Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, & Micah: Day 10

Seek God and Live

by

Today's Text: Amos 5:1-27, Micah 6:8, Philippians 4:8-9

Scripture Reading: Amos 5:1-27, Micah 6:8, Philippians 4:8-9

I am a first-born, Type-double-A achiever, fluent in the languages of performance and gold stars. Grace, on the other hand, consistently boggles my mind.  

I can think back to one such moment several years ago. My husband was on staff at a small church. I did everything I could to partner with him in the ministry that became the functional nucleus of our existence. Ministry is time-consuming and, at times, gut-wrenching. And while my husband seemed to feel a tinge of external pressure, I faced a daily temptation to spontaneously combust. That’s what happens when you try to earn something that has already been freely given; things become volatile in a hurry.

I was serving my guts out for all the wrong reasons, trying to earn God’s favor through church attendance and program planning. I was living for the gold stars that I hoped existed on a cosmic sticker chart in heaven. It’s not that anything I was doing was “wrong” or “bad.” It was just an outflow of a heart tied up in self-inflicted knots. The carrot that was always in front of me was the false gospel of good deeds, not the true gospel of Jesus Christ. That experience taught me that false gospels are terrible taskmasters—cruel, demanding, and ultimately hollow.

God’s people find themselves whipped by such a taskmaster in Amos 5. Instead of seeking the Lord, their hearts chase wildly after everything else. Amos promises destruction in return for their rebellion. God’s people find themselves fallen, forsaken, and on fire (vv. 2,6). And then comes the wailing, mourning, and lamenting (v. 16).

As dramatic as this sounds, it feels like the same old same old. God’s people turn to idols and He raises up a prophet to yank them back from the brink of judgment. But this time things are different. There is no golden calf, no Asherah poles, no altar set up to honor a pagan god. Instead, God is enraged by their offerings of “good things,” given for all the wrong reasons (Amos 5:21-23).

God’s people were following the rules. They gathered like He commanded them to (Exodus 12:16). They faithfully brought their offerings, just like their righteous forefathers had (Genesis 8:20, 22:3; Leviticus 1:3). They even held spirited worship services. What gives?

I think back to that season of ministry and know there are no gold stars in heaven. There is only grace. And grace can never, ever be earned. So Amos might as well have been preaching to us because our hearts are not unlike those of the Israelites: our motives are misshapen, our goal is our own glory, and our worship is all wrong.

Yet, even as God breathes out judgment upon His people through Amos, He also offers redemption. He calls out to us even now, saying, “Seek me and live!… Seek the Lord and live” (vv. 4,6).

Worship and sacrifice are meant to be an exclamation of God’s goodness toward us, not a means to try to grab more from Him. If we find our hearts tied up in knots, worrying that we  haven’t earned the gift He freely offers, then we must look for the thread of salvation woven into every tapestry of God’s judgment.

If you are tired and worn out and empty from striving and performing, look once again to Jesus. It’s His love and devotion—not ours—that turn our hearts back toward Him.

Seek Him and live.

SRT-MinorProphets-Instagram10

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

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  • Why do I glaze over Philippians 4:9?? I remember 4:8 by heart, but maybe it doesn’t stick because I always forget the promise in verse 9: “And the God of peace will be with you.” My anxiety has been SKY HIGH lately… seems like I start the day pretty Ok, but by bedtime deteriorate into a self-loathing ball of nerves. Lord, let me remember to steady my mind on You, not just because your ways are lovely and noble and true, but because when we steady our minds on You, You in turn promise us PEACE. I need that peace, lord, we all need it. And you so liberally provide our every need – thank you God!

  • Kristen Clegs

    I read this somewhere recently:
    It is not my productivity God loves, it is me. It’s not my ministry God wants, its my faithfulness.

    Father, forgive me for giving You productivity instead of my heart, for valuing ministry above faithfulness. Protect me from measuring myself and others by our productivity, our ministries. The value You place on love freely given, on faithfulness in spite of circumstances, is immeasurable. Give me Your heart, Lord!

