The Quest For Fulfillment
Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 1985-1996.
For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net
No part of these writings may be sold, and no part may be copied in whole without citing this entire paragraph.
Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 1985-1996.
For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net
Chapter 10: Hostile Forces
Waiting For Your Ministry
The Quest For Fulfillment
I say it with tears: relative to our enormous potential in Christ,
most, perhaps all of us live stunted, malformed lives. As we enter
the second half of our exploration of barriers to ministry, itís
easy for the eye to glide over our growing list without the significance
hitting us. Almost certainly, somewhere in the completed list
will be the very reason, or combination of reasons, why you and
I lack the fulfillment we crave. As you read, keep praying for
We have identified the need to:
* be true to our individual call
* recognize our utter dependence upon God
* mature in Christian character
* enter new spiritual realms
* be correctly integrated into the body of Christ
* persist in faith-filled prayer
* take pleasure in humble tasks
* realize service has nothing to do with earning Godís favor
* ensure devotion to ministry does not mutate into idolatry
* acknowledge the possibility of Godís discipline.
With so many possible responses required of us, itís a relief to know the ball is sometimes the other side the net. The delay is not always our responsibility. Letís flick through the Bible for insight into this.
Gideonís army of thirty-two thousand had to dwindle to a mere three hundred before God could use them. (Judges 7:2-8) A susceptibility to pride was apparently the problem. In Gideonís case, however, the snag probably stretched beyond any personal weakness to that of the whole of Israel. (Judges 7:2) Weíd have to live on another planet not to know that even the sporting victories of a few citizens can send an entire nation giddy with conceit. For Israelís sake, God refused to move until the danger of arrogance was removed from the spectators as well as the heroes.
Even if we know God deserves all the credit for our success, it may be too early for observers to be convinced. We are not the only ones who receive Godís loving consideration.
Jesusí deliberate delay in ministering to Lazarus transformed what would have been just another healing into arguably his greatest miracle. (John 11:3-6, 14-15; 12:9-11) If God moved too soon, he could be robbed of glory he deserves, and onlookers bereft of a special blessing.
Consider Abrahamís long wait for Isaacís conception. (Hebrews 11:11-12) The passing of each barren year made it increasingly obvious that the birth would be an act of God. Abraham might have been ready years before, but the delay turned the common event of fathering a child into an inspiring story that has retained its power for thousands of years. His example lifts the faith of Christians, even in our sophisticated era. The delay was perhaps more because of our need for a stimulus to faith than because of any need in Abraham.
You, too, can inspire others. So donít be surprised if, like Abraham, the passage of time seems to be making ministry increasingly unlikely. You are a child of Abraham. (Romans 4:16-17; 9:8; Galatians 3:7,14) Like father, like son.
God is moving, not just in our lives, but in every part of an exquisitely intricate mosaic. When all is complete, his artistry will be revealed.
For centuries, Israelís appropriation of the promised land was blocked. It was beyond their control: they had to wait until Ďthe iniquity of the Amorites was fullí. (Genesis 15:13,16)
That time finally arrived and Joshua was ready. But forty years limped by before he could begin Canaanís conquest. His mission was mothballed because of the sins of his people. (Numbers 14)
And while he was waiting, he couldnít even begin his vocation as leader of Israel. This, too, was outside his control. Moses was still alive and Israel needed only one leader. (Joshua 1:1-2)
So what was he doing during this time? Elisha, centuries later, was known as the man who poured water on Elijahís hands. (2 Kings 3:11; 1 Kings 19:21b) Joshua, too, might have been little more than servant to the man of God. (Numbers 11:28a; Joshua 1:1) No matter how valuable and potentially satisfying this service was, I suspect he sensed a niggling emptiness about it. He was marked for other things. But the time would come when all the pieces were divinely fitted. He could then triumphantly assume the role he was born for.
Like Joshua, we can be ready, yet have to wait for others. Like Job, we can be mature, dedicated Christians and yet be buffeted by undeserved adversity.
Satanic opposition hampered Danielís ministry. He had sought a revelation. Heaven was silent. Though uncertain about what was happening, Daniel fought on in prayer and fasting, day after day. Heavenís reply had been dispatched on angelís wings, but evil powers blockaded it. When the celestial courier finally arrived, he revealed he had been engaged in heavenís answer to Star Wars. (Daniel 10:12-13) Spiritual powers had been locked in supernatural combat. For twenty-one earth-days the battle raged. Perhaps the weapons used defy our comprehension, but I believe a deciding factor was something we know a little about Ė the impassioned prayers of a man who longed to serve God. With the resolve of a marathon winner, Daniel prayed on and on and on. Had he accepted the hold-up as heavenís final answer, the enemy might have successfully intercepted the prophetic message.
