Have you ever seen those stamps that we use to endorse checks or to mark a package first class? Or what about the ones that the librarian always uses to mark the due date of the books you just checked out? I think sometimes we as Christians think we have a God stamp and we can go around stamping His name on whatever we want. As if we have the ability to just stamp God’s name here or there and force His hand to move in whatever situation. Sometimes we are set in our ways, but out of duty we come before God and ask Him to place His stamp of approval on the decisions we have made. Other times we just do the stamping ourselves and forget God all together.
As a body, the Church is almost too eager to place God’s stamp of approval on a lot of things He might wish nothing to do with. We place his stamp of approval on our politics like it was He Himself running for office. I was reading in a book not long ago about a guy that was bashing homosexuals because their “political agenda” was to take over the government so that their “rights” can be pushed onto all Americans. He ranted about how all of these gay organizations are trying to take over Washington. The funny thing is I don’t think I can name one organization that promotes gay rights or has anything to do with overthrowing the government or planning a coup.
On the other hand, though, I can think of plenty of Christian organizations that are trying to do exactly that–well, minus the coup. After all, isn’t it obvious that when Jesus wrote in the sand about the adulterous woman in John chapter 8, he wrote “hate the gays and protect the unborn babies”? Perhaps, rather than running around with our little stamp that has the name of God plastered on it, stamping things until the ink runs out, we should stop and seek the council of the Lord.
In Jeremiah 42, we see this exact thing happening in Judah. A small group comes to Jeremiah to “seek the Lord.” What they really wanted was their copy of the stamp. “Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the LORD our God”(Jeremiah 42:6 TNIV).
I think we do the same thing today. I’ve heard countless people claim they would go anywhere for God, except Africa. Like Africa is full of disease where anyone who goes there will come back deformed and limbless. Sounds pretty familiar to what these guys are saying if you ask me: the following God anywhere but Africa bit.
Things weren’t looking good for those guys in Judah, though. They had just killed the man in charge of their land. You see, they were under foreign rule and no matter how many times Jeremiah told them better days were ahead, they couldn’t wait for God to be God and do something about their situation. Instead, they took matters into their own hands and used their God stamp on the forehead of the foreign governor right before they killed him.
Now they feared for their lives and wanted to run away from their problems. Apparently their ink had just run out. So, they came to Jeremiah and asked him get them out of their troubles. Jeremiah obliged–and by obliged I mean he listened to them and took the matter to God and waited for Him to speak. Once God spoke, ten days later, Jeremiah gave the news. God told them to stay in Judah under Babylonian rule. Do that and be safe, run away and die; those were the options. They ran.
I don’t think we are all that different from this group of soldiers that ran to Egypt. Problems are a lot easier to run from than they are to face. Difficulty in life isn’t worthy of a God stamp, is it? While I cannot say with full confidence that all of life’s problems are God’s way of testing us, I can say that he does use his stamp. God uses His stamp on people–and perhaps that is the point. God uses his stamp on those whom he loves, and that means you and I are stamped by the only stamp that even matters. He doesn’t stamp a solution to your problem; he stamps you. To me this is much more comforting. To know that God is with me regardless of my circumstances or bad decisions is more comforting than any self-help sermon or Christian book that I’ve read.
We weren’t stamped, though, so that we could run around proclaiming that we are better than everyone else. We weren’t stamped so we could become a responsible Republican. We weren’t stamped so we could run away from all of our problems like these soldiers did in Jeremiah 42. That isn’t what being a Christian is about and we shouldn’t use our God stamp to promote any of it. The idea is to trust God. Follow him wherever He may lead, even if that means going to Africa where you do happen to lose a limb.
Our job is to use our stamp to bring others closer to God. God is in the business of stamping people, not programs. Perhaps we should start focusing on the same. Let’s be in the business of stamping people and we can pray together that God allows us to use up all of our ink on that sort of thing. I think that is what God would prefer.