God Rewards Those Who Seek Him
In this segment, Dustin Renz shares how he came to seek God and have total dependence on Him. He encourages us that when we develop a lifestyle of crying out to God, God will respond and do many wonderful things for us. (From Podcast #449 - Laying Hold of the Promise)
Dustin: When I first came to Pure Life, I was very full of myself. I was full of spiritual pride and my attitude was, “What are these people going to be able to teach me that I don't already know?” In one of my first counseling appointments, my counselor gave me an assignment. He said, “I want you to just begin to cry out to the Lord throughout your day. When you're experiencing trouble or hardships, or whatever is going on, I want you just ask the Lord for help.” And he said, “It might feel kind of mechanical at first, but I want you to go ahead and do it.”
So, I remember just doing what he said to check it off the list. I prayed, “God, I need you.” I would go through some situation, and I’d pray, “God, I really need you.” In the beginning it felt very lifeless. But what the Lord did was begin to answer that cry in a way that I didn't expect. He began to show me my heart. He showed me what I was really like. He began to peel off layer after layer of selfishness and pride. I'd be in a conversation with somebody, and the Lord would just bring conviction of the things I was saying and the motive behind them.
I'd read books in the program, or do studies, or hear sermons, but it was like everything was directed at God showing me my heart with its sinfulness and spiritual arrogance. It was over weeks and months that the Lord continually allowed me to see what I was really like. He brought me to the place where I was so heavy laden with this burden on my heart, of what I was like, that I remember just crying out to the Lord. I told Him, “God, I see what you're saying about me! I agree with you. I'm in agreement with how much of a Pharisee I am, how selfish I am and how I've lived my life really for myself. But I really need your help because I can't take this anymore! I don't know what I'm supposed to do with this burden.”
It was around that time my wife called one day. We had been talking a couple of times a week, and she said, “This week I think we need to fast our phone calls, and you need to seek the Lord.” So, I remember thinking, “Okay Lord, this is out of character for her. This must be you.” And I remember going into the chapel each night for quite a period of time, putting on worship music and getting on my hands and knees and just really doing business with God. I was really crying out to him for help, and saying “God, I need you to come and change me. I admit who I am and what you said about me, and what you’ve shown me, but I need you to change my heart. I can't do it on my own.”
I went in there each night throughout that week, and I encountered the Lord in a way of His love being poured out on me, and He began to show me that my only hope was Him. It was a turning point where I began to stop looking at myself, and I began to look for Him for help. And it became a cry that has lasted all these years later. I still have that place of dependence and crying out to the Lord. But it really all took place by me crying out to Him, and Him responding by showing me the ugliness of my heart, and then me repenting of that.
Patrick: Dustin in our culture today, we're getting to the point where if someone says something negative it’s characterized as mean spirited, or bigoted or judgmental. Many people would think that the experience you had when you were in the program, where God was continuing to show you how sinful you are, would be cruel of Him or even emotionally damaging. But you don't describe the experience that way. It sounds like it was very painful. But all I've heard you talk about what came from that is how grateful you are for that time, and that you needed it. So why do you think it was necessary for God to lead you through that painful process?
Dustin: When I look back on that time, I think that it was His mercy being expressed to me. Because what if he hadn't done that? I think of the inverse. What if God hadn't shown me my heart, and hadn't led me into repentance, and I hadn't had to walk through that pain, but instead He left me where I was. That's the alternate. Then I would still be in sin, or who knows where I would be today.
So, it was a necessary pain that I had to walk through. And part of it was that it was all self-inflicted pain. It was the stuff that I had created, the life I had lived, the pride that I had had. And so, the pain I was experiencing was the pain of seeing that—the pain of remorse, but it was over the things I had done. So it wasn't like God was inflicting me with pain, just for the sake of pain. He was extending mercy and trying to help me see the things that I needed to see in order to get free.
For example, the pride in my life. If he hadn't shown me my spiritual pride, I couldn’t have dealt with it and gotten free from it. So, I see it as His mercy and I'm very grateful for it because I don't want to be left where I was. I've heard it said before that God loves us the way we are, but he loves us too much to keep us the way we are. I think that's what was happening there. He loved me where I was at, but He saw all these things in my life that He would have to deal with in order to get me free. And that was the freedom that I was crying out for. Therefore, it was just a necessary part of the process.
Patrick: Right. It's like when Hebrews describes that He disciplines us. If you're working out, it's painful to work out, but it's building something good over time.
Dustin: Yes, it's pain with a purpose.
Patrick: Yeah. And I think we see that God does love to answer that cry as He's building that need in us. But what can be confusing for us is that God doesn't always answer that cry that He puts in us right away. For you, it was a long time that you were beginning to see that need until it finally culminated in that week in the chapel. So, from your point of view, what are some of the reasons God might delay His answer for someone who's desperately and earnestly seeking Him?
Dustin: I think part of the issue when we're talking about that is that God doesn't always respond in the way that we think He's going to respond. In my experience, I wanted him just to set me free and hit the easy button and everything goes away. And part of His response was Him showing me my heart. That was part of His answer to my cry. It just didn't look like the way I thought it was going to look.
Oftentimes, God is doing something in the crying out, there's something happening inside of us that is part of the answer. Just the fact that we're crying out to him, it connects us with Him and builds relationship. I think sometimes we're looking for some kind of experience, and that specific thing is not what God is doing in that moment. It may lead to that, like it did for me. There was a breakthrough moment, but I see all those weeks and months of crying out as part of the answer to my prayer.
