I know that the preacher meant well, but I wish he had been a little more cautious with his attempt to encourage and embolden his audience. He spoke unilaterally of our greatness in Jesus…but I left there wondering if people were going to remember the “in Jesus” part of the equation. Honestly, it felt more like a Christian pep-rally than it did a call to press into the glorious Son of God. My guess is that he was really trying his best to help us walk in confidence. The audience certainly loved what He had to say. But I found myself hearing the whisper of the Holy Spirit teaching me, “Jeff, there are very fine lines between encouragement, flattery and heresy. Walk wisely.”
The more precise and peculiar work by God is not to make a saint great but to make him dependent.
Several years ago I spent some time at a conference in Florida for pastors. One sermon preached to us was crafted by a 53 year old pastor who stood between the young and the old in that space of middle-aged ministry. He shared passionately about the dangers of young pastors and the failures of older pastors. He exposed our follies, and lovingly warned us not to remain ignorant concerning the varied weaknesses which accompany different seasons of life. Most of his finer points were not what I took away in my heart because, beyond his own voice, I heard the divine voice of Wisdom calling me to tender my own heart, humble myself and await what would be spoken at a later time. More waiting was being required of me…waiting…waiting… my least favorite thing. We usually think of endurance as a trait of the strong and mighty. Perhaps in actuality, endurance is the characteristic of the tender, submissive and dependent. You and I who live to experience the greatness of Christ have known the ups and downs of being both strong and tender. I remain committed in my belief that, if I seek to become strong, I will likely never experience the results of tenderness; yet, while endeavoring to become tender, the process will inevitably produce strength in me. When we do not pursue spiritual smallness and tenderness as something we personally and consistently value, God will graciously ordain the means by which He will affect that result in our lives on His own. Here’s a couple of verses rolling around in my heart today. Let them flavor your soul. Let them blend in with your will. Ask God to put their scent in your spirit. Get low this Christmas season. Stay low as you move into the New Year. God will exalt you when the right moment arrives.
James 4:10 – “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”
1 Peter 5:6 – “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”
Proverbs 29:23 – “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.”
Luke 14:11 – “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”