A year ago, our former pastor told a very thought provoking story. I came across a very powerful and unique verse in Matthew 16:23 that seemed to tie right into the story.
The true story goes like this….One day a father took his two children out shopping with him. When they got to the store he noticed they had a petting zoo set up for the children. He dug two quarters out of his pockets and handed one to his son and daughter and told them to go into the zoo while he shopped right outside. Seconds after leaving them at the entrance, he noticed his young daughter trailing behind him. He turned to her and asked why she was not at the zoo, petting the animals with her brother. She looked at him and replied the tickets to get in cost 50 cents so she had given her brother her quarter. This touched the father deeply because he knew how much his daughter loved animals and because of that love, he understood the extent of her sacrifice. He walked back with her to the gate and they stood together watching the son play, pet, and romp with the miniature animals. As he stood there, he reached into his pocket and fumbled with the remaining quarters still in his possession. The quarters, sufficient to buy his daughter her own ticket, seemed to be burning holes in his pocket, but what he did next is not what you would think…..for the father remained where he stood, never taking the quarters out, never offering to buy his daughter her own ticket. He not only was a loving father, but he was also a wise man and he wanted to allow his daughter to experience the joy and the reward of her sacrifice of love. Had he given in to the powerful desire to buy the second ticket, he realized he would have cheapened the value and the price of her precious sacrifice.
As I sat in the pew and listened to the story, a host of emotions flooded my heart. I imagined myself in his shoes with one of my precious children beside me, for whom I would give my very life. A battle began to rage and I experienced a conflict in my soul because, although the wisdom of his decision rang true in my heart, the desire to give “good” to a child who truly deserved a reward would have been hard not to pacify. As I sat there I wondered, would I have made the same choice? I can honestly say, I think I would have given the quarters, and while that may not have been a wrong decision, perhaps in giving the quarters the child would have received the lesser and least valuable of the rewards.
I think most of us can say we have been on both the receiving and giving end of “withheld good” As a parent, I find I am faced with this decision almost every day. An incident happened a while back in which one of my kids misbehaved in Sunday school and then throughout the week demonstrated willful disobedience and disrespect towards me. The kids had been invited to a special breakfast on Saturday with their Sunday school class and my husband and I decided we would not allow the offending child to attend with their sibling. Wow, was it hard dropping just the one child off and leaving behind my chance to get out by myself. It was even harder looking into the eyes of my child as we drove away while she sobbed asking to be able to go. I wanted to turn around, but I realized if I gave in and let her go, the lesson would not be learned and the transgressions would be repeated and left to be dealt with another day. Although my child was very repentant and show genuine remorse, my spirit and my husband counseled me to stick to my guns by withholding the “good” because I loved my child and wanted her to learn a very valuable lesson.
In Matthew 16:23 Jesus said “…..get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savoriest not the things that be of God, but those that be of man.”
These were pretty harsh words for Peter after he “rebuked” Jesus for forecasting his death. While Peter was right to be repulsed by the idea of His Lord’s murder, had his spiritual eyes been open and had he been able to comprehend the eternal ramifications of the willing sacrifice Jesus was about to make, I believe he would have closed his mouth and instead fallen to his knees humbly weeping at the feet of his master as Mary had done days before.
Have you ever found yourself in the shoes of the father, equipped with the ability, and/or power, and strong desire to give? Have you ever had the opportunity to “give” or “do” good but had the spirit prompt you respond with a second choice, the better choice, to “withhold good”?
Have you ever found yourself in the shoes of the girl, faithful and obediently following Christ, yet having a desire, need, or request withheld? Has the anguish of your heart ever been met with the still small voice of the Lord saying “Not now”, “Endure for a while”, or “Trust me”? I know people enduring through unbelievably painful trials in their marriage, work, and life. Their desire is pure and they have faithfully served him and what makes it tough is that they know the Lord could simply utter the words and make it all go away, bringing healing, peace, or restoration. Yet for some reason, in his infinite wisdom and love he withholds the “good” and instead gives just enough strength and grace to endure.
There is a woman I barely know, whom I have never met personally, yet her life, struggles, and testimony has greatly impacted my life and walk with the Lord. I think of her daily and pray for her, that the Lord would reward her faithfulness, her long suffering, and her commitment to the truth no matter the cost, by bringing her out of her present fire and into the wealthy place place he promises awaits her an the end. At the same time, I wonder at the eternal impact her life, struggles, and story has made upon countless women all across the country. Her spiritual growth and maturity, and the wealth of knowledge and insight she is able to share, is priceless. I look at her life and I am reminded and admonished to not doubt when the Lord chooses to withhold the “good” so he can eventually give me something far greater that that which my soul longs for.
My life verse is Psalm 84:11-12
The Lord your God is a sun and and shield
The Lord will give grace and mercy,
No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly,
O Lord of Host, Blessed is the man that trusteth thee.
He can pour out blessings and goodness like the sun pours down it’s rays, but he can also withhold and in withholding shield and protect us from not just evil but also second best. No matter his decision we know it is made with Love and mercy and it is accompanied with grace to endure.
Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads
We went through fire and through water,
But thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
If you are going through a trial where you are simply waiting for an answer He is there. If you find yourself painfully thrust into the refiners fire over and over again as you pray for an end to the hurt, He is there. If you find yourself in a vast and lonely ocean, fighting waves of despair and hopelessness, as you use all your strength just to keep your head above the water, no matter the trial no matter the pain, our Saviour is still there. He stands quietly with us feeling our present pain, understanding our present yearning, and our seeing our present need and he stands there with two quarters is his pocket. As our Lord passes with us through the fire and water, remember he also stands there with us in our future deliverance, our future healing, and our future blessing, and knowing all and seeing all, his hand remains where it rest and he lovingly and with omniscience withholds the “good” so that he can eventually give us of his best.
He who withheld not the most precious gift he possessed, his only and beloved son, will not withhold anything of lesser value. Why settle for just quarters when we can own the entire bank!
Are you willing to let go of the quarters and allow him to give you of his best, when and where he deems it best?