the thoughts and emotions that flood your mind and heart as unpleasant, even disastrous, events occur in your life? Are you willing to allow the Holy Spirit to use His scalpel to cut open the heart of your deeply rooted tendencies, exposing the ugly reality of sin in order to be made aware of “…what (you) in (your) deep heart conceive God to be like” (Tozer, above)?
Until you are you will continue to move toward the mental image you have of God, often revealed in those pivotal private moments, however accurate or ill-conceived it may be. J. C. Ryle said, “Christ is never fully valued, until sin is clearly seen.”
Friend, the decision to learn (or to ignore) what the Lord desires for you in those revealing moments will mark the trajectory of your spiritual pilgrimage. Embrace the lifelong pattern of discomfort before the Lord when your sin is revealed, but do not fear, nor hide when God pursues you through the conviction that He brings. Draw near to God, cleanse your hands, purify your hearts, mourn and weep (James 4:8-10). This is humility! And all who humble themselves before God in faith will be exalted in the great and glorious Day when God welcomes His children home!
 A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins, 1978), 1.
 J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [on Luke 20:9-19] (Baker), 326.
Matthew Magee is happily married and the father of two action-packed boys. He has served as Worship and Student Pastor for eighteen years, and is currently completing his M.Div at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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