The pendulum is swinging
"...lead me to the rock that is higher than I" Psalm 61:2
I remember an occasion where I was preaching in Hamilton NZ,
in the town square (open air) during shopping hours...I was offering the good
news -– to people who didn't want to hear it. It reminds me of the boy scout
who came back to base camp all beaten up, arm in a sling and black eye... "What
happened to you?" he was asked. "Just doing my good deed for the day Sir.
Helping a little old lady cross the road.". "But how did you end up in that
condition?". He said "Ah -– well, she didn't want to go". Back to the
town square...lots of bustling people activity, lunchtime folk trying to get a
break...and me! My sketch-board was loaded with clever evangelical hooks, my
message well practised, even slick! I was of course, born for such a time as
this... Right then, when my words were flowing, my sketch-board hand finding a
useful syncopation, a mocking voice yelled out of the bemused crowd "Shut up...
(expletives). You're trying to convince yourself of what you believe while you're
speaking to us!" As a mature 19 year old, his statement really affected me...I
bumbled through a form of the 'prayer of salvation' and then quickly packed
up and fled the area.
So, here we are 18 years later -– and I well remember the
occasion...I have often thought about it. "That was just standard
street-preaching interjection" I've been told more than once. But I think
not. Until God's Word is applied in ones life, and known at a heart
level...it will always be just theoretical knowledge. Even our best (soulish)
performances will fall flat on 'deaf or closed ears' -– because only 'spirit
can speak to spirit'. The truth of the matter is, what God would have us learn
of Himself is far too immense for any individual. So, over time, bite by bite we
feast on His Word -– applying it whenever we are smart enough to. His Word is
like a seed, which when deposited into the soil of our lives will bare
fruit, never returning void!
There's a very clear message reiterated over and over
Scripture -– God does not want to divvy up His glory with us! He is a jealous
God who wants our lives to bring Him glory. This then becomes an
interesting pendulum topic. The balance of 'our efforts for God' versus 'His
work within us'. Paul states several times -– I have plenty to boast about in
the flesh, but I have no confidence there anymore! I must preach only what
Christ has wrought in me.
When we have opportunity to give account for what we believe,
do we give the formulated (knowledge) version OR heart level understanding? Is
it a profession of our mouths OR a conviction of our hearts? Don't get me
wrong -– there's plenty of opportunity to evangelise either way... Because we
are human it is inevitable that we will discover 'flesh' within our
activity. God is still at work within us...teaching us to rely more and more on
His leading and not our own sufficiency. I suggest that we focus less on 'what
is effective' in terms of going out and getting results (scalps), and more on
'what is real', in the context of God's Word and our testimony. Not
measured in temporal 'outcomes' but in fruit which will remain. My
Dad used to say 'You can be talked into the Kingdom, and you can talked out of
it again'. This is not about accumulating more knowledge. Deep calls to deep
-– spirit to spirit.
But how does God take us from where we are -– to where He
wants us to be?? I would suggest -– cleverly! Proverbs 16:9 "A man's heart
deviseth his way, but the Lord directs his steps".
I prayed a self righteous prayer one night. "Lord, we
(Christian speakers) all speak in your Name. I want to speak Your Word in truth.
Please purge me, prune me back so that I will present Your Word in truth...".
You see, in my mind, I was in pole position for God. I won't bore you with the
details, but within days, whether by coincidence or Divine appointment, I was
lying in hospital, crying in great pain...not knowing if I would live or die. My
family, including my young wife and son sat for hours alongside my bed. I couldn't
offer them any positive statements -– I was too sick: my life was 'not in my
control'. Even my Dad and Mum (who I had always relied on) could not make the
difference...I was beginning to learn to rely on God. It was a dismal
experience! A good friend come to visit, he tried to make me laugh -– I could
only cry...he joined me. I believe there are two positions we find ourselves in
during the course of our lives. When we are in control and when we are not!
And once we gain control, don't think for a moment that we will not experience
the other position again.
Even the Apostle Paul knew that at times God appeared to be
playing 'hide and seek' with him. We read in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 "For we
would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia,
that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired
even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should
not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead."
Have you been pressed out of measure? Have you despaired -–
having run out of your own strength? God is at work within us. He assists us to
empathise with others rather than focussing on 'our outcomes' and goals. He
uses our 'wills, skills and goals' for His purposes...but must take us away
from our sufficiency as he performs surgery on our inner man. The Kingdom of God
is within us! Can we assist God? It's beyond me...