With Satan lusting after our ministries like a crazed beast, we either pray or are preyed upon.
The presence of obvious physical reasons for our problems does not reduce the likelihood that they are shots fired from the spirit world. Paul faced enough natural dangers to seize anyoneís attention Ė wild seas, infected wounds, bandits Ė yet he focused on spiritual battle.
Humanists imagine they have suddenly become incredibly smart, being able to discern physical and psychological reasons for phenomena. They have actually become incredibly thick, being able to see nothing but the blatantly obvious. Paulís words stick with appalling accuracy: ĎProfessing to be wise, they became fools.í (Romans 1:22) Donít catch their blindness.
Though Paul regularly bled at the hands of human opponents, he insisted that our fight is not with people but with spiritual powers. (Ephesians 6:12) His gospel threatened the livelihood, pride and traditions of thousands. Wherever he looked, human reasons for his struggle glared at him. Yet he saw the human component of his conflict as inconsequential. Either Paul was a fruitloop or we clash with the non-physical realm more than most of us suppose.
Foot-sloggers are no match for the prince of the power of the air. If we neglect prayer, dark forces will forever sabotage our labors; our attempts to attack their kingdom will never get off the ground. Join the prayer force. A defiant fist amuses Satan. An uplifted hand terrifies him. Prayer will shoot him down.
Prayer is fearsome ammunition. Without a canon, however, even the deadliest ammunition cannot pound the enemy. For faith-packed prayer to reach its full ferocity it must be used in conjunction with two other aspects of spiritual warfare. One aspect Ė legality Ė is automatic for the born again warrior. It is the other Ė authoritative aggression Ė where many of us falter. Add this to prayer and you have an arsenal against which the combined forces of hell are reduced to a cringing rabble of terrified wimps.
If undesirables have moved into our house, it is insufficient to establish that their action is unlawful. Nor is it enough to complete an assertiveness training course. Confirming our legal standing and strengthening our resolve to enforce our rights are both vital steps, but it is futile to stop here. We must actually evict the squatters.
Our spiritual union establishes the illegality of Satanís move against us. Without this, as the sons of Sceva discovered, good intentions and pious or aggressive ranting achieves nothing. (Acts 19:13-17)
In addition, we need prayer to build us up, empowering us for spiritual confrontation. We often so focus on Paulís itemization of the armor in his classic on spiritual combat that we forget it culminates in Ďpraying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirití. (Ephesians 6:18) The disciples, bewildered by their inability to expel a demon, needed Jesusí revelation that there is no alternative to prayer. (Mark 9:17-18,28-29) No matter how intimately they knew Jesus, prayerlessness still meant powerlessness.
Yet with our union with Christ resolving the legal issue and prayer girding us with divine strength, insidious trespassers will continue until we enforce our blood-bought rights. Jesus, Ďwho went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil,í (Acts 10:38) not only spent entire nights in prayer, he authoritatively confronted anti-God forces. Time and again he rebuked opponents to Godís will, be they fevers, storms, demons or whatever. We must follow his lead.
The Bible opens by affirming that God created humanity to rule. From the onset, the Lord of hosts delegated authority to man and woman. (Genesis 1:26-28) Humanity lost much when it lost its innocence, but with the breaking of sinís curse by the shed blood of the innocent Son of God, we are again expected to rule, acting like Jesus in ousting evil hordes.
If you were granted police powers, would you tolerate a law breaker vandalizing a sacred place, or assaulting someone, or molesting a child? Well arenít you the Spiritís holy sanctuary, part of Christís body and Godís own child? Is it proper for you to passively endure an evil assault upon your person? Shouldnít you be incensed that defeated low-life, whose surrender cost the very life of the Son of God, would have the audacity to trespass onto Godís turf, insult a work of God and violate a part of Christís very body? When opposed by vile spirits, rise with indignation and enforce your Christ-won authority by ousting those frauds.