  • Twice in this section Amos says seek me and live. Also those who turn justice into wormwood and through righteousness to the ground will be destroyed by the One who made Pleiades and Orion and who turns darkness into dawn. It is often tempting to seek false strength. This is especially true for me in my work place. There are so many modern teachings, even precepts if you will, that may appear strong and true but are weak and false. It is vital, but so difficult to always keep my mind on the things of Phil 4:8-9.

  • Micahlee

    I struggle with this so much. I’m also first born and type a and extroverted to boot. I love people. And though I understand this message of the gospel and grace, it’s hard to put into practice. I constantly want to defend Martha for wanting to take care of people when she and Mary are pitted against each other. I see the injustice in the world and feel like prayer is not enough- we need action. I know there is pride at the root of this…. but as much as I pray and confess and study and pray more I haven’t been able to find any relief

  • I remember as a child we sang a song “Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown?” I worried that there wouldn’t be and this translated to a competition to earn my crown in heaven. I suppose I have always had that mindset. As Churchmouse said, I tried to always sign up and do whatever they asked. I remember one day driving home from delivering a meal to a family and realizing that I hadn’t made enough for my family. We had nothing prepared for dinner. I stopped cold and thought that this isn’t right. God can’t intend for me to be so busy serving others that I neglect my family. It took awhile, but I also decided to resign from all of the committees and jobs I had and just be a Mary.
    Thank you, ladies, for helping me to see that I wasn’t the only one that felt that way. You all help me so much by just sharing your hearts.

  • It’s like I wrote this myself. It’s exactly where I am right now.

  • I am not sure where I found this quote but it was brought to my mind when I read today’s reading. Thought I would share with all you wonderful women.
    “When ministry becomes performance, then the sanctuary becomes a theater, the congregation becomes an audience, worship becomes entertainment, and mans applause and approval become the measure of success. But when ministry is for the glory of God, His presence moves into the sanctuary. Even the unsaved visitor will fall down on his face, worship God and confess that God is among us.”

  • Jessica cebc

    No gold stars just God’s grace. Check my hearts motives!

  • I have been struggling so much with trusting God. I love him, I love to worship and learn about him, but I don’t pursue him in prayer and trusting him is hard. I guess I’ve had a hard time trusting people, so it made me bitter. I don’t want tube bitter. Please pray for me.

    • PursuedByHim

      Praying for you Emily to not be bitter but to see and feel God’s love for you.

  • First born double type A over achiever!! Oh that’s me! This devotional was point on!! Thank you!! And thank you ladies for sharing. I work in a pregnancy resource ministry– it’s banquet time– so our “to do” list is long! Each morning we meet for prayer and ask God to slow us down, to know He is in control!! It is His banquet!!! Please pray always for your local Pregnancy Center!! Pray for wisdom for the staff and volunteers and especially for our abortion minded girls!!! Thanks.

    • Other Karen

      Thank you, Chris, for the work you do to help young women. Praying that the banquet will go smoothly, give God glory, and be a blessing for many more women!

    • Kimberly

      Praying for you and your center this morning Chris. I too work at a pregnancy resource ministry. We do our banquet in the spring, but I know all about the stress of the annual banquet. As the ED the main responsibility of the banquet falls on me. After several years of struggling with the stress, a few years ago I began doing a Daniel Fast or another type of fast or cleanse along with a devotional designed to be done with a fast, for the three or four weeks coming up to the event. It has transformed how I handle the stress because I stay so much more centered on the Lord and trusting the Lord with the details and the outcome of the event. I have a book titled “The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast” that gives teaching about the Daniel Fast, a list of foods and recipes, and a devotional. I highly recommend it. The Author is Kristen Feola. May God bless, anoint, and bring abundant provision through your center’s banquet. And May the Lord grant you peace through the process! Thank you for all you do, Chris, for the women in your community and their unborn babies!

