Friday, December 14, 2012

Take a Break and Let the Spirit Get Back in Front.

“He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me,
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand, He leadeth me.”[1]

I am sure you have heard this old story.  There is a small group of hikers eating their lunch beside a mountain trail.  Soon a man comes huffing and puffing up the trail and they invite him to stop for a rest.  He says he can’t and asks if they saw a group of Boy Scouts go up the mountain awhile ago.  “I have to catch up with them,” he explains, “I am their leader.”

The story is often used to introduce a discussion of the nature of leadership, but I think it illustrates our relationship with the Spirit as well.  Like the energetic young scouts, we want to run out in front.  We don’t need a leader – until we get into trouble that is.

The Spirit leads us quietly
We do so want to direct our own steps, to plan our own course, to map our own way.  It is the American way.  It is the American story.  We start with the cards we are dealt and we play our way to the top.  And we get to define the top: the top of our profession, the manager`s job at work, the nicest house or car or boat in the neighborhood,  the biggest TV among our friends. 

But God says it is not in us.[2]  That is not a put down.  He is not saying we are not capable of developing a business plan and carrying it out.  He is just saying that our vision is too limited to direct our spiritual lives.  We cannot see what he can see.

On to peace
But his spirit will lead us to peace if we get out of the way.  Peace is one of his promised fruits.[3]  We need to quit being concerned about who and what people think we are.  Isn’t that a major part of what concerns us?  What will my coworkers and friends think of me?

Who are we really?
We need to figure out first of all who we really are.  Some of us don’t really know.  We are so concerned with our image, so focused on what others think of us that we have not spent any time figuring out who we really are.  We need to do that.  We should be able to put it in a few words and know that it makes sense.  And we need to put it in the context of what role God is calling us to play in his kingdom.  What does he want us to accomplish for his work in our workplace, in our family, in our neighborhood, in our church and civic club, among our golf or fishing partners?  Once we have defined those roles, we have figured out who we really are – and who we are not.

That may be the hardest and most important part – figuring out who we are not.  We are not defined by the roles we have been assigned at work or in the family, church or neighborhood.  We are not the manager of so-and-so or the deacon of whatever.  We are not the “head of the house” or the secretary of the board of such-and-such.  We are instead ambassadors of God,[4] each of us with a separate set of good deeds programmed for us from the beginning of our time here on earth.[5]

“Be still and know”
How do we do that?  How can we know what role God wants for us?  Remember the story of Elijah?  God wanted to speak to him.  But God was not in the strong wind that passed by.  Then an earthquake came, but God was not in the earthquake either.  Then there was a fire, but God was not there either.  As Elijah waited for God he was able to find him only in a still small voice.[6]

You see that is what we must do to find what God wants us to do.  We must be still and listen.[7]  We will have to know the scriptures because if we conclude that something is God’s will for us but it is contrary to the written word of God, we can know that it is a thought that was planted by Satan. [8]

This will likely be some agonizing work and might take quite some time.  Be patient.  One of the fruits of the Spirit is patience.[9]

And pray.  These are answers you cannot work out on your own.  God’s spirit has to show you the way.  And work really hard at getting yourself out of the way.   This is not about you.  It is about your neighbors in the broadest, Biblical sense of that term.[10]

Resign from the cast of the play
Once we have figured out who God wants us to be, and we have it firmly in our mind, and we are diligently working toward really being who we want to be and should be, we need to admit it to ourselves and others.  Quit trying to appear to be who you are not.  That will be a hard thing for some of us.  We have worked so hard, so long on our image that it has become a part of who we are.  Breaking the habits connected with being someone else may be as hard as breaking a smoking or drinking habit.  But with God’s help, we can do it.

I need to pause here to ask you to think about your church family as well as your personal family, co-workers, neighbors, and friends.  What is the image you have been trying to convey to your church?  Who is it that you have wanted them to think you are?  That may be an even harder role to break out of than the image you have been trying to convey at work.

We are all just people, but God loves us anyway.  We all slip up.  None of us has a right to claim salvation by our own doing.  We are no better than those we seek to teach about the good news.  Once we can own that fact, God can put us to work, and not until then.

Move your feet
But at that point, we need to be ready to move our feet.  God can’t use us very effectively if we are just sitting in a pew or if we are sitting on our couch at home with the doors locked.  We need to plan how we are going to meet people in our neighborhoods and at our workplace.  Someone has suggested that we should be doing things like being a repeat customer at the same establishments so we can get to know the clerks, joining a civic group or a hobby club, taking a class.  That is, we need to be strategic about how we get to know people and about how best to represent God’s love to those around us.  Our prayer each morning should include something about how God will use us that day to show his love to others and to help someone who needs help.

[1][1] J. H. Gilmore, 1862
[2] Jeremiah 10:23
[3] Galatians 5: 22-23
[4] 2 Corinthians 5:19-20
[5] Ephesians 2:19
[6] 1 Kings 19:11-13
[7] Psalms 46:10
[8] 1 John 4:1-3
[9] Galatians 5:22-23
[10] Luke 10:25-37

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Brother. I still remember the lesson you gave at Call St. about letting God lead us in the great adventure he has planned for us and your admonition to carry each others' burdens. Please continue to pray that God's plan for Bruce includes remunerative employment in which he can use his gift of teaching.