Who are we, as a church? Why are we here? Are we doing what God wants us to do? Are we doing things the way God wants us to do them? And, Where are we going? I have been thinking about these things recently. We have been here for four years now. And God has done great things through us. We have a reputation even in our fellowship of being a great success. But what about lately? I have been thinking about these questions in relation to myself and my walk with God. I am not pleased with my walk with God in this season of my life. I see in my own life a mechanical worship, powerless preaching, and lack of direction. If this is the state of the pastor these things are bound to effect and even be copied by the congregation, not neccessarily in everyone but probably in most. This will not do. It cannot do. There is too much at stake spiritually speaking and our God is too awesome a God for us to be comfortable where we are at. What then is missing? What should we do? As I asked these questions for myself, a verse kept nagging my heart. It is Revelation 3:2. Come along with me as I explore God's message to my heart and in doing so, you may find that God is speaking to your heart too.
What God Knows
- My Reputation
God knows that my deeds lack His life in them. I have a name or authority that has the appearance of life. I can go through al the right motions, preach sermons that are doctrinally sound, pray prayers that give glory to God, but something is missing. I have substituted the form of godliness for the true power of godliness. People see outward performance, but God sees the heart. What does God see?
- My State
That my deeds are dead and so I am dead with them. Because I have been doing my job in my own strength with out the power of the Holy Spirit and the life that He gives, I and my ministry with me have no life, no power, no glory to God, and no fruit. How did this happen? For me, I think two things caused this. One, was a lack of eternal perspective. Instead thinking about how short this life is and how my actions would mesure up in light of eternity, I was focussed on the here and now of my own little world. This is a small, selfish way to live that is more concerned with my own personal comfort than the eternal plan of God. Two, was a lack of prayer. Oh it wasn't that I didn't pray at all. I prayed at meals, prayed for church services, prayed for all of you, but many times it was just minimal prayer to say that I did it. It was like a skeletin without flesh. Prayer was not a priority and therefore I didn't spend much time in it. I was too busy to pray. Too busy to stuggle with the Lord in prayer. Like any relationship that lacks quality and quantity of time spent together, my relationship with the Lord became weak, strained, and frail. When that happened, there could be no life in me. I was not drawing the refreshing water from the fountain of life but was instead drawing poisoned water from the well of my own dried out soul.
Can you identify? Do you see the same lack of life in your deeds? Have you fallen into the same trap of having the appearance of life, but no substance? How did happen for you? Did you also get caught up in selfish pursuits of life and lose an eternal perspective of the glory of God? Is your prayer life just a skeletin without flesh. Do you find it hard to spend 15 minutes a day with the Lord in prayer but can spend hours in front of the TV or other fleshly pursuits? Then I am sorry; I have let you down as an example and a leader. I am sorry that you did not see in me the power that comes from a vital and continous filling of the Holy Spirit. God knows my deeds and He knows yours too.
You don't identify? Good! Then you are one of the few that have not soiled their garments (vs. 4) and are walking with the Lord despite my failures. Praise the Lord, and may you keep living for Him!
What I Need to Do
- Wake Up
This is a state of being that must be maintained.
Mark 14:34. The disciples didn't relize the gravity of what was happening and so they were caught off guard. The prayer element is very interesting to me. Jesus wanted them to pray and they fell asleep. Their fleshly desire to sleep overruled their spiritual need to pray. How many times this has happened to me.
Hopefully this is what I am starting to do now. He says to establish the rest of you who are about lose that life of the Spirit, that joy of your salvation, that fervency of ministry to the Lord. Jesus says here aslo that I have not found your work perfect or complete. This is actually encouraging to me. It encourages me that God is not done with me yet. My deeds are not complete, so he still has work for me to do. Like Ebenezer Scrooge who wakes up on Christmas morning rejoicing that he is still alive and has a chance to change the course of the future.
How do I do this waking up and strengthening?
