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“One of these days some simple soul will pick up the Book of God, read it and believe it.”
– Leonard Ravenhill
Several years ago I read the autobiography of Hudson Taylor, the heroic missionary to China whom our son is named after. At the age of 17, Hudson was living a mediocre Christian life and continually being pulled toward sin. He could feel the call of God upon his soul, but he seemed unable to respond the way he desired to. Many nights were spent in despair, wondering if he would ever find real victory. Finally, he decided to pray. He went into his room, locked his door, fell upon his knees, and cried out to God from the depths of his being.
And the King of the universe heard him. He answered in a more powerful way than Hudson could ever have imagined. A few days later he wrote these words to his sister:
Bless the Lord, O my soul! And all that is within me shout His praise! Glory to God, my dear Amelia. Christ has said, ‘seek and ye shall find,’ and praise His name, He has revealed Himself to me in an overflowing manner. He has cleansed me from all sin, from all my idols. He has given me a new heart. Glory, glory, glory to His ever blessed Name! I cannot write for joy.
The freedom and triumph that God gave Hudson Taylor was not just a fleeting “mountaintop experience.” Rather, he was completely and radically set free – never to look back. The rest of Hudson’s life was a glorious display of a supernaturally enabled existence. He sailed to a godless, hostile land, led countless thousands into the kingdom of God, and became the sole inspiration for an entire generation of Christians to “go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.” Though he lived 200 years ago, his legacy is still cherished and his example still followed by millions.
Stories like Hudson’s are extremely unusual in today’s world. Most modern Christians I have talked to have the opposite experience when it comes to seeking God. Instead of radically answered prayer, they get only silence from heaven. Instead of victory and triumph in their daily life, they get only defeat and discouragement. And instead of a supernaturally enabled life that inspires millions, they struggle to even inspire their own friends and family members. I’ve even heard Christians say that men like Hudson Taylor only come along once or twice in every generation – and that the rest of us shouldn’t expect anything so grand or glorious in our walk with God.
But once upon a time, the Christian life meant something different than a blasé daily struggle. In the “olden days,” stories like Hudson Taylor’s weren’t quite so rare. Following Christ actually meant exceeding joy, peace that passes all understanding, and power to trounce upon our enemies.
Just look at the lyrics of some of the old hymns:
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth – Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide…strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine with ten thousand beside. Great is Thy Faithfulness Lord unto me!
Jesus is my portion; my constant Friend is He; His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me...Let not your heart be troubled, His tender words I hear, and resting on His goodness, I lose my doubt and fear – I draw Him closer to me, from care He sets me free; His eyes is on the sparrow and I know He watches me – I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free…
He speaks and the sound of His voice is so sweet that the birds hush their singing, and the melody that He gave to me, within my heart is ringing – and He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.
Blessed assurance – Jesus is mine, O what a foretaste of glory divine; heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. Perfect submission all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blessed; watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love – this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.
A mighty fortress is our God; a bulwark never failing – our helper He amid the flood, of mortal ills prevailing…And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us – we will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us…
Rejoice, rejoice O Christian; lift up your voice and sing, eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King! The Hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find, none other is so loving, so good and kind…
But we don’t often sing songs like these anymore, because their messages just don’t ring true in our lives. Most of us would feel like hypocrites (or idiots) if we actually stood up in church with a huge smile on our face and proclaimed, “I sing because I’m happy! I sing because I’m free! His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me!”
A church in our local area is fond of using songs by Creed and U2 in their worship service because their people “can relate so much better to the lyrics.” One of their favorites is the U2 hit I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Those words seem to sum up what nearly every modern Christian feels in regard to their walk with God. It’s no wonder that that particular church is one of the largest in the state.
A long-time missionary recently told me, “We sell people a bill of goods when we tell them that Jesus is the answer to all their problems. The reality is that they are still going to have lots of struggles, even after they come to Christ, so we shouldn’t paint Christianity up to be some amazing experience.”
Today’s Christian bookstores are loaded with books such as Disappointment with God, When God Doesn’t Make Sense, and Deserted by God?. Modern Christian leaders spend an inordinate amount of time trying to help us “cope” with the disappointment, disillusionment, and depression that seem to go hand in glove with following Christ these days.
Why would we even want to follow Christ if that dismal picture is what we have to look forward to? For that matter, why would we even get out of bed in the morning?
As young women, do we need a dose of “realistic” hope for the days ahead, as so many modern voices prescribe? Or do we need to understand the spectacular, extraordinary, mind-boggling hope that Christ brings?
Jesus said, “...I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Abundantly means “beyond measure, over and above all that we could ask or think.” Not day to day surviving, but day to day thriving. Paul reminds us, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).
So why are our expectations of Him so dismally low? Why does the God of the Bible not seem to be the same as the God of our own experience?
There are a slew of popular Christian books and messages that have recently emerged onto the scene with the intent of shedding light upon that very question. Some say it is because we have over-stretched the promises of the Bible and expected too much of God. Others say we have leaned too heavily upon the Bible as the absolute, literal Truth, and that Scripture is merely a collection of human-concocted stories that should be loosely interpreted through the lens of our changing culture.
But I would like to offer a different answer to the question that burns upon our generation’s disillusioned heart. I believe with every ounce of conviction I possess that the Bible means exactly what it says, and that we cannot even comprehend how enormous our God, is or how much He desires to do in and through our lives. As it says in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “...Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Our problem is not that we expect too much of God, but that we expect far too little of Him. Just look at this brief sampling of the many great and precious promises of our Lord:
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone (Psalm 91:5-12).
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's (Psalm 103:1-5).
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You! (Psalm 84:11-12).
He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Is. 40:29-31).
You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You (Is. 26:3).
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Eph. 3:20-21).
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace(Rom. 8:2-6).
...Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their righteousness is from Me,” says the LORD (Is. 54:17).
There are only two ways to respond to God’s extreme and abundant promises. We can explain them away, as many theologians and modern writers have done, and live as if they do not apply to our daily, moment-by-moment life. Or, we can actually believe them and build our life around them.
Leonard Ravenhill said: “We have adopted the convenient theory that the Bible is a Book to be explained, whereas first and foremost it is a Book to be believed (and after that to be obeyed.)”
In our book, When God Writes Your Life Story, Eric writes about endless frontier of God’s kingdom. Instead of taking one or two steps forward with Christ and then stopping and pitching our tent, we are called to be spiritual pioneers, continually exploring the fathomless depths of the fullness of Christ. No matter what we know about Jesus now, there is always more to be discovered and experienced. In fact, even eternity won’t be long enough to fully grasp His insurmountable glory and brilliance. T. Austin Sparks said it well:
The mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit is that such a life is continually and ever more and more occupied with Christ, that Christ is becoming greater and greater as time goes on. Oh the depths, the fullness of Christ! If we live as long as ever man lived, we shall still be only on the fringe of this vast fullness that Christ is.
If you are feeling defeated in any area of your life, I exhort you to press deeper into Jesus than ever before. He is waiting to offer you victory, triumph, and glorious freedom from all sin, self-pity, defeat, fear, and doubt. Don’t just read the Word of God; really immerse yourself in its Truth, and take every word for what it is – unchanging, unwavering, eternal FACT. Meditate upon the promises of God. Ask Him for the grace to take them as your own. Allow Him to give you a clear vision of the joy-filled, triumphant life He has called you to. This doesn’t mean that our lives will be easy. In fact, God says that those who desire to be godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (see 2 Tim. 3:12). But whether we are in a prison cell or on a mountaintop, we can experience peace that passes understanding, the fullness of joy, and a life unhampered by sin and defeat. With God, ALL things are possible*
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