Monday, August 27, 2007

I will tell you a mystery!

Another wonderful quote, courtesy of Vicki K Black at Speaking to the Soul:

The growth of the spiritual kingdom, as a divinely appointed organization, is a mystery; and the growth of spiritual life in the hearts of each individual member of the spiritual kingdom is a mystery. We behold indications, from time to time, marking the gradual progress of these two kinds of growth; we believe in them, as realities coming to pass, in consequence of Christ’s redemption, and yet we know not how. "The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).

Oh! let those to whom the gospel announcements have come, be not faithless, but believing. Beholding the wonderful work which God, through Christ, has wrought for mankind by the mysterious instrumentalities of his infinitely wise appointment, let all become genuine, devout communicants of the organization which has existed, though they know not how, for upward of eighteen hundred years, as the grand regeneration of the human race; and in due time, they shall be the possessors of the peace of God, which passing understanding, is the earnest of the good things to come in the future life, of which it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive. Oh! let us have entire faith in the Divine arrangements for the growth of spiritual life, although they are to us, in our present condition, unfathomable mysteries.

From the sermon preached at the first service held at St. Ann’s Church for Deaf-Mutes by Thomas Gallaudet, quoted in A Year With American Saints by G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber. Copyright © 2006. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.

So often we become obsessed with what might be called the achievements of the church: church growth, discipleship, even spiritual formation. We come to think of them as heavy burdens we carry, responsibilities we must discharge. We look at our attendance figures, and ask ourselves, (or are asked by our overseers,) "Is the church growing as expected?" We look at the people in our church, and we ask ourselves, (or are asked by our overseers,) "Are lives being changed?" And if not, why not?

And yet our Saviour said, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11.28-30)

We need to understand that we are called to pray, and to preach, and to do whatever works our hand finds to do, with all our might. The results are not up to us: they are God's concern, and they are for him to bring about. How, and when, and to what degree, are mysteries hidden with Christ in God. If we take on ourselves responsibilities that are properly God's, not only will we stumble under the weight, but we will hurt those for whose growth we hold ourselves responsible, by trying to force them to comply with our "vision."

In Romans 8.26-27, Paul says, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

We might extend that, by adding "work" to "pray." And we might find rest from our anxiety, our stress, and our manipulations. And we might set Christ free in our lives, free to do signs and wonders among the church.

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