The other thing is that God's timing is perfect. We have to trust that He knows what we need, and when we need it. Our job is just to do the crying out to Him. That's what we do, it’s our part. And we also have to trust that He's doing His part, and He'll do His part in due time. To the person who says, “Well God's not answering my cry,” I would encourage them: don't get discouraged. Just trust the Lord's character. He's good. He promises in His word on multiple occasions that He'll answer the cry of His people. So just have faith and believe that He's doing something in the season you're in, and just continue to cry out to Him until you see the breakthrough that you're crying out for.
Patrick: That's good. I think we need to take a moment and offer a word of warning here. Because sometimes we see people who want victory over sin, but when God tries to lead them through this process that you're describing of really coming to the end of themselves, they keep avoiding it or side-stepping it. What would you say to someone who's in that situation?
Dustin: I would say to that person that by side-stepping the process, they are prolonging the victory that they're crying out for. If you picture a room in a house with one door, and the room is freedom from sin. It’s the victory. It’s whatever they're crying out for. If they get into that room, they're free. There's one door to get in. You can't get in any other way, there's no windows, there's no other way. But the door is repentance and the only way to get into that room is through repentance, which involves a breaking down process. It involves God showing us our sin, it involves us having remorse. So, all those painful things that they're trying to avoid is the only solution. They can side-step it forever, but they will never walk through that door.
I would encourage them that the pain is temporal. And the pain is also a good pain, because it's a pain that leads to victory. A lot of hard things in life require that we walk through a measure of pain. But if we walk through it, not only is there victory on the other side, but God walks with us through the door. We don't want to forget God is with us in that process. He has not forsaken us. The fact that he's revealing our hearts and is showing us these things is proof that He's working. And so, picture yourself walking with God hand in hand through this process that will lead into the victory that you're crying out for.
When we talk about crying out to the Lord, I think it's important that we understand the importance of our desperation. When I was crying out to the Lord, it was a time of crisis. I was at Pure Life, my marriage was falling apart. I was in sexual sin, and there were a lot of things going on. And so, I was pretty desperate for the Lord to come and do something. But what happened was that the cry that began with my counselor saying, “I need you to cry out to the Lord,” has turned into a lifestyle that still exists today. On a normal basis I'm crying out to the Lord. I need the Lord for everything. I realize that in and of myself, I have nothing. But with Him, He's the one that provides all that I need.
There's a scripture in Hebrews 11 that talks about God being a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. I've seen that as I've continued to cry out to the Lord all these years. The Lord has just filled my life with blessing. He restored my marriage years ago and brought my wife and I back together. He's blessed me with three wonderful daughters, and He’s restored me into the ministry. When I got out of Pure Life, I wasn't able to preach. But He's restored me. And I recently was ordained with our denomination. I’ve just seen God's hand of blessing throughout my life.
And of course, that includes freedom from sin. I'm not walking in sexual sin. I'm not living in that. That's been a fruit or benefit of the crying out to the Lord. But it's way beyond that. He's just given me a wonderful life. I walk in the peace of God. Yes, I have my struggles. I have issues that I walk through, but I'm walking through life with Him and ultimately that's the reward. When you seek after Him, you get Him in your life. All the goodness and the blessings are just side benefits to actually having the Lord and a real relationship with Him.
Patrick: Dustin, one of the things that's been such a great comfort to me in my life is that God promises that He will respond to the cry of the needy. But the truth is when we're in sin, or maybe when we're just going through something that's difficult, we often have a very hard time believing that. So, I want you to give listeners a couple of scripture verses that have really encouraged you to take God at His word, and to cry out to him when you've really been in need.
Dustin: Sure. One of the scriptures that has stuck with me over the years in Matthew 5:3 in the Beatitudes, the first one. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for they will inherit the Kingdom of God.” The word poor in spirit literally translates to spiritual beggars. And this is a picture of people who can't do anything without God. And really, that's how He's designed us to be. I’ve had to get over the macho man mindset, thinking I can do things on my own, and self-sufficiency and independence.
It's okay for us to be dependent on the Lord because He created us to be that way. It’s like my kids. When I've got a newborn baby, we don’t expect her to have the answers, or be able to feed herself, or to change herself. She’s just a helpless infant. And if we don't take care of her, she won't be able to survive. It's kind of like that in the spiritual realm where all of us are like that in our flesh. Jesus said, “You can do nothing without me” (John 15:5). So, it's okay to not have the answers, and to need to cry out to God. It's okay to be in situations where you don't know what to do, or where you're struggling in some area of life and to go to God and say, “Lord, I'm just coming to you as a spiritual beggar. God, please help me.” He's always faithful to respond. And so that's the peace that we have.
Another passage that I think is really helpful is Psalm 34. I'd encourage anyone to read through it. David's going through a very hard time,and multiple times he talks about crying out to the Lord. Verse four says, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” Verse six says, “This poor man called and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all of his troubles.” Verse seventeen says, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” There's this idea of a cause and effect. As people cry out to God, or as God's children cry out to him, He always responds.
David's writing from this place of confidence. So, I know that when I cry out to the Lord, He's going to answer me, in His wisdom and His timing. Likewise, as a father myself, if my children cry out that they need me, I'm going to run to them. It's because of my compassion for them. My love for them is going to cause me to respond. It's the same thing with God as our Heavenly Father and us, as His children. When we cry out to Him, there’s compassion that He has for us. He's going to respond. He's going to reach out to us. He's not holding back from us. He's not trying to withhold anything. He's going to give it to us in His timing. He just knows the best wisdom and timing to do it.
I would encourage anyone to go through Psalm 34. But there are multiple passages throughout the whole book of the Bible that are all about people crying out to the Lord and Him responding. He's the same God today, and He'll do the same thing for the person who cries out today as He did throughout the whole of scripture.