Tuesday, August 6, 2013

From weakness to weapon

If there's one thing that I've learned about God in my 12 years of being a Christian, it's that He wants his people to be complete and whole. Complete wholeness is only ever able to come into our lives when the painful, hurting areas in our hearts are exposed and fully cleansed so that they can heal properly. This process is deeply uncomfortable and sometimes outright terrifying, but it's necessary if we want to move into the fullness of who God has called us to be.

One of the strongest biblical examples of this process happening is the prophet Jeremiah. He's rightly labelled  as a hero of the faith and has been a strong inspiration for me. When the call of God first came to him, telling him that he had been appointed as a "prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5) he immediately responded by saying "I do not know how to speak, I am too young." (Jeremiah 1:6). Immediately we see a fear and an insecurity on the part of Jeremiah. Despite the clear instruction of the Word of God, he still hesitated due to his apparent lack of belief in himself and his own speaking ability. I know that in my life, when I was younger, I struggled a lot with speaking up about things that I needed to and a lot of that was due to a lack of self belief and a fear that my words would upset people. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Jeremiah was feeling the same thing. Therefore, his greatest insecurities have been called out into the open by God through this instruction. However, God isn't calling him to hide from them and work around them - but to boldly step into them.

If we continue to follow the story of Jeremiah, we see what was happening in the nation of Israel at the time. The people were living in deliberate, willful sin, yet the so called "prophets" were prophesying peace and blessing over Israel. God called Jeremiah to speak the real Word of God to the people and tell them that death and destruction was heading their way unless they listened to God and changed their ways. Nobody listened to him because they simply didn't have to. They laughed at him and mocked him, even went so far as to call him a traitor to his own nation. It got to the point where Jeremiah was so desperate for people to listen to him that he took to walking the streets with a yoke upon his shoulders. His own people became so angered with him that he was eventually thrown into a well to rot and die. Though he was eventually rescued, he was then imprisoned by his own people. Despite everything that happened to him, he refused to repent of the word he was given to preach and therefore remained in prison until everything he prophesied came to pass. Ironically, the Babylonians who overthrew Israel and thus fulfilled Jeremiah's prophesies, were the ones who showed him great kindness and allowed him to live anywhere he wanted.

I see an amazing story here. It begins with a young man, too frightened to go out of his comfort zone and speak, insecure about himself and his age. It ends with him facing every single fear in his heart and boldly proclaiming what God told him to say despite everything that was thrown against him. Nothing could stop him and he remained in jail, imprisoned by the unrighteous until his prophesies were fulfilled. His God-given role was very hard and cost him an enormous amount, yet he held firmly to the word of God and was eventually released by the very people he warned his own people against. The shy young man of old was long gone, replaced by a man as bold as a lion and with a faith worthy of mentioning in the Scriptures.

My greatest fears were along similar lines to his - standing up to people and saying things that might cause them to get upset with me or turn against me. Going through burnout in Taupo and facing the outright betrayal of two people I considered friends at the time was an absolutely cataclysmic event in my life. However, the next part of this was even harder as God actually called me to stand against these two people and tell both of them that the relationship that they were entering into was not God's plan for their lives, and that they'd be in serious trouble if they took it through to completion by getting married. I didn't make this decision to stand against them lightly. God spoke very clearly and said "I haven't blessed them, they've blessed themselves" and told me to stand up to them and warn them not to take things any further by using three simple words - "get over yourself!" I was being challenged - the same way that Jeremiah was being challenged - to face my greatest fears and obey the word of God regardless of what it cost me.

It was terrifying to begin with as I had no idea how people were going to respond but I knew that the Word of God had been spoken and that I was in serious trouble if I dared to disobey it, so I did as I was told. The same sort of thing happened in the sense that nobody listened to me and I lost a lot of friends out of it. People told me not to say anything to them, and after I had said my piece to them, some even went so far as to say to me that what I had said to them was "wrong" and "weird", yet I stuck to my guns and held fast to the stance I knew God had called me to take. It was painful and I lost a lot as a result for doing what I knew in my heart and spirit was the right thing to do. But at the same time, it began to develop a sense of confidence and self belief that I could stand against something and take the hits that went with it - yet I would still survive the outcome. I began to see friends dropping out of my life like flies - often because they didn't agree with the stance I had taken. This used to be the most terrifying thing I could imagine - losing friends because of something I'd done. Not now. My belief in the Word of God was stronger than anything and I was developing a boldness like I'd never had before which was prepared to make sacrifices for the sake of God's truth. People continued to ignore me, and the two people eventually got married. However, I still to this day, stand firm in the belief that I did as I was called to do and that deliberate disobedience to the warning that I was called to give them, will one day come back to haunt them.

The hardest part of all of this was that walking in obedience to God in this issue caused me to have to begin walking right through the most painful areas of my own heart. This was my greatest weakness by quite a long way - therefore God looked upon it as an opportunity to turn it into not only a very solid strength but an amazing story of overcoming and defeating fear. God wanted to take my weakness and turn it into a weapon for His Kingdom. Some days I was literally left shaking because the fear was just so overwhelming. But I knew that in this place of walking through my worst fears I was actually facing them - and therefore overcoming them. The worst thing God could have done with me, was to leave them all hidden in a compartment of darkness in my heart and not allow them to be prodded. This might seem like the safer option, but I would have been living with the continual weight of unresolved fear in my life and would have severely limited my functionality in the Kingdom of God - not to mention my ability to enjoy daily life.

This whole issue taught me that our journey with God to wholeness and full effectiveness for His Kingdom almost always results in us being forced to walk down a path where we are forced to face our greatest fears - not to torment us but because without doing this, we'll never become the people God wants us to be. Another example of this in my life comes from when I was several years younger and obsessed with distractions in order to keep my mind occupied so I wouldn't have to face what was really going on inside my own head. To force this mode of operating to change, I ended up being placed in situations where I not only didn't have a job, but was unable to get one. So I had no choice but to learn to look within myself and find the answers. The period of joblessness remained in place until I had faced what I needed to face about myself and learned what I needed to learn. Only then did God allow me to move forwards.

So today, if you're struggling with the word of God that's been spoken to you because you know you're going to face your greatest fears if you obey it, trust God that He knows what He's doing and that He's called you to do this because He wants to shine a light on the darkened, painful areas in your heart so that you can overcome them and move forwards. He's doing it because He loves you and wants the best for you - and also because He trusts you enough to want to use you for his purposes.

Take care.

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