Tag: God is great

The Peril of Trusting Ourselves – W.E. Smith

Thus says the LORD,
Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD.
6“For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.
7Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
And whose trust is the LORD.
8“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8, emphasis ours)

Brethren, why do we persist in trusting in ourselves when the long, sordid history of our lives plainly reveals that our ways do not lead to the blessings of God, nor to His eternal purposes being fulfilled?

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. 2 Cor 1:8-9

It is His way to bring us to the end of ourselves as in the passage above; to bring us to the very brink of despair so that we might see no way out but to trust in Him wholly and without flinching. You see, the testimony of Christ in His chosen ones does not hinge on human strength or wisdom at all but on His provision and power alone. If our hope is not in Christ but in ourselves or any other created thing, then how can we be sure we are abiding in His will? Is His care not sufficient? Do we foolishly think we need something more?

This is why the Scriptures are literally packed with examples of human beings and angels joseph-ruler-of-egyptbeing confounded with almost unthinkable patterns of deliverance. The utter outlandishness of these stories are often what lead so many to refute the veracity of the Bible itself – Noah’s boat, Isaac’s altar, Jacob’s long painful pilgrimage to the end of himself, Joseph’s unlikely path to savior of his people, Moses’ mysterious road to becoming intercessor, the parting of the Red Sea, Jericho’s falling walls, Jonah’s gargantuan fish, Job’s loss and restoration, David’s bizarre and winding path to the throne, Esther’s night with the king leading to the deliverance of all Israel; God’s Son coming into the world by way of a virgin birth; and of course, His reconciliation of that very same world by way of a bloody cross. Yet is it not the case that such unthinkable events actually reveal to us that God is behind them; that His ways are beyond searching; that if we are to be saved or blessed by Him, then He will do it in a manner that refutes all other sources, possibilities or explanations?

I have been spending a lot of time in the Old Testament lately, and one theme seems to be rooting itself deeper and deeper into my spirit; and it is this – That the God of the Bible; He who has proven Himself over and over to be faithful to His chosen people; does not think or act or proceed as a man in any way, shape or form. There is a mystery surrounding how He does things that is irreconcilable to our experiences and expectations. He seemingly takes delight in confounding us; in turning our reality on its head. Typically, His deliverance or victory comes in a manner that is inconceivable to our puny little reality trapped as it is in time and space. Often we really don’t have a clue what He is going to do or even what He is doing at the time He is doing it – it is often only after He has accomplished His purposes that we finally and ultimately see the wonder of His ways; and afford Him the praise and glory that is exclusively His to claim.

So often it seems, we not only want God to help us or show forth His grace on us, but we want Him to do it in our way, and according to our logic and schedule. We want to be healed perhaps, or delivered from some circumstance that is discomforting; even painful. And we have it all mapped out how we think He should proceed to help us. Or maybe we have a ministry – and we vainly feel that the Eternal God who sits high above the circle of the earth has an obligation to advance it in some manner. Oh we sowed all these seeds, and have the entire marketing plan all carefully construed according to the ways of men and the world – and yet we somehow think He will automatically bless it and give life to it. Oh what fools we are dear brethren! Have we not learned what is written in the Scriptures, that His ways are not our ways –

Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

“For {as} the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding {in the matter} for which I sent it. (Isa 55:8 -)

And that “No flesh should glory in His presence“; which is what the unwashed human heart really wants isn’t it? Be honest now. It is positively unthinkable that others would look at us as small or foolish, weak or base; an absolute nothing in this world. Do we not, on the contrary, attempt to project what we are out into the world; to appear larger than our true condition?

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” (1 Cor 1:26-31)

Does not this confound everything the world teaches about how to get ahead in life; how teams, for example, set about to win at whatever sport they are engaged in; how business goes about competing in the marketplace? Clearly it does, because down here it is all about this or that man seeking glory for himself, and praise from everyone else. Look at me – he cries in the street! Look at what I can do! His boast is not in the Lord, and neither can be his trust.

