Following God's lead is always good but never safe. When you commit yourself to do whatever God tells you to do and to go wherever God tells you to go, you inevitably experience ups and downs; highs and lows.
As many of you know, this past year was the hardest year my family and I ever experienced. It was filled with excitement and fear; misunderstanding and frustration; laughter and tears. I experienced moments of great desperation and great deliverance; grief and glory. God's Spirit and God's truth afflicted me in my comfort and comforted me in my affliction. As a result of this hard year, however, God and his gospel became more real and relevant to me than ever before. I've never felt so dependant on him. He's never been so big; I've never been so small. The idea that Jesus plus nothing equals everything ceased being simply a cognitive truth for me–it became my functional lifeline.
Interestingly, the world would have us to believe that the bigger we get and the better we feel about ourselves, the freer we become. This is why so many worship services have been reduced to nothing more than motivational, self-help seminars filled with "you can do it" songs and sermons. But what we find in the gospel is just the opposite. The gospel is good news for losers, not winners. It's for those who long to be freed from the slavery of believing that all of their significance, meaning, purpose, and security depend on their ability to "become a better you." The gospel tells us that weakness precedes usefulness-that, in fact, the smaller you get, the freer you will be. As I pointed out in a post last week, G.K. Chesterton wrote, "How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it." Nothing makes you more aware of your smallness than pain and hardship. The trials and tribulations of 2009 helped me to recover a glorious sense of God's size!
As has often been the case in my Christian life, God has used the preaching of the late Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to bring great perspective and reorientation to my troubled soul. His sermons on revival preached in 1959 are, by far, the best series of sermons on revival I've ever heard. At various times this past year I've gone back to those sermons desperately needing God to liberate me from the slavish pressure to perform by reminding me of my smallness and his bigness. This morning I woke up and once again needed to be comforted by the fact that God is always wide awake and working all things out for our good and his glory. So I re-read a small portion of one of those revival sermons. With great unction, Lloyd-Jones said:
Our supreme need, our only need, is to know God, the living God, and the power of his might. We need nothing else. It is just that, the power of the living God, to know that the living God is among us and that nothing else matters…I say, forget everything else. Forget everything else. We need to realize the presence of the living God amongst us. Let everything else be silent. This is no time for minor differences. We all need to know the touch of the power of the living God.
Upon reading (re-reading) those words, my troubled heart was put to rest. I thank God for Dr. Lloyd-Jones. But I thank God even more for the blessed freedom the gospel brings–good news which reminds me everyday that God is God and I am not; that in the person of Jesus Christ, God has already secured for me what I could never secure for myself.