Hello, dear brother or sister in the Lord. It’s your fellow contender once again emerging from your mailbox and into your living room. It’s a new year, and I’m blessed with this opportunity to share my heart with you. I never saw the movie of about 30 years ago called “2001 Space Odyssey,” but I think that, for me, 2001 will be a journey into both “outer space” – new areas of life and people – and “inner space” – places in my heart that I have never been before. Well, the good news is that Jesus is going with me, and that he will be relentlessly pursuing his goal of bringing me into intimacy with him so that I trust him explicitly. In his book, Connecting, Larry Crabb writes:
Our fiercest battles are fought when we seek with all our heart to trust God so fully…and know Him so richly that we turn to no one and nothing else to experience what our souls long to enjoy, to love Him so completely and with such consuming passion that we hate anything that comes between us and eagerly give it up…Do I trust Him to continue working in my life even when I am plagued by crippling emotions? Do I know Him well enough to turn to Him for comfort rather than demand relief from my pain through whatever means are available? Do I love Him so deeply that I welcome additional suffering that might draw my soul closer to Him? Will I pay any price to know Him well?
Those are sobering words, especially that word “any.” They pretty much sum up what Christianity is all about: trusting God and the Lord Jesus Christ. What is the alternative? Biblically, it is called “sin,” and I think that Crabb’s definition of it is insightful:
Sin is any effort to make life work without absolute dependence upon God. It is giving higher priority to my satisfaction than to God’s pleasure, it involves a follow-up commitment to find joy for my soul outside of God, a commitment rooted in the belief that there is something truly good that God does not provide. It boils down to self-dependence, self-preoccupation and self-centeredness, attitudes that look to other people and things for the satisfaction we were designed to enjoy. It is looking at God and saying, “No!” or, worse, dismissing him as we would a bellhop after he’s carried our bags to the room.
After reading those piercing words, maybe you, like I am, are tempted to say, “Hey, come on, Larry, I trust God. My life is dedicated to Him, and overall, I’m doing far more good than harm.” Whoa, Nellie! Is that my goal? Not really. My goal is that “Christ be formed in me.” Will that not require diligent and careful introspection and attention to detect “ANY” effort to make my life work without absolute dependence upon God? Something in me hates that word “any.” The more I grow in the Lord, the more subtle and deceptive are the detours that Satan puts before me, and the more precise I must be to “walk circumspectly,” that is, “looking around,” in order to see the spiritual reality of the situation.
If I truly want to be like my Lord Jesus and do the works that he did, I have no choice but to totally submit myself to his training program for me. Once more I will quote Larry Crabb, because what he says here basically reflects much of what I feel right now:
God is stripping me of much that I’ve depended on for my sense of well-being. The effect is a struggle with self-doubt and with questions about my usefulness that at times are overwhelming. The process of dying, I’ve discovered, includes a period after the old props have been kicked away and before the new foundation can be felt beneath my feet. During that period, the soul is ripped apart, filled with desolation and despair, made raw, lacerated. It longs for a healing that no one can arrange. It is a season of absolute vulnerability before God. If He does nothing, there will be no Resurrection, only ongoing death, which no one can endure.
So here I go, ready or not, on my 2001 Space Odyssey. I am doing my best to step into the abyss of death to self. “If He does nothing, there will be no Resurrection…” Well, I believe that God will do something for me. One of my favorite sections of Scripture is Acts 27:20–25, part of the account of Paul being an a ship en route to Rome, and trapped in a life-threatening storm, the “perfect storm” to kill him and all those aboard. Perhaps you know the record – “…neither sun nor stars appeared for many days…” and all hope of being saved was lost. But God, via an angel, promised Paul that no one would be killed, and Paul then proclaimed to the whole crew: “…keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me!”
To me, that is a classic definition of faith, and one that begs two questions in my own heart: (1) “Do I have a promise from God relevant to my situation?” and (2) Do I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me?” Oswald Chambers suggests another definition of faith that I love: “Faith is not a pathetic sentiment, but robust, vigorous confidence built upon the fact that God is holy [and wholly] love.” And Susan Lenzkes writes: “Real trust bounces on eager toes of anticipation, laughs with pure delight of knowing in whom it believes, rests easy knowing on whom it waits.” That is the kind of faith I want to have in my heavenly Father, a faith that will bring forth “wreck less” obedience, as opposed to reckless disobedience based upon trust in myself – been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Perish the thought, but maybe you can identify with me.
I want God to be able to count on me to “stand in the gap” for Him, as per Ezekiel 22:30, when He could find no one to do so. In a recent HEARTLIGHT Magazine, Dr. Bill Denton wrote a short piece titled, “God’s Method.” Referring to the above verse, he quotes the well known author, E. M. Bounds, and then goes on. I think that what he wrote is most pertinent in closing out this article:
“We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the Church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel. This trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of the man, or sink the man, in the plan or organization. God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else. Men are God’s method. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.”
What insight! “Men are God’s method.” I’m amazed at such a thought. The work of God in this world isn’t a technique, nor some tricky concept one can only learn from a spiritual guru, not even the latest research-based professional methodology. Don’t misunderstand. Such things can serve as valid tools. There is much to learn about how to communicate God’s Word and instill its livable concepts into human hearts. However, nothing compares with God’s own “tool” of choice – human beings.
In every age, God has sought for those who choose Him instead of the world. He wants people who are willing to live by faith, trusting in things they cannot see with their physical eyes, and willing to act in ways that make no sense to the rest of the world. He wants people who yearn for His holiness and goodness, and who reach for it, not to hold it in their hands to admire it, but who desperately want to live it themselves.
God is always in need of people who refuse to give in to the world. These people believe there is something better than the mire in which most are trapped. They recognize the uselessness and inevitable failure of sin, so they resist. These are people who listen to God’s Word, who know the shame of finding out there is sin present, and joy when they learn how to be forgiven. They know that life outside of God’s will is a dead-end street so they rebel against the tide of evil.
Such people change the world. They do so, not because they’ve manipulated others with some super-spiritual technique, rather they change the world by showing others the fruit of a godly life. They will not change everyone. In fact, they may discover more enemies than ever, but that is the evil they face. Still, they will not surrender. They fight daily to make God real by living God’s ways. In the process, they bring salvation with them. What do you bring?
I want to be such a man. I want to change the world. I want to go beyond the edge. Thank you for praying for me. I love you dearly, and I will see you on the path.