Monday, March 7, 2011

But I told you THREE times!!!

When I was teaching, especially when I was teaching middle school, I had a habit of repeating directions three times right in a row.

"Your paper is due tomorrow.  Your paper is due tomorrow.  Your paper is due tomorrow."

I was aware of the habit, but really had given it little though until one day, one of my students looked at me and said, "Mrs. Wright, do you realize that you always repeat directions three times right in a row?"

Without missing a beat, I looked at the student and said, "Yeah, I know.  It's so if someone comes in here tomorrow and says they didn't know their paper was due, I can look at them and say, 'But I told you THREE times!'"

As I study scripture, I'm realizing God has a similar mentality with us.  God knows, just as advertisers, politicians, and savvy middle school teachers know, that a message will stick the more times we hear it and begin to influence our beliefs.  There are certain phrases that repeat over and over again throughout all of scripture.

In the NIV translation:

-"His love endures forever" is repeated 43 times, 26 times in Psalm 136 alone!
-"Rejoice in the Lord" is repeated 12 times.
-We are given a direct command to "Repent!" 21 times, and specifically told to repent because the kingdom of Heaven/God is near 3 times.
-We are referred to as "Children" (children of God, children of the light, etc.) 50 times!  This does not count the time in the Gospels where Jesus lets the little children come to Him and says that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to "such as these".

On a bigger scale, God uses the four Gospels to repeat the story of Jesus' life to us in four different ways, the Creation story is repeated twice, the Ten Commandments are repeated twice, and 2 Chronicles repeats many of the events of 1 and 2 Kings.  God knows not only do we need to hear certain things over and over again before they sink in, He knows that sometimes deeper and richer meaning comes from things when they are told multiple times.

Even removing the concept from a scriptural context, often times when the Holy Spirit is leading us toward something, we get the message over and over and over again.  Sometimes it is because we are missing the obvious and other times it is because we fighting God leading us that direction.  Regardless, God uses repetition in these times both as a way to catch our attention and as a reassurance that we are getting His message loud and clear.

In our relationship with God, we need to look for what messages He is repeating over and over again.  It may help to keep a journal or at minimum, being conscious that God may be reinforcing a point by simple repetition.  God knows how hardheaded we are, but He tells us in John 10:4 that His sheep will recognize His voice.  He will let you hear Him through scripture, prayer, other people and certain circumstances.  You just need to have your antennas up, ready to receive whatever message He is sending!  It would be a shame if you got to Heaven and you find out you missed out on something big and God looks at you and says, "But I told you THREE times!!!"

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