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Spiritual Struggles in Ministering

Greetings All, 

     This week's 'thoughts' come to you from David Wilkerson, author of the well-known book, "The Cross and the Switchblade," which chronicled his work with street gangs in New York City and the conversion of Nicky Cruz -- a work he began in 1958.
     This much lesser known book, "I'm Not Mad At God," is a set of devotional writings speaking of some of the things he learned through his spiritual struggles in ministering in some very adverse conditions and situations. Since he passed away in 2011 (at the age of 79) and I have always found his writings (and sermons) a blessing, I offer these in honor of his life. Enjoy.

"As an eagle stirs her nest..." (Deut. 32:11)
"The man God uses is often a restless man. He cannot be satisfied with the status quo. His nest is always being stirred. Just when he settles down to rest for a few months of enjoyable ministry, he loses heart or becomes strangely restless. He cannot tell you why. He may know the great joy of the Lord, but at the same time be absolutely disgusted with his present situation. Watch out -- God is ready to break up the nest! 
You will soon be flung out into the space of faith and trust, ready to do God's bidding. All new ministries He has thrust me into have come immediately after a 'nest stirring.' Restlessness and discontent are the motivational forces that drive all men of God to great heights of service."
Proving A Man (Testing the Quality of a Man's Heart)
"God left him to test him and to know all that was in his heart." ( II Chron. 32:31)

     "We have become so preoccupied in proving God that we have not prepared our hearts for the great tests of life whereby God proves us. Could it be that the great trial you are now facing, the burden you now carry, is actually God at work proving you? 'God did prove Abraham... Take your son, your only son, whom you love... and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering (Gen. 1:1-2). 
     God proved an entire nation to find out what was really in its heart. 'Your God led you there forty years in the wilderness to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not' (Duet. 8:2).
     An amazing verse is II Chronicles 32:31, telling how God left a great king (Hezekiah) for a season to prove him. 'God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart." 
     Often, while in the righteous pursuit of God's work, the steward of the Lord finds himself apparently forsaken -- tried to the limits of endurance and left all alone to battle the forces of hell. Every man God has ever blessed has been proved in the same manner.
     Do you find yourself in strange circumstances? Do you feel forsaken and alone? Do you fight a losing battle with an unpredictable enemy? These are signs pointing to the proving process. Victory is always desired, but should you fail, remember: it is what you have left in your heart that God is interested in, your attitude after you have won or lost the lonely battle. Your devotion to Him in spite of failure is His desire.
     Jesus promised never to leave us nor forsake us. But the record of Scripture reveals there are seasons when the Father withdraws His presence to prove us. Even Christ experienced that lonely moment on the cross. It is then our blessed Savior is most touched by the feeling of this infirmity -- and He whispers, '"I will pray for you, that your faith may not fail.'" 

     Anyone who has engaged in ministry knows what he's speaking about. Times of restlessness. Times of loneliness (even when we are surrounded by people)! Times when God has withdrawn the sense of His presence and we feel completely forsaken (while engaged wholeheartedly in His service). And often we ask, "Why?"
     Yet Wilkerson here offers a frequently overlooked answer to that question -- God may be doing it to prove you. In fact, He may be doing it to prove to you what is really in your heart, that is, as opposed to what you thought was in your heart. This has often been the case with me. And it's been humbling to discover dwelling in my soul things I never thought could be found there. Things I thought I had rooted out of my soul.
     In this sense, trials and the absence of God's presence act like a stick in a pool of crystal clear water that we come across when we stroll through the woods. The water is clean and still and crystal clear -- until you take the stick and stir the waters. Then all the muck and decaying leaves and dead bugs that were resting motionless on the bottom are all of a sudden stirred up, and you realize that that clean pool wasn't as clean as it looked at first glance.
     The same is true of our souls. Self-deception is so easy to fall into. That is, until God (out of love) takes the stick of trials and the unsettling sense that His presence has been withdrawn, and uses it to stir the waters we thought were so clean. Then we come face to face with the fact that much of the muck we thought was gone had really done nothing but settle there, hidden because of the relative peacefulness of our life-circumstances.
     Yet the revelation that its still there humbles us, and deals another blow to our pride, and dislodges us from our complacency and makes us more thankful than ever that salvation is by grace. And isn't that the place we always needed to be anyway?
In the Bonds of Christian Service, Pastor Jeff