The whole divinely twisted concept of a suffering servant, of losing one’s life to win it; of the weak becoming strong in the strength of another; of pouring out your own life so that others might live – it almost hurts our brains trying to see the logic of it all doesn’t it? And it opposes everything we have been taught from the moment we stuck our crooked little heads into the light. And this modern generation, with all of its emphasis on working and doing and over-achieving, and man’s seemingly limitless capacity to solve his problems and to advance himself with human initiative and ingenuity – the power of the human will; the boundary-shattering potential of technology and science at both the micro and the macro level – Oh my brethren we are so desperately and grievously wicked aren’t we? Oh how fallen and polluted in our hearts we have become. Lord help us! Lord have mercy, mercy!

I dare say that I more than any am most guilty of this. I wish I could deny my own condition, but how can I when it is what I know so intimately; and have known all my vain, foolish life.

Oh Gracious and Glorious Father of Life – forgive us for we have all sinned and fallen short of Your holy purpose. Oh Lord, why will we not forsake our ways? Why do we cling so stubbornly to only that which our minds can comprehend or our hands can accomplish? Why will we not hope in Christ, when He is more than willing and able to save and sanctify us to the uttermost?

All throughout his ministry to the Gentiles, the Apostle Paul struggled trying to get them not to be ashamed or repulsed on account of his weakness in presenting the gospel to them. In fact, it seems that he was always at any point at the brink of death as he poured himself out for the gospel of Christ.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden {wisdom} which God predestined before the ages to our glory; {the wisdom} which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND {which} HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.”

For to us God revealed {them} through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the {thoughts} of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the {thoughts} of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual {thoughts} with spiritual {words.} But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:1-16)

Interesting that we have a generation of Christians that, by all evidence, seems hell-bent on eradicating all weakness and ill health, poverty and discomfort in the lives of the saints, when this appears to be precisely our Lord’s pattern of ministry. So ready are we to exchange our sackcloth for silk, and our weakness for the humanist ideal of the shiny, all-together man, that the vast majority of Christian service and witness has become little more than emptiness and futility. If there is one thing new Christians must learn from the first day, it is that life can only spring forth out of death. Oh Lord, help us.

Dear friends; beloved saints of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am not here to condemn anyone, for then I could only begin and end with myself, and who among us could stand? Yet the Lord has impressed upon my heart the utter need for us in this age and generation to be in a posture of readiness and waiting upon Him alone. There is so much mixture and corruption in our midst and this cannot stand. For too long we have been directing our ways rather than letting the Lord direct us in His ways. It matters not what we can do, or would do, or might do given the resources – it matters only what He can do, and what He is doing. And don’t pretend to think that you know His ways, for they more often than not turn all of our designs and plans upside down. He must know that we will wait for Him, trust in Him, and hope in Him, and follow Him down that path (the path of the cross) that seemingly makes no sense; that makes us squirm, that compels us to wait until the very last moment until He prevails over the plans of men and the devil. Only then does the Glory rise up to where it belongs; only then my friends – don’t be fooled.

This is so ever important, for what is coming is a time of revealing, of stripping away. All will be made known in the time of shaking that is coming upon this earth. And when His little ones stand up adorned in sackcloth, and presenting only the pure and simple testimony of the Lamb, their every step will be determined and directed by the Lord. They will not so much as sit down or stand up unless His Word directs and equips them. They will appear wretched and failed as humanity beholds them; yet they will command the very might and power of the Creator as they witness for Him against the darkness all around. Like the Son of Man 2,000 years ago, there will be no beauty in them as the world deems beauty, and their words and testimony will make the many want only to kill and destroy them.

Are we ready my brethren? Have we forsaken all of our thoughts and ways for His? What are our expectations regarding the end of this age anyway? I am sad to say that most of what the church is teaching today is doing little to prepare His Beloved for what will be. In point of fact, by the Spirit of Truth that abides within me, most of the flock is being set up to be deceived by events that will transpire prior to our Lord’s return. I pray you (and I no doubt) will not be one of them.

