How easy it can be to miss something right in front of us. Have you experienced that moment of searching and searching for an item, only for it turn up right dab-smack in front of your nose, yet all the while you completely missed it-looking everywhere else except for the place you never thought to look? I can remember one time specifically, driving my car somewhere and franticly looking for my sunglasses. I had looked everywhere: the glasses holder above, in the console, in the glove compartment, behind the seats, everywhere. I relegated myself to accept that I had simply lost the glasses and would have to replace them. Then a strange thing happened: Just a few miles driving down the road I suddenly realized where I had left my sunglasses. I had left them on my face-I was ALREADY WEARING THEM! Now as much as I hate to admit this little story, I know many can relate to such experiences (unfortunately they seem to increase in frequency as we all get older).
I use this little illustration to speak briefly on something of similarity which occurred recently in my own life. It was not however involving a pair of sunglasses but rather, my own faith in Christ. Now I hadn’t lost my faith (before some begin jumping to erroneous conclusions a tad too early). What I had misplaced however, was some fundamental core values underlying my faith, causing the foundation to be just a bit shaky and yet, all the while, never realizing it.
We must be careful never to despise small beginnings. I had a brother in Christ remind me of this sentiment recently. We must also be careful never to despise encouragement and/or instruction from new believes (for those of us who have walked in the faith for some time now). I can remember back some 20+ years ago, after I first accepted Christ as Lord of my life. Everything was brand new spiritually for me. I was now a ‘born-again’ believer and I saw the world very differently from the previous 20 years. The church I was attended was rather large-a mega church by most standards-and there were a great many ‘seasoned’ believers who attended and who were involved in ministry. I remember listening to some of them, simply astounded by their spiritual knowledge and wisdom. I myself, having just recently surrendered my life to Christ, was in awe of their passion for Christ. I also encountered something else. I encountered those who had walked with Christ for many years but were what I would call ‘dull’ in some aspects. Some of them had lost their zeal for the Lord or maybe their passion to evangelize the lost. Some had grown bitter towards spiritual things and almost seemed to just be ‘going through the motions’ as believers. I didn’t quite understand their position. As one just freshly saved, I couldn’t relate. I was passionate for Christ. I was zealous to win people to the Lord. I couldn’t wait every day to get home and read the Bible. The position of those who seemed ‘dull’ was foreign to me.
Fast forward some twenty plus years in my life to where I am today. I have an enormously greater understanding of the Bible than I did back in those days of Christian juvenility. I have been a part of many various ministry teams and outreaches. I have been fortunate to go on missionary trips to other countries. I have attended Bible School and taught others. I now can place myself alongside many of those ‘seasoned’ saints, who possessed such greater spiritual knowledge, back in my infantile stages of the faith. But there is something else to which I can also attest: the same (or similar) spiritual apathy of many I also encountered back in those earlier days. I’m definitely not proud to admit this but I would go on record in saying, that I’m sure many others-who have known the Lord for any prolonged duration of time-would have also have a similar testimony, at least during some point in their walk with Christ. Now I’m not saying I’m directly apathetic towards the Lord or my faith in Him, in fact not even in the slightest but, what I will say, is there are elements of my early faith and exuberance that have gone missing-just like those sunglasses on my head!
I recently had a conversation with another brother in Christ, regarding a specific ministry I am currently involved in, which he was looking to gleam information with regards to starting a similar ministry. I had gone into the conversation expecting to impart some wisdom into this person regarding the subject matter but, a funny thing happened. I walked away from the conversation having received more than I actually imparted. Basically put, this younger brother in Christ, had brought to my attention (rather inadvertently) various spiritual aspects of my faith that were actually missing. It’s hard to admit this, especially for those who have been living for the Lord for quite some time. Many of the simple aspects of zeal and passion were missing. There was an element of ‘complete surrender’ also missing, to which I wasn’t even aware. I began to dwell on some of these issues, really asking the Lord to show me where I had missed it and how I could change. I had simply gotten too comfortable in my walk with the Lord and there was a shift which needed to take place.
I have to admit, it’s humbling even writing this article. It’s humbling before God Himself, to admit I had some things wrong. One of the things the Lord has been revealing to me (since that conversation) is with regards to the area of submission. I thought I was submitted. Now I knew there were still some areas I had been dealing with giving over to the Lord and that I was a work in progress. But this was different. What the Lord so graciously had showed me, is my surrender had been tainted. It wasn’t what I would call ‘healthy’ surrender. It was sick, if you will. To better clarify, my surrender still had me wrapped all around it. My supposed surrender to the Lord still carried with it, my desires and purposes. It was interwoven with what still proved valuable to my own wants and comforts. It was tainted. In fact, it probably shouldn’t even be called surrender. Maybe manipulation is the right word. Ouch…that hurts to even type. The Holy Spirit has revealed some unbelievable truth which is transforming my walk with Him. It is also changing my ministry FOR Him as well.
Here is the thing: God wants us. He wants ALL of us. He wants our time, our devotion and our pursuits. Even more, He desires the reasoning and root of our time, devotion and pursuits. The Lord wants to permeate every aspect of our inner being with His presence. He wants to be our ‘first love’ in life. Most of us are familiar with the passage in the book of Revelation:
“However, I have this against you: you have abandoned your first love.” (Rev 2:4)(The Voice)
Jesus wants to be our first love-our first in everything. When this occurs and the shift is made in our lives where Christ holds the preeminence in everything we do, we become like Him. We will begin to take on His countenance and His glory. People will begin to see Jesus and no longer see ‘us’. This should be the goal in every Christian’s life. John the Baptist echoed this very sentiment:
“Jesus must increase while I must decrease.” (John 3:30) (NIV)
I love the ‘The Voice’ translation version of this Scripture because it really brings it to light. In fact, I will list just a bit more of the context surrounding this verse:
“I have said it many times, and you have heard me—I am not the Anointed One; I am the one who comes before Him. If you are confused, consider this: the groom is the one with the bride. The best man takes his place close by and listens for him. When he hears the voice of the groom, he is swept up in the joy of the moment. So hear me. My joy could not be more complete.
“He, the groom, must take center stage; and I, the best man, must step to His side.” (John 3:30) (The Voice)
Now, this analogy, presents an excellent word picture for what should be taking place in our lives every day, as we seek to follow the Lord and let His pursuits be our pursuits. In a wedding, the groom and the bride are center stage. Our joy should be emphasizing the groom-Jesus Christ-in our lives. We step aside and He takes center stage. “Oh God, that we all will abandon ourselves for the joy of knowing you and seeing you exalted through our lives.” In reality of course, we are the bride. We should be ever longing for that day when our soon-to-be groom, Jesus Christ, comes back for us-to unite us eternally with Him!
Are we in surrender to the Lord? Truly in surrender? Are we willing to listen and receive from different sources in our lives? Are we open to be schooled by the person who just gave their life to the Lord last Sunday? Or maybe by the homeless person we are attempting to help? Let us never become conceited in our dealings in life. The Lord is always looking to shape up, to mold us into His image-whether by encouragement or by chastisement. It’s so very easy for us to despise our earlier beginnings or even, to despise the early beginnings of others.
God is the potter and we are the clay…the clay never runs off on its own or tells the potter the shaping process is over. Let us open our ears. Let us be willing to learn and grow. Let us never get too spiritually far-sighted…or we may just miss seeing the very glasses which we are already wearing.