As a young Christian I had strong inner convictions about who God had called ‘ME’ to be and what the Lord was meant to be doing in my life. When circumstances went against these expectations deeply revealing feelings sometimes rose up in my heart. I would find myself thinking that others were enjoying the blessings of God that were somehow denied ‘ME’, and wished I could somehow be in their “privileged” position. I thought these sorts of selfish ambitions were a thing of the past until the Lord embarrassed ‘ME’ recently. I noticed myself feeling put out because my name was missing from the bottom of an email concerning a new ministry proposal. I felt neglected because this whole proposal first came from ‘ME’ and I was not being recognised. So much for being one of the “nameless” leaders I had often prophesied about! This humbling experience was an advance communication about a matter of great importance for the work that the Lord wants to do in Australia today.
Beware the Sandgroper
A prophecy some years ago spoke about a climate of fear and the “sandgroper” as a threat to the reviving of spiritual life in our state of Western Australia. “Sandgroper” is a well known nickname for locals, but it actually refers to something quite insidious. The sandgroper is a subterranean insect whose attacks on the root systems of healthy looking cereal plants can prevent them ripening. In praying about this prophetic warning James 3:13-18 came to mind; “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
The Church can be thought of as a net held together by personal relationships and designed to hold the harvest of God (John 21:1-11). The true quality of our bonding is tested when in times of revival the Spirit of God comes and blesses one part of the Church more than another. If you and ‘ME’ suffer from jealousy and selfish ambition such times will induce competitiveness, frayed interpersonal connections and broken relationships i.e. disorder. With “too many holes in the net” most of the fish will soon be lost and what looked like a great harvest will end with deep disappointment. God will reap our jealousy and selfish ambition with a failure to yield a lasting harvest of souls (Gal 6:8). If we understand ourselves at all, we must confess that our personal drive to be in the thick of the excitement of revival and our fear of “missing out” on the action is so pervasive that only Jesus selfless life can save the Australian Church from such a spiritual disaster.
Jesus never carried in his mind conclusions about who he was called to be in the service of God’s kingdom and what the Father should do to establish his own name and position. He was simply the immediate image of God in all that he said and did. In the place of desiring privileges for himself he only wanted to do the will of his Father (John 5:30; 6:38). Since the ‘ME’ of Jesus had no personal ambitions he never experienced life’s circumstances as going against his own expectations of what God “should be doing”. All “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” attempts to lure him beyond his servant status were completely futile (Luke 4:5-8; John 6:15; James 3:15). Our twisted minds might think that such a mindset was easy for was the Son of God who unlike us had special revelation. The supreme test that manifests that Jesus has no special privileges from God but is essentially different from the jealous‘ME’ was the cross.
Christ prays in great grief, ““My soul is very sorrowful, even to death….” And…he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him…“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”” (Mark 14:32-36). That Jesus wills to do the will of the Father is not, but to take the cup of judgement means to accept that the Father wills that his will be hidden. The cry from the cross, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34) reveals that Jesus has been left alone to imagine what the Lord is doing in and through his life. The Father’s abiding presence is now usually filled with the totally alien experience of the “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” wisdom which characterises the sinful and jealous‘ME’ (2 Cor 5:21). The quality of this agony is the very opposite of the competition, jealousy and selfish ambition that threatens the work of God’s kingdom. Jesus hurts not because of personal loss, but because he feels deprived of the ability to share with us all that the Father has given him (John 13:3). Christ’s pain of feeling being unable to give to others in desperate need is the loving power of the cross that atones for all our self-centred ambitions. The resurrection is Jesus’ entry into the sphere of certainty that none of the Father’s purposes for any of us will fail (John 17:10, 15).
A Mature Vision
The “sandgroper” is a wholly subterranean pest which works destructively beneath the level of normal visibility. It provides an image of the hidden problems of the human heart that persistently undermine the purposes of God (1 Cor 4:5). Only the Spirit’s testimony is deep enough to reveal to ‘ME’ the difference between my own heartfelt convictions of what the Lord is meant to be doing in and through my life and Jesus’ life giving presence to realise God’s great purposes for ‘ME’ as his child. Christ in ‘ME’ is supremely confident that the glory of God will prevail in my life (Col 1:27). To yield to Christ means to be healed from all those anxieties and fears of “missing out” which drive jealousy and selfish ambition and produce the fruit of disorder (James 3:16). Such yielding however comes at great cost.
Perhaps the hardest step in spiritual growth is to let go of our anxious grip and passion about what God is seeking to birth in or through us. Such letting go means death to our personal attachment to those things to which we most deeply feel called of God. To be freed from our own ambitions in the sphere of spirituality comes only through a “prayer of relinquishment”. As every mother must let go of her deep maternal attachment to her children if they are to find the space to mature for themselves, so each of us must let go of our deep self-rooted spiritual desires if the work of the Lord is to mature through our lives.
God is not mocked, what we have sown in the secret places of the jealousME will become highly visible in the heat of revival (Gal 6:7). For most of the Australian Church this will mean the broken nets and lost fish of a spiritual movement that failed to mature. It does not have to be this way. To accept that our place and prominence in God’s kingdom is wholly his prerogative and to be content with the Father’s will is the cure for all selfish ambition (1 Corinthians 3:5; Phil 4:11). Let us ask the Spirit of Christ to crucify you and ‘ME’ so that like Jesus we give, not until it hurts, but until it hurts not to be able to give more (Gal 2:20).