The Pulse – March 21

Update from Tom

It’s only been a month or so, but Leslie and I are feeling your prayers! We have been through several days of counseling and coaching, and we think God will use it greatly as HE continues to transform us in the years to come. Yes, I said years! This is the Ultimate Journey. Below is a chapter from a book I was reading the week my sabbatical began. It has not left my heart since. In fact, it is enlarging it. Thought you might like it. It is from The Gospel According to Job, by Mike Mason:

The LORD knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I will come forth as 
gold.  {Job 23:10}

There is an implied corollary to Job’s statement, “[The Lord] knows the way that I take.” The corollary is: “I do not.” In the words of Proverbs 20:24, “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” Or as a more familiar proverb puts it, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (3:5).
This is what Job is doing. This is “the way” he is following – the way of admitting that he has no understanding of what he is passing through. He cannot analyze and diagnose his spiritual condition and come up with practical remedies, as his friends seek to do. All he can do is describe his symptoms: pain, anger, bewilderment. His speeches are reports sent back from an alien and hostile land, a terra incognita of the heart. It is a place in which God is nowhere to be found: “If I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him” (23:8). Under such circumstances, it is the most natural thing in the world for a believer to begin to lean upon his understanding. In the utter absence of God, what else are we to do? If the Lord declines to speak to us or to guide us, must we not by our own efforts puzzle things through and so force the perplexities of life to submit to order and reason? Yet this is exactly what the Bible warns us not to do. Instead, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).

By our own natural strength and understanding, we human beings cannot take one step on the road to Heaven. We cannot do our own growing. We cannot grow our spiritual lives any more than we can grow our bodies. True, we can eat and drink; but we eat and drink primarily because we are hungry and thirsty, not in order to grow. Of the two years he spent living alone at Walden Pond, Thoreau remarked, “I grew the way corn grows in the night.” Growth is a phenomenon that takes place behind our backs, when we are not looking. It happens the way seeds sprout in the earth: “As the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up” (Isa. 61:11). Jesus taught the same in a parable about the Kingdom of God: “A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain” (Mark 4:27-28). Again He said, “See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin” (Matt. 6:28).

In the life of faith one of the hardest things to do is to refrain from laboring and spinning (from spinning, one might say, in circles) and instead to see ourselves as being like flowers or grain, growing not by our own efforts but by the grace of God. Why is this so hard? It is hard because it means giving up all our own plans for ourselves, all our pet projects for making ourselves into something. It means surrendering our will. It means giving up on ever getting our own way, and choosing instead the way of the Lord, the way of growing by the darkness of His grace rather than by the light of conscious, self-determining effort.
During the night of grace, our faculty of reason could be likened to a house with sealed-off rooms. No matter how hard we try, we cannot get into the locked rooms. We cannot see clearly what is happening to us. Like Job, we may feel as though the Lord has abandoned our house altogether; we cannot seem to locate Him in any of the old haunts. But has He really deserted us? No, He is still there; but He is in the sealed rooms. And there He is preparing something for us: a brand-new addition. The Carpenter of Nazareth is busy adding a new wing to our mansion. He is enlarging our heart. Not until everything is ready in the chambers will we be able to go in, for if we went in too soon we might fall through the floor. But when all is finished and we finally enter the new wing, how delighted and astounded we will be to see that everything – literally every last detail – has been custom-built and immaculately appointed for our personal accommodation.

When Joshua was leading the Israelites across the Jordan into the Promised Land, he gave them strict orders to stay behind the ark of the covenant and to follow it, for “then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before” (Josh. 3:4). Since we do not really know what eternity is like, how can we go there except by a way that we cannot imagine until we have already traversed it?

Grace and Peace,

Tom Oyler
Lead Pastor