I really feel the biggest enemy of those who are successful is personal pride, in not always giving God the rightful glory. It is also likely that the biggest enemy of those who are suffering is self pity, as they struggle to not be angry at God. In my own life, the latter has been an on again off again battle as the challenges that the Lord has called me to face have often involved a lot of pain. I’m not going to create a list for you, but hopefully many will relate to what I know the Holy Spirit has taught me about the things He sometimes allows in our life with the sole purpose of bringing us closer and causing us to be more dependent on Him.
This truth was brought home to me once when I was ministering in a church for a week of services in Pennsylvania near Scranton. Right from the first service God began to do incredible things. Often as a revivalist the message the Lord is giving you for the congregation is a message that speaks back into your own life. If they truly seek God for their message material, any minister of the gospel can attest to the same thing.
It just so happened that the old church probably built in the early part of the last century, had a small apartment in the rear. Known as “The Prophets Chamber,” during that time period it was common practice to include them in the construction plans for traveling ministers or a possible living space for an assistant pastor. The unique thing about this church was that “The Prophet’s Chamber was literally right behind the front stage platform and actually right behind the big illuminated cross that hung on the back wall. I was staying in that little apartment that week.
One night as the service closed and the last person left the building, I began to walk toward the cross and the hidden door behind the curtain, but as I did so, I felt something in my spirit just wasn’t right. I went into the apartment, loosened my tie, threw my jacket on the bed and laid my Bible down on the nightstand, all the while thanking the Lord for His presence there and the things that He had just done in our service. Just then I felt a gentle tug to go back out to the altar and pray….
Psalm 149:6 (KJV) says: Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand. The Lord has blessed me as I have meditated on this verse and what it may mean when we refer to the “high praises” of God. Most of us love worship and although I love the teaching and preaching of God’s Word I always look forward to the worship part of every church service. Not much is taught today about the different levels of God’s presence. The hyper-grace movement has thrown grace around so much it has successfully put everything on the same level in people’s thinking. I also believe that there are different levels of things like the anointing of God, the presence of God, the correction of God and so on.
That night when Jesus called me to come out of my small church apartment and pray it changed my life forever. I grabbed my Bible, and sprawled myself out on my face before God and began to pray in the Holy Spirit as God led. I usually start out with thanksgiving, thanking Him for everything I can think of that He has done for me recently and then move into praise. Somewhere that night, in the middle of my introduction, I heard His still small voice say to me “Nolan, I would like to ask you to forgive me.” It was so clear it was virtually audible. I quickly responded, “Lord forgive you? You never need forgiveness because you are perfect and never make a mistake. The Lord then responded to my heart, “But Nolan, you think that I have made one!” As always He was so right. If I ever choose to write about a particular cross which I was called to bear for over 25 years, most people would be shocked and not able to believe it. In order to protect the privacy of others I really can never tell the story publically, but it rocked my world.
The Lord went on to ask, “Nolan, who is worthy of receiving such a gift of suffering and pain?” I said “Only you are Jesus!” My mind seemed to flash back quickly over several things that had happened to me in my life that caused great heartache and many tears. I said, “Lord Jesus I want to be free of all these feelings of hurt, anger and resentment. How do I get rid of them?” He said, “I want you to imagine each one of these hard things in your life as stones and I want you to build an altar with them one by one, and give them to me and worship me at that altar!”
I began to do this, in my spirit seeing myself build this altar using the stones of my hurt one by one. As I obeyed the Lord’s loving instructions, tears streamed down my face and washed the bitterness from my heart. You see, I believe on that day I offered our Lord the “high praises of God.” I have spent the rest of my life believing that when you and I are in our place of the greatest hardship or suffering, if we will just praise Him, His beautiful peace will flood us like a river. We may also sense a wonderful smile coming down from His countenance as we praise Him then, not with perfect pitch, rhythm, or flawless harmony, but in absolute proof of what really loving Him is all about! That’s what I think is His highest praise!