Some friends of mine are doing a challenge and asked me to be part of it. For 75 days, there’s a list of things they need to accomplish (exercise, food choices, reading, etc), or they have to restart. Seventy-five days is roughly two and a half months. I looked at the list of things. It was the mental (and physical) boost I was looking for because my current efforts felt stagnant. The tasks seemed reasonable. I joined them. Of the 25 of us in the group, several have not shared their progress, and in a smaller segment of seven people, a few of us have had to start over. That “us” includes me. Drinking a gallon of water a day was not as easy as I thought.
28 Now Jeroboam was a man of standing, and when Solomon saw how well the young man did his work, he put him in charge of the whole labor force of the tribes of Joseph. (1 Kings 11:28, NIV)
Solomon puts Jeroboam in charge of the whole labor force. A prophet encounters Jeroboam with a word from the Lord. I focus in on this part, mostly because I’ve seen it so many times in scripture.
37 However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. 38 If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. (1 Kings 11:37-38, NIV)
The Lord is always clear about the terms. “If you do (this), I will do (this).” How many rulers were known for their obedience and heart for the Lord? A good amount. This tells me that what God requires is not only reasonable, it’s attainable.
When I read the scriptures from a distance of a couple thousand years, I can shake my head at what sometimes seems inevitable: a leader’s fall, an evil lineage, a poor choice. When God’s requirements resulted in a relationship with him that bore fruit, why would people choose over and over again to do the wrong thing?
26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”
28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other. (1 Kings 12:26-30, NIV, emphasis added)
I also thought of the 75-day challenge. I thought of the people who failed and quit. I thought of myself for the restarts. It seemed easy enough: just do (this) and experience/develop/achieve (this). There is a parallel between this story of a king and the story of a challenge.
So what do I glean from the reading? Big feelings can redirect a focus: doubt, fear, power, greed, anger, jealousy–even sneakier feelings like laziness and apathy can cause a downfall. Jeroboam’s fear for his life and his status caused to him to doubt or forget God’s promise to him. Not only did he seek out poor counsel, but he did not uphold his part in the relationship (obedience to God).
I think about my choices … the sometimes defeating thoughts in my mind … feelings of futility … plateaus in progress. Who and what are the advisors in my life? A friend reminded me that news sources, groups and other social media can influence as much as a close friend. Not only do I need to be careful about what I think, but I need to be careful about what I feed my thoughts with. If these outside influences have such a powerful effect on me, who is really to blame? If a leader can choose obedience to God, and a person can successfully adhere to the guidelines of a program, then in the end, it comes down to personal accountability.
Lord, help me to hear you and see you first. Whether it’s the latest chaos in the world or the doubting and defeating thoughts in my head, help me to cut through the distraction and maintain a focus on you. It is possible to be obedient and self-controlled. Surround me with those who are for you. Help me to guard my heart.