When we don’t know about God’s purposes for weakness and failure in our lives, we can become very depressed, confused, and downright angry when these things do make an appearance in our walk with God. Please do not misunderstand – I do believe in God’s riches being ours in Christ. I do believe God answers prayer. I do believe God wants to bless and strengthen us. And as long as we understand that it is spiritual blessings rather than just material wealth – I can even agree that God desires for us to prosper. I diverge with many though, when it comes to how God brings us into the actual possession of these riches. When it comes to the way that God brings true spiritual prosperity to us – I believe that we have to know His purpose behind failure, frustration, defeat, and desperation.
Too many in our day just want to be able to name a promise, claim it, and then have it show up in our lives. We prefer a McDonald’s drive-thru type of spiritual experience to the kind of long-term, pain and frustration ridden path that was walked by the majority of those in Scripture. Too often people preach based on the end of the story – without addressing the whole story in the process. A basic perusal of the majority of Bible stories will help acquaint us with some of the less popular tools in God’s spiritual tool box. Allow me to mention a few of these tools.
Abraham and Sarah had a miracle baby in their 90’s – but it was only after years of disappointment and painful discouragement. It was only after seeing the folly of taking matters into their own hands (Hagar and Ishmael). It was only after reaching the point of having little hope – and yet believing God’s promise. All too often we bypass the years 25-90 in their lives. We miss that they were thoroughly convinced of their own inability – and had to hold fast to the Lord in weakness and need. More is accomplished in those days of dryness, darkness, and sorrow than we can imagine. Things happen in the wake of religious fervor becoming religious failure that cannot happen anywhere else.
We don’t usually talk about such things. We don’t invite people who are in the midst of their dark and dry times to address conferences and big meetings. Yet it would be wonderful if someone would help us walk through them. The average new believer comes to Christ in the midst of thrill and joy. They can walk with God out of sheer exhilaration for 12-18 months (by the way some don’t make it this long). The problem comes when God begins to address the issue of living out of ourselves as a source. Difficulties arise as we face the cross – the self-life – the descent into the problem of indwelling sin – and the depth of our need and inability to live for God without resurrection power.
God’s school of true spirituality involves breaking our love affair with ourselves and our own relative comfort. It involves turning us from our own wisdom and thoughts to a life reliant on God’s wisdom – and an ability to think the thoughts of God day and night. It is a school where the fundamentals of denying ourselves and taking up our cross are reviewed again and again in real life situations. We will find that our Father is astoundingly patient and longsuffering in His quest for us to truly grasp the cross-centered life. That life – and the full experience of His life involves taking the Romans 7 highway – the death to self turnpike – and the “I am crucified with Christ” freeway.
It is on these well travelled roads that we will learn the “secret” to the Christian life is only secret because we wrongly despise need, weakness, and the way to brokenness. Rather than be discouraged by these things – we should be filled with joy when God engineers them in our lives. It is my hope before this series of articles are over to help you see why Paul said that he would gladly boast in his weaknesses. It is my hope that rather than send you constantly in a tailspin of depression and sadness – times of recognizing weakness will become a reason for gladness and joy. Whether we see it yet or not – these momentary difficulties (when viewed in light of eternity) are truly working for us a “weight of glory” as we learn to approach God fully aware of our great weakness and need.