  • Gloria Tucker

    Doing things on our own can be pretty tiring! Especially when we mess up at our jobs, with our kids, or even in sin! But I know God has a bigger plan for us and his grace covers even the little things in life! So beautiful!

  • Logan Christine

    I really loved this passage because it is SO SO true about every part of my life. My pride easily takes over on any “good” I do and makes my acts of kindness selfish. Even though others might not see this, God surely does. I pray that “justice [will] roll down like waters and righteousness like an overflowing stream” out of my heart because I am moved by a motivation of Christ-likeness and not self.

  • Melody Suarez

    Worship reminds us of Gods goodness towards us. Love this. And it’s a sweet reminder

  • Diane Huntsman

    I think back to that season of ministry and know there are no gold stars in heaven. There is only grace. And grace can never, ever be earned. So Amos might as well have been preaching to us because our hearts are not unlike those of the Israelites: our motives are misshapen, our goal is our own glory, and our worship is all wrong.
    Such a needed rebuke for me!

  • This is applicable to so many portions of our lives; marriage, motherhood, work. Whatever we are in, we can easily tend to strive to find the perfect in the position and in no time, we find ourselves further from perfect instead of actually achieving it. We are left feeling empty, hopeless and exhausted from our efforts. Just the other day I was feeling so out of sorts because our house was a mess and I had was overwhelmed by it, not surprisingly, my seven-year-old son was having a rough day in the behavior department; he was grumpy, disrespectful and just overall hard to be around. At one point, in reprimanding, his sweet face turned to me and I was able to actually look in his eyes and I realized that he was missing time with me, missing fun moments with me, missing ME. Talk about feeling humbled … I took the time to put down my “to do” list and played with my son and it made all the difference. Yes, the house was still a mess but hearts were righted and my son doesn’t care what the house looks like, he doesn’t see the dirty floors or piles of laundry. Ultimately, my cleaning, that day would’ve left me feeling deflated, my son longing and sad and all I would have had was a clean house … I much prefer the love.

    While there are things we must do, responsibilities that require we strive, we’ve got to keep it in check. Our lives are not meant to do do do or go go go, they are meant to glorify God and while that CAN be done in our cleaning, working, cooking, schooling, it can especially be done in our relationship building. Just like my son didn’t see an untidy house, Christ doesn’t see us messy … He sees US. I don’t want to get so caught up in the doing that I forget about THAT kind of love. If we are so busy focusing on that “reward chart”, we are too busy to connect with the One we are actual striving towards. Relationship can’t be one-sided and just like any earthly relationship, if we are only “working”, our connection TO Christ is going to take a hit. Prayerful that in my daily efforts, that in my every day roles I turn my attention to Christ and know full well that everything else will follow. Lifting my eyes from the “gold stars” and instead to Christ.

    • churchmouse

      Yes and amen! Thanks, B!

    • Emily Cele

      This SO spoke to me today, B… thank you! ‘Christ doesn’t see us messy…He sees US.’ He is not concerned with all of my projects and ‘duties’ that are undone. He is concerned with me and my heart for Him and others. Help me, Lord, to remember this today and every day! Amen.

      • Dawn

        B, this reminded me if my own childhood. My mama always tried to keep everything just- so, and all I wanted was her. time, attention, love. The perfect house and all the boxes checked made me feel like I HAD to perform in life. She later realized that her performance was for all the wrong reasons. LOVE is the most important. Things get done, but love must be the center ♡. Thank you for sharing.

    • Gema Muniz

      Wow! I so need to work on this area. I struggle with the house work, my personal needs, and spending time with my family. Whenever I’m home is like I can’t stop to play with my son or spend time with my spouse. I’m either too busy checking off my to do list or I’m too tired to do so. Praying for God to guide me and show me how to overcome this personal battle.

    • Ruth

      Thank you for this. I needed to read your words today. Hugs!

    • Lisa dK

      Thank you for sharing this.

