What God gave to me in the late 1990s, and into the early years of this present century, was a settled assurance that he would go with me into a desert. There I would feel abandoned at times but he would always be with me. In the desert he would provide for me, heal me, teach me and prepare me for a very different future. Though I did not know what that future would look like precisely what was revealed to me was that when he placed me in my new role I would have power and true freedom to exalt him openly. I had no idea what this meant in my wildest dreams. I did know, beyond any doubt in my soul, that this new mission was “from the Lord” and that every blessing would be his alone. One year I preached twice all year, at least in Sunday services. When my wife asked me this question, about how many times I had preached in a certain year, I was stunned to answer her since I had not thought about it often. From some very large mega-churches to no preaching at all was a long way down. Yet it seemed as nothing. It was, truthfully, the best thing that ever happened to me. I can now say that I’d rather have him in the desert than thousands of people hearing me preach. I once wondered how I would respond when I could no longer preach. Now I know. This would happened before my sixtieth birthday. And it was a good place to be even though I still love to preach.
It was during this twelve years that I privately began to rethink my willingness to truly listen to God. I realized that I wanted to receive whatever he wanted to say to me through whatever means he chose to employ. I am not irrational nor willing to believe every spirit. I am not an emotional train wreck either, at least so far as my friends know. Actually, I remain a serious thinker and a wide, voracious reader. But I needed to learn how to test all human words by God’s Word. Prior to this time I rejected all words as bare impressions in the brain unless I saw them in print! I now listen, as never before, to hear the Spirit speak. I desire, more than anything else, that he empowers me and leads me into the depths of his love. I cry out, “Fill me with your Spirit Lord.” The single most important text in all the Bible (to me personally), besides John 17:21 my personal charism text, is Luke 11:9-12:
And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened. “Which father among you would give a snake to your child if the child asked for a fish? If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Again and again I have pointed out to thousands of Christians around the world, through sermons and private counsel, that verse 12 clearly says that the gift the Father gives to those who keep on asking, seeking and knocking is “the Holy Spirit.”
Simple question: Do you ask God for the Holy Spirit or do you simply assume that you have everything that you need already. Do you cultivate an earnest and prayerful heart for God’s greatest gift?
It is said that C. H. Spurgeon never entered the pulpit without praying with each single step that he took, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” I now understand why. Without the Spirit I can do nothing of real consequence. You can know that in your mind but this is not the same as knowing it in your soul and thus deeply desiring this fullness with all your being. He is so glorious. Why do we not desire him above all? Could there be anything more obvious than this when you observe how most Christians go about the duties of their religion day-to-day? We do not hunger and thirst for God. We settle for religion and texts. We study and attend meetings. But we know so very little of his presence. Ask, seek and knock. Never give up!
Would you resolve to “know the Lord” in 2015? Would you also go to the desert he leads you into, if necessary, in order to truly meet him in your life? As the old hymn that I sang as a child says, “Wherever he leads I’ll go. I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, wherever he leads I’ll go.” I want to follow him, wherever he leads.