When buffeted by malicious powers we are likely to feel as green and as limp as wilted spinach. We must understand that authority has nothing to do with how vibrant we feel. A police officer has as much authority when he is tired as when he is fresh. A bed-ridden king has more authority than a nobleman in the prime of manhood. The issue is not how strong we feel, but whether we are bound to the One granted all authority in heaven and earth.
It was a duel between spiritual super-powers: the false gods of Egypt versus the one true God. Aaron throws down a rod. The stick becomes a writhing snake. What a victory Ė the raw power of God spectacularly displayed in the very court of Pharaoh. Face it, Pharaoh, youíve backed a loser! Heathen sorcerers step forward. They drop their rods and each squirms to life. Before Pharaohís eyes is Mosesí solitary snake, hopelessly outnumbered by the magiciansí slithering brood. (Exodus 7:9-12)
A homeward-bound Levite needed to lodge for the night. Though a pagan place was more convenient, he chose the security of an Israelite town. Here heíd sleep peacefully, surrounded by Godís people. But to his horror, he discovered these people, despite having known Godís blessing and his laws, were more depraved than the heathen. Given half a chance, they would have raped him. They abused his concubine all night. She was dead by morning. An Israelite town had slumped to the putrid decadence of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Outraged, the Levite summoned the whole of Israel. Godís law was explicit: those murderous perverts must die. But their tribe refused to hand them over. The entire tribe was so committed to wickedness that the Benjamites resolved to fight, if necessary to death, against the united armies of the whole nation, rather than allow the execution of Godís law.
Greatly disturbed, the faithful sought God. It would have been tempting to by-pass this step. They were obviously in the right and the odds were heavily in their favor. Though the Benjamites had a few skilled fighters, they were their brethren, not some super-race, and Israel outnumbered them, 400,000 to less than 27,000. But they did the right thing. They consulted God, and he so approved that he gave them his strategy. On their side was natural superiority, righteousness, divine approval, and the wisdom and infinite might of the Lord of hosts. In obedience to their Lord, they marshaled their forces, high in faith and in the power of God.
And they were slaughtered. In one day 22,000 of them were slain.
They wept. They prayed. They sought the Lord again. Empowered by a fresh word from God, they mobilized for the second day. And 18,000 more of them were massacred. (Judges chapters 19-20)
The mighty Son of God came to earth. This was the climax of a divine plan conceived before the earth was formed, and for millennia intricately woven into the fabric of human history. It was the showdown: creature versus Creator, dust versus divinity, filth versus purity, mortality versus immortality.
And Jesus died.
In Pharaohís court, occult powers miraculously produce many times more vipers than God. In the time of the judges, Godís forces are routed by an army of inferior strength. At Calvary, Godís Son is dead.
How I thank God for the Bible! Few other Christian books tell it as it really is: you can be flowing in the power of God, following his instructions to the letter in absolute purity and be routed by Satanís puny forces.
But only for a season.
Three times Paulís missionary aspirations were blocked. The inspired account attributes two of the blockages to the Spirit (Acts 16:6-7) and one to Satan. (Satanís win was minor Ė Timothy broke through and Paul ministered by a letter that eventually touched millions of lives Ė but nevertheless the devil caused a delay.) (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:17-18)
That seems to sum up the possibilities. Ultimately, a bottle-neck is from God, for our final good, or itís from the Evil One. Either way, prayer, not tantrums, is the appropriate response. Donít get mad at the music director, the pastor, or anyone with toenails. If they have skin, they are not your enemy. (Ephesians 6:12)
Resentment is a deadly heart disease, whether the object of our ill-feeling is God, the agents he has presently allowed to curb our ministry, or those who get all the Ďluckyí breaks. Harboring wrong attitudes undermines Godís plans to bless us. And the healing referred to earlier in the book will continue to elude us.
People engrossed in the joy of Christian service seldom have time for nitpicking. The ravages of ministry restrictions, however, cruelly needle us to vent our frustration by criticizing other ministries. Though our accusations will seem justified, they are probably more an eruption of our own inner turmoil than we realize. As we writhe in personal torment we could easily squash a work of God in someone elseís life. Be careful. Any fool can crush a flower, but who can uncrush one?
Criticism is spitting into the wind. ĎGive and it shall be given unto you,í is as fundamental as the law of gravity and it applies to every area of life. Kindness is a homing pigeon. Anonymous gifts bear a return address. So will you give Ė and afterwards receive Ė condemnation or encouragement; assistance or hindrance?
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