For as long as I can remember I have asked questions that disturbed others, and disturbed ‘ME’ as well. As a young child my perpetual “Why’s” perplexed parents who were happy to get on with life as best they could; like most Australians then and now. As a teenager first encountering the impact of alcohol such inner queries reached a level of torment that at times seemed intolerable. By the time I had reached the middle of my university degree I had firmly concluded that all the usual materialistic and pleasure seeking answers of our culture were no answers at all. Despair rolled into despair as I could not let go of the query, “What is the meaning of life, if at all?” My discovery of the Bible, with which I seemed to have some strange rapport, seemed to hold the answer, as did subsequent theological study. Years of ministry have yielded many insights and powerful spiritual experiences, but only in more recent days have I sensed the Lord leading ‘ME’ into a form of following him that is very different from what came before. What has emerged as the present ‘ME’ series of teachings is the fruit of this current awakening. At its heart is spiritual direction.
Watch This Space
What the LORD said to the prophet, “I am watching over my word to perform it.” (Jer 1:12) provides a clue to the leading of God in our lives. There is no space, not matter how seemingly small and insignificant, where the Word of God is not already at work (Heb 1:3; 11:3; 2 Pet 3:5-7). Our first task of our spirituality is to watch the Word and obey it. ““The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”” (Rom 10:8). Our Father will never require anything more from us other than to watch what he was saying and doing in our midst and conform to it. It is a brilliant privilege to be called to be co-workers who cooperate with the artistry of the Lord in his amazing work of forming us in the image of Christ (Rom 8:28-30; 2 Cor 6:1). This is a process whereby we are being eternalised. As we learn from the Spirit to watch the dialogue between the Father and Son that runs through everything our sense of the wisdom and goodness of God never ceases to grow (Eph 4:6; Col 1:15f). The interconnections of the plans and purposes of God running through our lives and all creation are countless and inexpressibly wonderful (Ps 139:17; Rom 11:33-36). Yet so few Christians seem to be able to “see” these astounding linkages. An awesome sense of the simplicity and incomprehensible depth of the everyday activity of God
Work and family life, and even church-going, can seem so dull and predictable. Mostly we are “practical atheists” who believe that we need to get on with our lives and “make things happen”. Many wish for the spectacular and overt signs of God’s hand in signs and wonders but few devote themselves to discerning the direction that the Spirit is already taking in his usual hidden ministry in the world. Popular Christian perception is shaped by countless principles, patterns and religious programmes, but the materials for God’s great son-making plan are what is happening in our everyday life! The interconnections of God are everywhere, “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28), but they are largely subterranean and ignored.
We are in the midst of a divine drama every moment of every day, but God’s ways are unattractive to ‘ME’because in my high-mindedness I think that the truly spiritual must somehow be obvious, spectacular, incredible (Isa 55:9). I resist being the clay and want to be the potter because deep down I am a “control freak” (Isa 29:16). The only way my infantile dispositions can submit to the superior wisdom of God is to learn from Jesus (Luke 10:21).
Directed by the Father
Unlike us, Jesus’ lacked direction or purpose, for the eyes of his heart (Eph 1:18) were never directed at himself, but directed first and foremost to the presence and action of the indwelling Father. Christ was ever alert and watching what the Father was doing and saying in him; “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. …For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.” (John 5:19-20; cf. 14:10). Jesus saw something that before him no one else was either willing or able to see, all connectivity between heaven and earth passed through him for he is the Word of the Lord (Matt 11:27; 28:18; John 5:39; Luke 24:27). The ‘ME’ of Jesus was aware that all meaning stemmed from relationship to him (Eph 1:10; Col 1:16; Rev 22:13). This was no static revelation but one that in every way was filled with a sense of destiny. Jesus was motivated by an all-encompassing vision that all created things would be glorified and eternalised through his obedience and return to the Father in heaven (John 17:5). Such a “hope of glory” made the suffering of the cross possible (Heb 12:2).
To “be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10) has little in common with seeking the “sea change” of a less stressed life style that has become popular today. Restfulness is a kingdom activity whereby we become aware that the current of the divine life is constantly running through us with a direction, force and destiny whose character is always Christ. The Christian’s “hope of glory” is not a prosperous and peaceable life but to conform to Christ in all the circumstances of life (Col 1:27; Rom 8:28-30 cf. Eph 1:18). No part of life is excluded from this consciousness; by grace it is possible to see what Jesus is doing and saying in our marriages, families, work and leisure situations (1 Cor 2:16). By the Spirit we can see/follow what the Father is doing through the Son in our lives and the lives of others NOW and every day (Rom 15:13). Because “all things” have been handed over to Jesus by the Father, he can promise us “rest” in the midst of everything we will ever encounter (Matt 11:27-28). To live in such simplicity is no easy matter.
Reading the Bible, praying and witnessing may merely be religious symptoms of the activism of modern life. I must be willing to pause and listen for the voice of the Shepherd constantly (John 10:27). Only if the restless and self-exulting ‘ME’ submits to this mode of life do I become more and more of Jesus constant presence and guidance. This requires a counter-cultural form of faith, trusting in God for who he is, rather than what he does. I must become attentive to the Lord himself as the sum of all blessings (Luke 10:42). Genuine discipleship is the cultivation of a life lived in quietness before God; “in quietness and trust shall be your strength” (Isa 30:15. Cf. Ps 27:4; Luke 10:38-42). Likewise, the key to genuine Christian fellowship is not the size of our circle, agreement on doctrine or the flow of spiritual gifts, but discerning, affirming and submitting to how Jesus is directing each other’s lives.
It may have become plain by now that the ‘ME’ series has (unintentionally) been an exercise in spiritual direction. Whatever initial appearances, it is not about the ‘ME’ called JY, but about Jesus-in-‘ME’. Praise God that so much of the restless activism that has characterised my life, even into recent years, seems to be dying (Gal 2:20). I can honestly say I have very little motivation these days to make anything happen. I simply want to sense and serve what I see the Spirit of Christ doing in myself and others. The initiative always belongs to the Lord. May we join in prayer that Christ alone will be the true Spiritual Director of our lives; both personally and as members of his Body.