Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Death of a Vision

This is a sequel to the last posting.

Scripture teaches us, over and over, that:

a. God has a unique Calling for each of us, which is irrevocable

b. Once he manifests that Calling (which makes it a Vision), it must go through a death. Any ideas we might have about how we will make it happen are going to die during this stage. This death may take days, years, or even decades. (Part of this may depend on how long we take to relinquish control of the Vision!)

c. Finally, when all human hope and self-dependency is exhausted, the vision is reborn. Now it is free to be God's work in, and through, us. Now it can achieve what He intended.

Examples...

- Abraham was promised great offspring, and a great land for them to possess. He wandered about in tents, and produced the wrong offspring. The true offspring (Isaac) finally had to go through "death" at Abraham's hand, before rebirth could be achieved, and the Vision sealed for fulfillment.

- Jacob was promised that he would have God's favor and fulfill the calling of Abraham. He had to live in exile for years, and learn hard lessons, before returning home as a humble leader under the new name Israel.

- Joseph saw in a dream that he was to be a great leader, but he had to endure the dungeon first. In the end, he was the gentle ruler over his family that God had intended him to be.

- Moses was raised in the palace, groomed not only as a great leader, but also well enough versed in Egyptian culture and protocol to be able to confront Pharaoh himself. He was The Man to pull off the Exodus. However, he also had his own ideas about how he would fulfill God's purposes. These ideas died a miserable death during 40 years that Moses had to take care of dumb sheep in the desert, while he learned to be the meek, gentle, godly leader of the other flock of dumb sheep--the Israelites.

- David was anointed king, but this was not fulfilled until he had first spent years running for his life from Saul. He started out as a great giant-killer (which was not so bad), but emerged as the most humble king, one who trusted 100% in God to ultimately rescue him before his enemies, as we see in the business of Absalom.

- Peter was a friend of Jesus, part of His inner circle, and a great future leader, but he had to walk through the "death" of actually denying that he knew Jesus, before finally letting go of his self-reliance.

- Paul's calling and destiny were incredible, but he had to spend 14 years in his own "wilderness" before he could be a leader so pure, so devoid of himself, that he could actually invite the Church to imitate him, as representing Christ.

This is getting too long. In conclusion, the previous posting about Job goes hand in hand with this one about--if you will--"the Paths of the Dead" that we must each pass through as God refines us to be vessels of silver and gold for His table. Let's NEVER skirt the furnace of refinement, unless we are content to be rusty old buckets, fit only to transport fertilizer in God's garden!!

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OK, back to Job... (My problem is not doing something until I can do it just right. God is working on me about that, because sometimes it means nothing gets done!)

My thoughts returned to the Job devotional I meant to post in April. Sometimes we are disappointed because of not being recognized for all the "wonderful things" we do. We get "weary in well doing" because there seems to be endless planting and weeding, but no harvest! This scripture jumped out at me, from 2 Chronicles 15--a moving chapter about a king (Asa) who took the time to put God first. God sent him a prophet to encourage him when he needed it most, with these words:

"But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." 2 Chronicles 15:7

We are all called to do some kind of work, even if it's sweeping floors. We should do that work with skill, character, and a servant's heart. There will be jealous people who brush us off because we show up their mediocrity. There will be subordinates who quietly rebel because they do not share our vision. However, the toughest form of rejection can be when our superiors do not even seem to care that we are doing a good job. All sowing, no reaping.

If we take a break from the pity party, we can hear God's voice gently reminding us, as He did Asa, that He is the One we are really working for, that He is keeping the books, and that He will ultimately reward us if we don't give up.

The "catch" is that things are happening in the spiritual dimension that we cannot see. Sometimes these things are really exciting. Sometimes God is "cheering us on", so to speak, through a really rough time, and we cannot even comprehend that we are so, so close to a big reward--a reward that will be forfeited if we give up before reaching the finish line of the current trial!

So what about Job? Here is where he comes in...

The whole book of Job seems, at face value, like it's all about Job and his friends. Trouble is, Job felt the same way: "It's all about me!" Unfortunately, Job's misguided friends also felt: "It's all about me!", i.e., about each of them serving up the choicest bits of wisdom. But, read it again! The entire book of Job is about God! He gives us a unique seat at the 50-yard line, and shares with us His entire plan for Job, and His purpose for walking him through this awful trial. When we read Job's pitiful complaints, we feel like saying, "Just hang on a while longer, be strong, don't give up, there's a reward coming if you hang in there!" Fortunately Job hung in there and did not sin or curse God in his heart, even though he totally misunderstood and believed that God was simply playing games with him for sport.

But, how often do we give up during a long, dry spell? Maybe we don't sin by commission--by blaming God directly, but we VERY often sin by omission. We desert our assigned post, abdicate our position of leadership (with the world watching us), and go off to do something more comfortable for ourselves. The result is that we fail the test. The result of failing the test is that we'll see the same test again in a different form. And again. And again. And again, until we get it right. Once we emerge from the causality loop in triumph, still clinging to the promise, still focused on the will of God even when we do not understand it--then, and ONLY THEN do we receive our reward. And, what a reward!--a God-size reward!!

When Job passed the test, God's heart was bursting with pride. He held Job up as a trophy before all the powers of darkness who accuse mankind. Here was one who fulfilled the ultimate purpose of man--to voluntarily choose faithfulness to God above all else. Job's wealth, happiness, and renown were double, in the end, what he had already enjoyed at God's hand in the beginning.

Job is an example for all the ages. The book of Job is God's secret revealed. It is what He sees as we plod through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Let's not give up--lie down and die--when the reward is just around the bend!