Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Expectation in Strife

I'm going through a funny time at the moment as you may well have perceived from earlier entries. I've felt largely deserted/neglected by other Christians and it's finally taken it's toll.

I am certain this has a lot to do with a season of oppression that is going round and so while my heart gets despondent sometimes, my heart of hearts tells me this will pass and to trust in God's strength and timing to help ride this out.

At church on Sunday God, while not allowing my problems to be solved with a magic wand.... did enough to reassure me that he is in this situation looking out for me. First of all I was given hope about my future role, where before there was only confusion and darkness. Nothing solid has materialised... but enough for me to realise I am valued by God and a few core people in that place.

Secondly in the service there were only six of us there... this gave us opportunity to pour our hearts out about things that were dragging us down in our faith. It was a time to be frank and honest and although I felt people were trying to answer away my issues to readily... the important thing was that I had addressed them openly.

Now onto my main reason for writing. During the service, the reading was from Mark 4:

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

It occurred to me that a lot of people overlook the fact that this happened fairly early on in Jesus ministry... at a time where he'd done just a handful of miracles - the like of which had been performed by other men empowered by God. It also occurred to me that we look at Jesus in retrospect having had the truth of his nature and who he is revealed to us.

The disciples at the time didn't have that. All they had was the knowledge that they walked with a wise man who was touched by God... they had no reason to expect him to do anything amazing to sort out their predicament. I believe when they woke him up... they weren't just in fear of losing their lives... they were angry. How dare he sleep while the rest of them were desperately bailing out water with their hands in a vain attempt to save the ship and their lives? I am pretty confident that when they woke Jesus they were demanding he join them in frantically scooping out handfuls of water.

It was because of who Jesus was... and the authority given to him, that he saw the situation from a totally different angle and treated it so differently. Firstly he was at peace because he knew the waves and wind didn't have authority to kill him. Secondly, he knew that he didn't need to be a busybody and merely bail water out with his hands. He knew that his Father was in control of that situation... and had empowered Him to resolve it by divine means.

Now as Christians we need to understand what God is saying here about the way we work out our faith daily. Firstly we need to trust patiently in God's timing and not worry about bailing out the water in our own effort. These things are sent to try us and stop us from resting God and spending time in his presence, if we let them dominate our actions then they succeed in their aims.

Secondly we need to get into the habit of responding in the right way to our hunger... be that one of personal need or desire for revival. Take the attitude of the widow from this parable for example:

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'
"For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!' "

And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

As I write these words, I am reminded of a springtime bird and her chicks. It is the young ones that cry out in their hunger and who persist in doing so that have the best chances of survival. It is they that get fed more often. We need to be like that. We need to respond to God when he feeds us... and when he seems quiet, we need to keep asking him to provide for us. When the mother bird returns to the nest to feed her young... will she find them faithfully crying out to her in their hunger? When God comes down to bless his people will he find us calling out to him... or will we be asleep?

A book I am hoping to purchase very soon is the autobiography "The Heavenly Man" by Brother Yun. This man lives under oppression in China... he has few of the things we take for granted in our faith. He did not have access to a Bible and none was forthcoming (you can't just pop to your local Christian bookshop and buy one there). He was told to pray for one.... so he did. Nothing came of it. After a while he spoke to the person who told him to pray for one... and they told him, he needed to pray with more urgency. The man went out, fasted and prayed on a rock for three months to the point where he had tears in his eyes. eventually there was a knock on the door and somebody passed him a red shopping bag in clandestine fashion... within the bag was the bible he had been praying for. Ironically the supplier had the bible ready to give from the very day Brother Yun started praying.... but had been unsure as to whether or not it was a trap... so like the prophet Daniel, it took dedication to bring the prayer's answer to fruition.

We put so much effort into achieving our Godly objectives in our own might... yet we expend our energy fruitlessly. Time and time again in scripture we see that God blesses those who let him have full involvement. Why can't we spend our energy in a more productive fashion and keep asking him with fervour?

I know in my situation that God will call people to account when the time is right, he won't let my ship go down.... sure it doesn't feel that way... but we have to keep believing and not pay attention to the odds.

I keep remembering a famous line from the Matrix:

Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
Morpheus: No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you that when you're ready, you won't have to.

We don't have to dance to the storms of life when we have a God who has authority over them.

We don't need to dodge bullets.

We need to redefine our understanding of the mechanics of spiritual physics.



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