What have I recieved? I have received the grace of Jesus Christ, pardon for sin, adoption as a son to the Father, the Holy Spirit living and working within me, an inheritance, a calling from God to be an undershepherd, and all of these are known because I have recieved the precious truth the pages of the only book God ever wrote. I remember! I remember when He called me into the ministry. I remember the charge I was given when I was ordained. I remember the day God saved me from eternal punishment and gave me a new relationship with Him. I remember.
I must guard these truths. Not just protect them from the contamination of the world, but observe them attentively, keep my eyes fixed on these truths and the God who wrote them. I believe this can only be accomplished through praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). This is not some hocus pocus prayer life but one that is sensitive to and submitted to the Holy Spirit according to the book that He inspired. This means not leaving His presence until He has sufficiently broken you and you are willing to do His will, His way. This may take 4 minutes or it may take 4 hours. No sublimer story has been recorded in earthly annals than that of David Brainerd; no miracle attests with diviner force the truth of Christianity than the life and work of such a man. Alone in the savage wilds of America, struggling day and night with a mortal disease, unschooled in the care of souls, having access to the Indians for a large portion of time only through the bungling medium of a pagan interpreter, with the Word of God in his heart and in his hand, his soul fired with the divine flame, a place and time to pour out his soul to God in prayer, he fully established the worship of God and secured all its gracious results. The Indians were changed with a great change from the lowest besotments of an ignorant and debased heathenism to pure, devout, intelligent Christians; all vice reformed, the external duties of Christianity at once embraced and acted on; family prayer set up; the Sabbath instituted and religiously observed; the internal graces of religion exhibited with growing sweetness and strength. The solution of these results is found in David Brainerd himself, not in the conditions or accidents but in the man Brainerd. He was God’s man, for God first and last and all the time. God could flow unhindered through him. The omnipotence of grace was neither arrested nor straightened by the conditions of his heart; the whole channel was broadened and cleaned out for God’s fullest and most powerful passage, so that God with all his mighty forces could come down on the hopeless, savage wilderness, and transform it into his blooming and fruitful garden; for nothing is too hard for God to do if he can get the right kind of a man to do it with.
Brainerd lived the life of holiness and prayer. His diary is full and monotonous with the record of his seasons of fasting, meditation, and retirement. The time he spent in private prayer amounted to many hours daily. “When I return home,” he said, “and give myself to meditation, prayer, and fasting, my soul longs for mortification, self-denial, humility, and divorcement from all things of the world.” “I have nothing to do,” he said, “with earth but only to labor in it honestly for God. I do not desire to live one minute for anything which earth can afford.” After this high order did he pray: “Feeling somewhat of the sweetness of communion with God and the constraining force of his love, and how admirably it captivates the soul and makes all the desires and affections to center in God, I set apart this day for secret fasting and prayer, to entreat God to direct and bless me with regard to the great work which I have in view of preaching the gospel, and that the Lord would return to me and show me the light of his countenance. I had little life and power in the forenoon. Near the middle of the afternoon God enabled me to wrestle ardently in intercession for my absent friends, but just at night the Lord visited me marvelously in prayer. I think my soul was never in such agony before. I felt no restraint, for the treasures of divine grace were opened to me. I wrestled for absent friends, for the ingathering of souls, for multitudes of poor souls, and for many that I thought were the children of God, personally, in many distant places. I was in such agony from sun half an hour high till near dark that I was all over wet with sweat, but yet it seemed to me I had done nothing. O, my dear Saviour did sweat blood for poor souls! I longed for more compassion toward them. I felt still in a sweet frame, under a sense of divine love and grace, and went to bed in such a frame, with my heart set on God.” Bounds, E. M. (1999). Power through prayer. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
I hope this message reveals my repentence. But the real proof is not a message that I preach, but the life that I lead, and the man that I am which will be evident in the changes that you should see.
Action: Here are some of the things that I would ask you to join me in doing in light of all of this.
- In preparation for our planning time, fast and pray for at least an hour on January 10th asking God to give us direction as a church for the next 6 months. Pray over all the suggestions that you have for the meeting and the ones that other have suggested.
- Commit myself to praying for each and every person who regularly attends this church by name at least once a week.
- Commit myself to setting aside time each day with God in prayer and learning determined not to leave His presence until He has had His way with me.