This week's "thought" comes to you from a devotional named, "Springs in the Valley," by L. B. Cowman (also the author of "Streams in the Desert" from which I quoted not long ago).
I chose to share this particular selection because it displays such a profound understanding of God's personal intervention in our lives. In the age we live in, which loves formulas, and thinks we can duplicate the results of others simply by duplicating their methods, God often has a surprise for us. For as many who have tried will testify, we can duplicate everything others do and still not get the same results. Why? Because a sovereign God reigns over the universe who moves uniquely in each person, place, and situation -- a God who is intensely personal and isn't into cloning or copycat ministries. In fact, the desire to duplicate the life and experience of others not only takes God's unique plan for each of us far too lightly, it also disavows the working of grace, and the richness of diversity within the Church -- the unique path to maturity that God has ordained for each individual believer.
That's why I so enjoyed this entry. It displays a profound understanding of God's unique care and work in the life of each believer. If you have sought to do ministry at all, you have surely thought, or wrestled internally, with some of the things he speaks of here. I know I have.
The only thing I might have changed would be the verse she uses for this entry. She used Philippians 3:7, I would have used Matthew 20:1-16. Enjoy.
"If God has called you to be really like Christ, He may draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility and put on you such demands of obedience that He will not allow you to follow other Christians, and in many ways will let other good people do things which He will not let you do.
Other Christians, who seem very religious and useful, may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it. And if you attempt it you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.
Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their success, of their writing, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. And if you begin to, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
Others will be allowed to succeed in making money... but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, and that is a helpless dependence on Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.
The Lord will let others be honored and put forward, but keep you hidden away in obscurity because He wants to produce in you some choice fragrant fruit for His coming glory. He will let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it, but you He will make to work and toil without knowing how much fruit your efforts are bearing. The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you... rebuking you for little words and feelings or for wasting time.
God is an Infinite Sovereign! He has the right to do as He pleases with His own. Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Lord Jesus -- that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, chaining your hand, or closing your eyes in ways that He does not deal with others. Then you will have found the vestibule of heaven. Others may, you cannot."
In the parable of the kingdom in Matthew 20 Jesus speaks of hiring workers to tend His field for a denarius a day (the typical work day being 12 and not 8 hours)! Yet as the story goes on, we see one worker works 12 hours, one works 9 hours, one works 6 hours, one works 3 hours, and one works only 1 hour -- but they all get the same pay! And when they complain about the "unfairness" of this policy, Jesus (speaking as the landowner) responds, "Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I'm generous."
The "pay" is obviously salvation, and its the same for those who follow Christ all their lives as it is for the person who comes to Christ in the last hour, on their deathbed. It's something Jesus sees as displaying God's uncanny generosity, though some see it as God being "unfair."
Yet the same phrase the landowner uses to refer to money could also refer to the way God moves through all the varied details of our individual lives: "Doesn't He have the right to do what He wants with my own..." Doesn't God have the right to deal with each of His grace-chosen children as He chooses? And when He does, should we complain that we are not being treated as "fairly" as others (whose lives we envy)? Should we not rejoice that the path He leads us on is one He designed specifically for us, in light of our unique makeup and personality, and the special work He desires us to carry out for His glory?
You see, it is true -- God is an Infinite Sovereign! And because He is, and deals with each of us uniquely, it can be said: Other may do what He will not permit us to do. He may even call us to do some difficult thing that others are not called to do. He has the right to do as He pleases with His own. No clones or formulas, just a sovereign God who as the divine Potter does what He desires with each unique and individual lump of clay.
In the Name of Him who is in Control, Pastor Jeff