Editor, Gospel Minutes, April 30, 1999
Once three years ago my wife and I launched ourselves into an interesting experiment. We became cat owners. In an article from two years ago, I shared with you some lessons I learned from taking in a kitten.
It has been three years now and our kitten is a full grown cat. Our beautiful Russian Blue, pure breed, is a domestic house cat. There is the need for shots, for food, and cleaning the cat box. There is a need to play with her so she stays active and alert. There is the need to rub her ears (although that is probably more for me than for the cat)! This cat has taken up permanent residence, not only to our home but in our hearts. Again, my cat has taught me some valuable spiritual lessons.
Our Cat Needs Limits
We spent a great deal of money buying, spaying, and caring for our cat. We love her dearly and do not want any harm to come to her. As a result, we keep the cat indoors at all times. The life expectancy for a cat outdoors is about three years or so. For an indoor cat, the life expectancy is 15 years or so. So, our cat is an inside cat.
But, it is hard on us and on her. She sits for hours gazing out the window, watching the birds or the effects of the wind. Her posture suggests she is longing to get outside and explore, and experience, and chase. But we don't let her go because we are convinced it is not good for her.
God puts limits on people as well. God does this for the same reason we do it for our pet. God knows there are experiences we do not need to have. So God warns us to stay away from some things because they are not good for us. For instance, God warns about the dangers of greed. "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang" (1 Timothy 6:10). Paul tells us the dangers in loving money. It not only leads us away from the faith, but it causes pain and suffering. It is not good for us, so God tells us to stay away from it. Yet, many are like my cat, looking and longing to be rich as if that would make their lives better. God warns us to obey His limits because it is good for us, not because He is mean or arbitrary.
Further, when we honor God's limits, our lives are improved. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth" (Ephesians 6:1-3). Paul tells us the advantage of honoring our parents. We benefit with longer and better lives. People who grow up knowing how to respect others, knowing how to honor others and get along with others have better lives than those who learn to be disrespectful or critical or angry.
Simply put, when we honor God's limits we get the benefit. When we stay obedient to God, our lives are richer and fuller. Like my cat, you may long to go and experience all that life offers, but God's limits are in place to protect you and bless you.
Our Cat Needs Reassurance
Our cat is, like most felines, quite skittish. She will jump at loud or strange noises. She is always watching to see if the latest noise is a threat or not. When guests or repairmen come into our home, she often runs up the stairs and hides under the bed. Even when my wife and I are coming home, she will usually hide until she recognizes us and feels safe. We often spend the first few minutes we are home reassuring her that everything is all right. It is usually during this time she wants to be petted and rubbed. She needs lots of reassurance that she is safe.
People are just like my cat in this regard. Many believers are still fearful they are not saved. They jump, run, and hide when they think about God because they are still afraid of Him. They think God is mad at them or is hoping to catch them in some sin and punish them. These people carry around their guilt and hide from God because they are still afraid. They, too, need reassurance.
"If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31). Over and over again God reassures us that He is on our side. Just as my wife and I go to our cat and coax her out from under the bed and pet her so she will know she is safe, so God seeks us out and reminds us again and again that He loves us. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). God loved us enough to seek us through His only begotten Son. God comes to us in the life and teaching of Jesus to let us know how important we are to Him and how safe we can be, if we put our lives in His hands. Again, the simple truth is that God is not mad at you and does not want to punish you. God wants you to know that you are safe with Him. "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). Everything God has done in the gospel has been to reassure you that you are loved, forgiven, and saved. Just as my cat needs that reassurance, so those of us who have been saved by the blood of Jesus need to be reassured that God meant all He promised.
Our Cat Needs Exercise
Because our cat is confined indoors, she needs lots of play time with us in order to be healthy and fit. So, once or twice a day my wife and I will spend 10 or 15 minutes playing with the cat. She chases things, she climbs her cat stand and she runs up and down the stairs like a crazy cat. But she is fit and alert. Her mind and senses are sharp, even though she doesn't get to go outside and explore. We work with her to keep her healthy.
Christians need exercise as well. This is one of the many reasons God asks us to assemble regularly. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:23-25). God tells us the way to stay spiritually fit and healthy is to stay active in worship and fellowship with other believers. This will keep us alert and in shape for whatever we have to face.
There are many ways to stay healthy in our walk with God. One is to assemble with other believers. Another is to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) . Another is to be "doers of the word, and not merely hearers" (James 1:22) and the list could go on. The point is, that to stay alert and healthy, we must exercise our spiritual nature so that it is healthy and strong.
Our Cat Wounds Us
Often when I play with my cat she will tire, and then she will roll over on the floor and try to play with us, just using her claws. She thinks she is still playing, but the scratches and blood on my arms or legs are serious, not fun. She understands the sternness in my voice, but probably doesn't understand that her claws are inflicting genuine pain. The price of playing with and loving my cat is the occasional wound. These wounds are not fatal and are never vicious, but they hurt all the same.
God must feel that way with us as well. After all He has done to save us, we still let Him down and make mistakes. These mistakes are not meant to be cruel but they wound God all the same. "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). The fact is, we all sin, even those of us who have been forgiven. These sins might seem small to us, but are serious wounds to the holiness of God. "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:8). Just like the scratches my cat inflicts, God takes the injuries we cause very seriously.
We are probably like my cat, in that we hurt God most when we are tired and not paying close enough attention. That is why we must stay alert in the kingdom, because sin is lurking nearby at all times, so that we are not the ones to cause God unneeded pain or injury. God loves us, has saved us and keeps us safe. Our goal is to not repay those blessings with wounds.
A Cat Is Just a Cat
You might think that our household is organized around a silly pet. You are probably right. I admit Maui is just a cat. Special to us, but still just a pet. She is no more important than any other pet or animal.
What matters most in life is not a cat. What matters most is what God has done to save you and to keep you saved. Unlike a cat, you have an eternal soul that God wants to save. So, "we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Come to God. Accept His limits for your life so your life will be richer and better. Trust Him as He assures you of His love for you. Exercise your faith in Him with worship and good deeds. Avoid all sins, which hurt God. Jesus will forgive you if you will come to God through Him. Will you come?
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