Today is the 22nd anniversary of an encounter I had with God on Thursday, Dec. 28, 1989 – at approximately 2pm. On that day I had an “upper room” experience that not only saved my ministry from an early burnout, but has continued to direct my approach to ministry for more than 20 years!
This is what happened. I was alone in the upstairs of my parents’ home. I was in the middle of my first pastoral assignment (which was a bivocational setting). I was extremely tired and spiritually dry. I had no idea how much I had been relying upon my own strength, personality and intellect. When Moses had his encounter at the burning bush he was amazed because the bush did not burn up. The flame was coming from supernatural sources and NOT the limited resources of the bush! This was not what I was currently experiencing during my ministry at Pine Prairie Freewill Baptist Church. A week before the event I’m describing I had made a declaration to the Lord, “God, unless You do something to help me, something to change me, I’m going to quit the ministry. I’d rather play golf on Sundays than experience more of the pain and frustration I’ve been having.”
This was not a threat. This was a cry of desperation. Deep in my heart I knew I was called to serve the Lord. But I also knew that the trajectory I was on was NOT good. I knew I needed to seriously change my approach to ministry. But I had no clue about what to do. This is where The Normal Christian Life, the Christian classic by Watchman Nee, saved my life and ministry! It was Nee’s chapter on The Value and Meaning of Romans Seven that impacted me.
On that afternoon exactly 22 years ago I had a “Copernican” sort of revelation. God showed me the secret of living in His strength and not my own. He actually told me that I could quit the ministry. In no uncertain terms: “You can quit now.” This was not what I expected! Then the Lord continued, “If you ever accomplish the dreams you feel I’ve given you for life and ministry, it will be My doing and not your own. Just walk with Me today and let Me take care of your ministry.” Something in me suddenly yielded to God in that moment. I quit, on the spot.
And what happened in the next moment was nothing short of my own Day of Pentecost. Such a mighty infilling of God’s Spirit filled that room and house and my own soul. I wept for joy. Then I laughed hilariously. And I laughed and cried for several hours that day. What a mercy it was that God revealed to me the secret of living in His power that day.
I love to remember that experience each year at this time. It helps me to approach the New Year in the proper frame of mind. Yes we should dream and plan and hope for great things in the coming year. But we must remember that we must abide in Him and allow Him to live and work through us. We simply do not have what it takes without Him!
May 2012 be a year of exchanging our strength for His! A year of looking to His righteousness and not our own. A year of moving in the power of His Spirit and not the energy of the flesh! A year of seeing God do what only God can do!