God has timing that is unmatched in the universe, let me tell you.
I’ve now “replaced the calendar” almost 13 times now since I’ve come to faith in Jesus Christ as my Redeemer, my Savior, my Lord and King. And in that time, I can remember only once before having an explosion of emotion towards Him like I did Sunday night.
The reasons for it and the commentary regarding it are best saved for another time, but suffice it to say that God took everything I had to unleash on Him, held me close to His heart, and let me “get back to work”.
Many flashes of words spoken and written by influential people in my life chimed in at various moments in my tirade, including my pastor and several other pastors and teachers I’ve been privileged enough to study under.
Scripture washed over me in such a way that it was indistinguishable from my tears.
My pastor told us one Sunday morning about a time he went through where, for about two years, his walk with God seemed — in his words — “like licking a rock”. Dry, dusty, lonely. Pretty much the opposite of what you would ever actually want your relationship with the Lord to be like.
He said that as he prayed — even though he felt no answer would be forthcoming, for whatever reason — at some point during that two-year period he said to God “I know You’ve promised never to leave me or forsake me, but for some reason that’s how I feel…so I’m going to submit my feelings to Your promise and continue in the work you’ve put me in, and when this dry time is over, I’ll hopefully be face to face with You once again.”
It ministered to me at the time he said it, but didn’t have much personal application with me until relatively recently. And as the emotion flowed freely just a few short days ago, it’s one of the things that kept coming back to mind.
“Continue being faithful.”
“Your work is valuable.”
“I love you!”
“You’re going to make it.”
“I am always with you.”
Fast forward about 33 hours here, and as I open up the Word and a devotional that I read, I’m struck with two reminders — Jeremiah, the prophet who put everything he had into faithfully delivering the Word of the Lord to his people even though they wouldn’t listen, and Paul exhorting a very carnal church regarding their duty in service to the Lord and to one another.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. 6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters — that you may be increased there, and not diminished…
10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed in Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity…” (Jeremiah 29:5-6, 10-14a)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body…
25b …but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1st Corinthians 12:18-20, 25b-26)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Here are the words of the devotion for February 19th:
Let us review something here that we probably know: the doctrine of the life and operation of Christian believers on earth — starting with the fact that the Christian church is the body of Christ, Jesus Himself being the Headship of that body. Every true Christian, no matter where he or she lives, is a part of that body, and the Holy Spirit is to the church what our own souls are to our physical bodies.
Through the operation of the Holy Spirit, Christ becomes the life, the unity and the consciousness of the body, which is the church. Let the soul leave the physical body and all the parts of the body cease to function. Let the Spirit be denied His place in the spiritual body, and the church ceases to function as God intended…
According to the Bible, the whole body exists for its members and the members exist for the whole body. And that, of course, is the reason God gives gifts, so that the body may profit spiritually and maintain spiritual health and prosperity in its service for Jesus Christ in an unfriendly world.
[His prayer at the end of the devotion]
“Lord, I pray that today we in our church might be aware of Your presence, that we might be faithfully exercising the gifts You have given and that we might be a healthy Body that pleases You. Amen.”
Both of these passages ministered to me because they meet both sides of where I feel I’m at lately. Just as Jesus gave His disciples the encouragement “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” with the command “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations“, here this morning God saw fit to give me the reassurance “yeah, you’re gonna be ‘in the desert’ for a little while, but I’ve got a purpose for the time and when the time’s up I’ll be there waiting for you” along with the reminder “you are an important part of My Body, and I need you to be there showing that same care for one another to those who need to see it“.
I know I’m no Jeremiah, nor am I a Paul. My words are not Scripture, and I have no authority in and of myself. I’m just a regular guy, no different from you, who has a burning in my bones to share with people the goodness of God and the lengths He has gone to to rescue people from the disease they didn’t even know they had.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily; Everyone mocks me. 8 For when I spoke, I cried out; I shouted, “Violence and plunder!” Because the word of the LORD was made to me A reproach and a derision daily.