  • I have always loved Amos 5:24. “But let justice flow like water and righteousness like an unfailing stream.” Water always flows from a source. There is always somewhere that a stream flows from. Way too many times I get it backwards. I want to start downstream with what I believe needs to be done and then try to work my way back up to the source. But, I need to start upstream where the flow starts. I need to go to the source and sit down and be still and quiet. God really doesn’t need my help, but it’s easy to believe that if I don’t do this it won’t get done. Or, I start thinking that my way of doing things is much better – “God, if You’d just let me be in charge for a minute I think I could fix this.” I have to start with the source. Sit by that stream of living water and wait on Him.
    Have a blessed and “still” day.

  • “A cosmic sticker chart in heaven…” made me laugh out loud! It is so much easier to do things than to simply accept grace and seek a true relationship with Christ, isn’t it? There are so many days I would rather put on my work boots and go help somebody. Yet what the Lord desires from me is to constantly say, “I lay this down at Your mighty feet,” and talk to Him in prayer. He asks nothing more – but nothing less – than that I take His healing gladly into my heart and let Him shine as the true center of my life. Thank you for this devotional today, SRT. Lord, help me to always remember to open my heart to You, even when it would be easier for me to go find a program to run or somebody else to help. Amen.

    • Kristin

      Kay- I loved the “cosmic sticker chart” too! :)

    • Emily B.

      It is easier to just go and do than be still and accept His grace. Thank you for sharing this perspective!

  • churchmouse

    Serve. Serve. Serve. This was the culture of one of the churches I attended. If the church doors were open, the ‘committed Christians’ would be there. If there was any program, any need, the ‘committed Christians’ would be first in line to volunteer. No matter the hour or day, one was expected to be doing something, anything, for the Lord. It seemed He needed an awful lot of help. There were always tasks to be completed, Bible studies, prayer meetings and fellowship meals. It was Exhausting. Exhausting. Exhausting. A lot of activity, a lot of doing – the bar was set high and ever rising. But I came to realize I was missing the “being.” I had become Martha and Mary was no where in sight. One day I decided to just stop. Stop the doing and just be still. I was dying from trying. But when I got still with Jesus, when I sought Him by just being with Him, I became more alive than I could have imagined. The new life was energizing, not exhausting. I eventually ventured on to doing a few things because I wanted to, not because I had to. I was finally free from the tyranny of trying. He never needed me and all my effort. I needed Him and He had already done it all. I found peace. And it is a wonderful way to live.

    • Brandi

      Thank you for this!

    • EarlyBird

      I SO hear you! We are run ragged with expectations of serving, doing, and outreach. But to the point of neglecting our own homes and families, our own walk with the Lord? An elderly family friend is immersed in serving at his church, yet he could not tell me what bible translation is used there. Yes, we need to reach the lost. Yes, the world is in turmoil and in desperate need of our Savior. But we need to feed, rest, and refuel ourselves as well. Be still. We need time to sit at Jesus’ feet.

  • Shelby Schlueter

    Yesss. I am constantly plagued with the thought , ” what if I didn’t do enough? What if I’m too far and his grace cannot reach me in such pits of sin? What else can I do to EARN his grace?”…… we must always be reminded he gave us grace. That reaches farther than our minds can even imagine …. we just have to be willing to accept it.

    • Terry Heider

      I just found your webpage and enjoyed this devotional. Coming from a religious way of life I sometimes unknowingly did “works” instead of relying on the Grace that My Lord supplies in every situation. Thank you for clearing up the waters that I muddy with my works…..it’s a new day and with God’s grace I plan to walk in it with God’s grace!

    • Laura

      I am the same way! I was reading an entry from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers the other day, and he made a good point. He said that we often wait to FEEL forgiven or to FEEL God’s grace. He said, instead, we need to BELIEVE we are forgiven and BELIEVE we have received grace. On those days where sin has me down in the dumps, it is comforting that I can claim forgiveness simply by believing God is who He says He is.

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