One of my favorite authors is A.W. Tozer. One day on his way home from his job at a tire factory the young teenager heard a street preacher speaking and he said, "If you don't know how to be saved, just call on God." That young man didn't stop and ask a million questions, he didn't go through four steps to salvation, he didn't hope the preacher would pull him from the crowd and loudly pray over him. He went home, climbed the stairs to his attic and talked to God.
A.W. Tozer went on to have an incredible ministry teaching the deeper things of the Christian life. Even all those years ago he preached that the church was becoming 'worldly' and was in danger of spiritual compromise. He became a prolific writer and his devotionals are still read to this day. He has a way of making you truly look at yourself in the mirror of Christ's character and not just feel left lacking but truly desiring to become more like Christ.
The thing is, so many in the church today fall into that trap that he so warned us against. That trap of becoming too worldly. So many churches weave a tale about Christianity that is woven only in threads with bright exciting colors. Blessing and healing, provision and increase, joy and contentment. Yes, all those things are part of our life has followers of Christ. But there are darker threads woven into a tapestry that bring life to the scene, shadows that play off the light to bring a depth and profoundness that mere brightness cannot bring. It is both the light and the shadow, both the joy and the pain that bring us into true fellowship with Jesus.
Tozer wrote this, "Living a full and overflowing life does not rest in bodily health, in circumstances, nor even in seeing God’s work succeed, but in the perfect understanding of God, and in the same fellowship and oneness with Him that Jesus Himself enjoyed." We have been wrongly taught that fellowship with God involves only the good things. The peace, the joy, the hope. But if we truly desire fellowship it involves pain and grief and heartache also. Even in Jesus' day the disciples didn't understand what they were signing up for. Mark 10:38, "But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" Jesus was giving them a clue as to what road they would have to travel if they chose to follow Him. Paul knew what he was in for. He had suffered immensely to become like His Saviour and he never regretted it. In Phillipians 3:10 he wrote, "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings" He knew that growth came not only out in the streets and homes speaking to others of Jesus, but it came in the dark and dank prison, it came in the exile on an island, it came in the beatings he received. It came in knowing that he had committed his life to the One who committed His life for him. It came in knowing that any suffering that he felt had also been felt by his Master. It came in knowing that nothing he suffered on this earth would compare to the glory that he would see on the other side of this life.
We have bought into the lie that this life of ours should be soft and comfortable. It should be 1000 count sheets and a life of ease. We've taken the bait of the enemy and believed that it is our right to have what we want when we want it. Look back at Paul again. It says in 2 Corintians that he prayed regarding a thorn in his flesh. We do not know for sure what this was, but we know that it was something that greatly bothered Paul. "Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave." He prayed diligently. He prayed with faith. He trusted His Lord. Then read what it says next, "But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.…" He truly entered into fellowship with Christ.
We pray once and get discouraged if the answer is not instantaneous. We go to church and someone doesn't say hello and we get offended. We enter the sanctuary to sit in 'our' seat and find it occupied and get agitated. We sit through worship and don't like the song choice and get bent out of shape. Is it us or is it Him. Is it our comfort or is it His glory. It is our need for an answer or His desire to see us enter into His will. Is it for our gratification or it is an opportunity for us to mature. It is His way or ours. His will or ours. His face we want to see in the mirror or ours.
The sentence in Tozer's quote above that strikes me is the one that says, 'nor even in seeing God's work succeed...' We feel as if we have to know the outcome of every situation as it comes. Not true. We just need to know Who is in control of that situation, of every situation and trust His goodness and love for us will get us through. To be as Job and say even though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. And I will trust that every experience that I let Him guide me through will cause me to look more like Him.
When I was a child if you had asked me who I wanted to be like I would have said I wanted to be strong and brave like my dad, because he was a police detective and that I wanted to be beautiful like my mother. "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." (1 Cor. 13:11-12) Now,as I have matured the one I want to be like is my heavenly Father. The face I want to see in the mirror is His. Joy or suffering, hope or grief, contentment and heartbreak, through it all...His face.
All scripture is New American Standard Version
Information about A.W. Tozer came from The Alliance at www.cmalliance.org