How do we measure “the favor” or of God” on – or in – our lives?
Pastor Larry recently quoted Colossians 1:26-29 from The Message Bible translation. It reads: “This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.”
“Bringing each person to maturity.” A process that is pursued day after day. Year after year.
It sounds somewhat like drudgery…but this indwelling reality of “Christ! No more, no less” is sustaining and encouraging in tough times, through situations and circumstances that seem to scream that God is not with you in a particular endeavor…if it can just be grasped, integrated into our lives with clarity and conviction.
I came across a short passage adapted from Heidi Baker’s book, Birthing the Miraculous, and share it here. Heidi talks about the fact that people sometimes “feel foolish dreaming the sorts of dreams God puts in our hearts.”*
In telling her own experiences, Baker states, “Scripture says Paul prayed for the church to have patience and endurance. Sometimes we give up too quickly…I might have given up on Mozambique in general many times… I might have given up when people shot at me or when gangs were chasing me. I might have given up when we were in deep psychological distress after friends of ours in the Congo were dismembered with machetes in a church. I might have given up when I was reported in the newspapers as a drug dealer because of mistaken results at a lab, where they were testing some vitamins that were donated to us. I might have given up on the fifth, sixth or seventh occasion when crowds began to stone me for preaching about Jesus.*
“Most especially, I might have given up when my husband, Rolland, got cerebral malaria and suffered a series of microstrokes that almost killed him. Though he was eventually healed, for two years he lost his short-term memory and was totally unable to function in ministry or administration.”*
“Give up too quickly”? This isn’t a test question…but after facing all the diverse and consistent adversity Baker describes…would you still be in Mozambique? Would I? Like I said….it’s not a test question. No answers will be recorded or published.
But it brings to light an interesting point that we Americans wrestle with, possibly given our general lack of persecution: if things don’t seem to be “going well,” if God doesn’t appear to be “opening doors” and we’re not “sensing His peace” as we pursue an endeavor…does it mean He isn’t going with us, not granting us His favor or blessing, that somewhere we took a wrong turn or committed some act that has blocked His touch from reaching us?
Heidi Baker would say no. And the reason for her certainty is because the weight of the circumstances around her never outweighed her security as His daughter, joint-heir with Christ, found and nourished through her intimate relationship with Him. She writes, “The only reason I did not give up any of these times was because I know the One who placed His promises within me. When you know Him intimately, you never give up, because He is worthy! Continue to carry your promises faithfully. Nurture them as they grow. It does not matter how old you are. It is never too late. The Lord wants to take you beyond who you are and what you can do…truthfully, I am being overshadowed more now than I have ever been before. At times it is still very uncomfortable. There are days when I feel terribly stretched as God’s promises grow within me, but even those days are a joy because I long to birth what God has given me…*
“Two things will come from being overshadowed. The first is a particular promise from God that is naturally impossible to fulfill. The second is a general promise from God that nothing is impossible with Him. Our God is the God of the impossible. He can take a barren ministry and breathe His Spirit into it. Even in your old age, He can breathe over you and cause you to bear a ministry, a promise or a revelation – a beautiful gift that will carry His glory to the ends of the earth. He can take the most barren and broken life – even the kind of life that has aborted its own promises many times – and in it plant a glorious new promise, along with all the strength needed to carry it to full term. We have a mighty calling to carry God’s heart and to reveal His glorious love to the world. None of us can fully imagine or expect what the lord has for us or what the journey to its fulfillment will look like. I don’t think Mary was expecting to carry a child before she was married or to give birth to the Son of God. She could never have anticipated the magnitude of the call or the price she would have to pay.*
“If we are wise, we will make the choice to say yes to God many times a day. We say yes to taking the time to worship, to having a positive attitude, to releasing people, to stopping for people when we might be in a hurry, to trusting God for a seemingly impossible financial situation. Our yes is a daily choice. There is a daily sacrifice and a daily joy as we participate in God’s dreams for this world. As we do this, we participate with Jesus in the sacrifices He too made for the joy that was set before Him…”*
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18, NASB)
Eternal weight. Not losing hope. A daily sacrifice and a daily joy. All working to establish within us – Christ! No more, no less.
*Identity Network.net, online resource, “Here’s Why Not to Give Up”, Heidi Baker