Yet we must take to heart that the ways and methods of men will not fulfill the purpose of God, nor result to His Praise and Glory. I too must come to terms with what I think about weakness and distress and despair, and my almost inborn need to eradicate it at all cost. Yes we are to be strong, but not in our own strength. Yes we are to do great things by our Lord, but He alone is the author and finisher of our faith and works. The very reality of small and pitiful little human beings doing extraordinary things beyond their ability or scope can only lead the world to consider who they are dealing with; who in fact stands before them. Herein lies the divine judgment of those final days soon upon us, dear brethren. This will not be a time for taking up swords to protect our Lord, or to rely on human reason or instinct or emotion or logic or education or any other known or created thing!

As always and forever, His Grace is sufficient for us. Now this in no way means we will understand in advance what He is doing and why He is doing it. Not so dear saints, for this is the path of child-like faith and trust. When He comes to us and asks us to do something that at once seems bizarre or incomprehensible, that our minds can’t in any way rationalize, here is where we must follow him in perfect and trusting obedience. And if someone comes into your life or crosses your path; someone lowly and unimpressive to your eyes and human predilection; and yet they come with the very words and spirit of the Lord – do not despise them, but rather give praise and glory to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; who causes even the blind to see and the lame to stand and walk. And if perchance the Lord asks you to exchange your comfortable but empty little life for sackcloth and ash; for mourning and witness to the dread of this world and the foul sin in the heart of man – then my brother, don’t look back, go forward in His grace and power alone; and be all that He would be in you, and say all that He might say through you; and suffer all that He might permit you to suffer and lose for His sake in this cursed world.

Dear saints of the Most High – no longer must it be that fleshly wisdom defines us and determines our conduct and testimony in this world. This is nothing to be proud of, as attested to by Paul to the Corinthians –

For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you. (2 Cor 1:12)

Rather, we must appropriate all that the Lord provides us through his expansive and ever-flowing grace. Just as our Savior and Shepherd lived breath-upon-breath and moment-to-moment by His Father’s care and provision, so must we live in Him, for His gracious provision is more than sufficient for both life and godliness in this crooked generation. We must cease trusting in ourselves, in our quaint little religious urges, our vaunted opinions and positions pertaining to the Christian walk, our empty “the ends justify the means” results-oriented thinking. Both the way and the results belong to the Lord, as does all the Glory! All Praise and Glory is His and must flow from the lives of His children as they forsake their ways for His.

Dear saints, I will leave you with a fascinating and mysterious passage in Ephesians that has always intrigued me personally –

To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly {places.} {This was} in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Eph 3:8-12

Something ageless and mysterious; something demonstrating the manifold wisdom of God; something involving God’s eternal purposes for the church is being played out on this earth and even the angels are watching intently. We must keep this in mind and take it to heart as we look out at the current and seemingly hopeless situation – where the church at large has forsaken her sanctuary and Lord and has become powerless and worldly; and where Israel is in her land but is darkness to the gentiles and not God’s intended light. He will prevail my brethren, for His ways cannot fail, and His words cannot come back to Him empty and void. So let us trust Him and go to Him now if need be, and receive forgiveness and cleansing of our pride and self-trust. And each day let us be careful in the Spirit, that we don’t fall for the temptation to start taking things upon ourselves as if this was our work and our kingdom.

Oh Heavenly and Eternal Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ at Your side – Keep us from the vanity of our own thoughts, and the emptiness and delusion of our own capacity. Purge us dear Father of all secret sin; and the deep brooding lust of glory that is in all of us. Make us ready O Father, that we might stand in that appointed day; that indeed He might stand and show forth Your righteousness and truth in this unholy world. Let all things be done for Your glory O Lord, by Your wisdom and way. Let it be Your strength and might alone that operates in the lives and testimony of Your little ones. Keep us from all delusion and deception and distraction that prevent Your purposes from being realized in our lives. And please come Lord Jesus. Please come soon to claim us and to raise us up where You are for ever and ever. Amen.

Please pray for us here at Livingwalk, that we would watch and see the Master at work, and understand what He would have us be and do.

Your friend and servant in Christ Jesus,