9 Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not…11a But the Lord is with me…”
(Jeremiah 20:7-9, 11a)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
But YOU, brothers and sisters — YOU are just as much a part of that body as I am. You each have people who you interact with daily, circles in which you travel, fellowships full of other believers who have their own struggles, trials and tribulations going on in their lives. Are you suffering with those who suffer? Rejoicing with those who rejoice? It’s certainly much easier to rejoice with people (at least outwardly) than it is to suffer with those who suffer, but BOTH are the natural “work” of the Body in proper relation with the Holy Spirit.
I’ve come to realize the practical, real-world application of 1st Corinthians 13 in my own life: no matter how many people I evangelize on the street, no matter how many disciples I train up, no matter how many classes I teach or studies I lead, no matter how many blogs I write or how many countries those words make their way into, it’s all worthless if I’m not actively willing to be “in sackcloth and ashes” with those being ground into the dust and “in party hats and hula skirts” with those who are rejoicing. Worthless because people don’t care what you know (or think you know) unless they know that you genuinely care.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Our society has become so “appearance-driven” that we often put on our “happy Christian” façade when we go to church, shake hands, give hugs, smile and wave, then drive home just as hurting and wounded as we were when we arrived. In the first century church, everyone lived in the same town as the people they fellowshipped with, and they likely saw each other more frequently on a day-to-day basis than we do today — we, the masters of the commute. Yet if it was so important for the “constantly fellowshipping” folks in that day to still gather together for fellowship on the first day of the week, wouldn’t it be even more important for us, as typically disconnected from our neighbors and Family as we are, to get in that good fellowship time with our brothers and sisters?
Sure, it’s easier to hide. If you are a part of a larger fellowship, it’s easier still. But if you do so, you’re ripping the rest of us off, because you are a valuable and important member of His Body, and you were given gifts specifically for the purpose of edifying and growing the rest of us!
“Many hands make light work”, as the saying goes. Yet so many have removed their hand from the plow entirely that the few who remain at the work are nearly crushed by it. Ever since I first started teaching “Children’s Church” roughly ten years ago, I typically can’t sleep the night before. It’s not something that is all holy or dramatic; I just have always had a sense in my spirit of the immense responsibility it is to deliver the Word of God into the life of another person. Anyone who reads Matthew 18:6 and yet somehow thinks that teaching kids is a casual and carefree thing needs to find a different area to serve in.
A.W. Tozer said it this way: “The rewards of godly leadership are so great and the responsibilities of the leader so heavy that no one can afford to take the matter lightly.”
I have a few faithful brothers that I know I can call anytime if something’s up, but honestly, I find myself asking myself (when someone calls me at one of those times) “why should it even get that far?” I mean, if we’re being real with each other, shouldn’t we be open with each other on Sunday mornings? Wednesday nights? Bible studies? Discipleship classes? In the off times at the coffee shop? How on earth do we let each other fall through the cracks? How do we let each other come to fellowship, recognize the façades on each other’s faces, then just let each other go without peeling back the bandages and asking for some healing oil?
These questions are what compel me to love you. Christ died for me so that I could be a part of His Family, and He did the same for you — but now that we’re part of His royal Family, are we supposed to be a gaggle of Jerry Springer dysfunctionals? God forbid! We’ve been ripping each other off, holding back love, depriving each other of the outworking of the Holy Spirit through the use of His gifts, and as a result we are causing the Body to atrophy. I pray this would compel you to become fully engaged in the lives of those you’ve been called to “have the same care for” — your brothers and sisters in Christ’s Body.
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
[NOTE: the devotion referenced here was written by A.W. Tozer and compiled by Ronald Eggert in devotional form in the book “Tozer on Christian Leadership”, copyright 2001 by Wing Spread Publications. All rights to the work reserved by the publisher.]
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~