“For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” -Neh. 6.9
If we would have anything to do with the enlargement of God’s purposes in the earth, we must be anchored in the understanding that quite frequently, we will experience severe and exacting conflicts.
There is a form of discouragement that feeds the self-life and nurtures cowardice. It might better be called self-pity. Oswald Chambers addresses this ill brand of discouragement like this:
“…. discouragement is disenchanted self-love.”
“…. self-pity is Satanic.”
When we have not adequately launched out with reckless trust in the Lord, we will be repeatedly overcome with self-pity until a deathblow is dealt to our egotism, and if we pass through that death rightly, our illusions of life and ministry will have been pulverized. This is the work of the Cross of Jesus Christ, and it is a mercy from the Lord. Not until the axe has been laid to this root can we even commence to participate in the building of His house.
“If our hopes are being disappointed just now, it means that they are being purified.” -Chambers
If behooves us to discern if we are bound by self-pity, for if we are, it is likely that we are stubbornly moving forward in something that He has not ordained, even if we are purportedly doing it ‘in His name.’ Our “strange fire” must be quenched, our self-initiated ventures must be crushed, and we must be wrung out entirely of the mirky waters of human ambition. It is a necessary pulverization, and once we get familiar with the good hand of the Lord that effects it, we learn to welcome that holy inward work.
When the Lord has permitted the pulverization of our brazen presumption, as was the case in the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem (for Judah had not heeded to the real prophetic view), He gives vision to to men like Nehemiah. Such servants are required for the building of that which the Lord has envisaged in His great heart.
As with Moses, Paul, Nehemiah, or any other man authentically formed and sent by the Lord, the mountain of fulfilled vision is shown as off in the distance, and a great valley lies between the “Here am I, send me” and the “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Most men faint along the way, having been inspired by the distant mountain, but unwilling to brave the valley of obedience. We delight in the fragrance of the rose but are unwilling to await its growth, and we wilt when touched from time to time with an unexpected thorn. Yet every seasoned florist has felt the thorn from time to time. It is intrinsic to dealing with the genuinely precious things.
We need to come to grips with the fact that the principalities and powers of darkness will press against the true work of the Kingdom until the day that they are cast into the lake of fire. There is no such thing as coasting into the fullness of Jesus Christ. The Scripture says we “wrestle“ and struggle and battle against evil powers in this age.
We will necessarily be met with tumult and our categories will be jostled. This pilgrimage is not a vacation. It is, as one author has written, “a long obedience in the same direction.” Along with all the joys, we must be aware that there will be resistance.
“It is costly to go on to the heavenlies, it is painful; but it is the way of the pioneer, and it has to be settled that that is how it is.” -T. Austin Sparks
Nehemiah would not be discouraged. He turned to the One Who has ever and always been secure and enthroned above every power, for he was cognizant of the fact that he was not building a wall unto himself, nor even a wall within which his people could experience a padded life. It was “from Him, through Him, and to Him,” therefore the servant cannot succumb to self-pity, for that would not be in keeping with the pilgrimage or the work. It would not be in keeping with his calling as a man who walks circumspectly before the heavenly King.
This understanding is in the ‘DNA’ of the apostolic faith. Paul’s own calling was infused from the beginning with the idea that he would meet with serious hostility from men and devils.
“…. he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” -Acts 9.15b-16
But the line of his obedience held because he was also conscious from the beginning that the call did not have to do with anything that issued to his ego or his self-glorification.
“….he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name….”
Dear saint, get your eyes off of yourself, pierce through the influence of the powers of darkness in prayer, and behold again the Lamb of God on the throne. Wisdom and strength for the pilgrimage are realized when we behold “the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
Not only is equipment available, but He will nourish, enliven, and hydrate your soul when you let go of self-pity and delight in His Person. “Thou preparest a table before me” in the wilderness, “in the presence of my enemies.”
He is worthy of the totality of your heart, He will fill “everything in every way,” and He will make clear that holy work to which He has called you. Whatever that simple and glorious work might be, let your preoccupation be the glory of Christ, and every bump, hurdle, and wind in the valley will be a privileged occasion for demonstrating His wisdom to the same powers that had previously incapacitated your pilgrimage.
“The evangelization of the world [and every other true obedience] is a desperate struggle against the prince of darkness, and everything his rage can stir up in the shape of obstacles, vexation, and opposition, whether by circumstance or by the hand of man.” -W.C. Burns
“…. in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.” -Acts 20.23
“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God….” -Acts 14.22
“Therefore…. I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” -Acts 26.19
Bryan Purtle is the founder of the Antioch Prayer Society in Kansas City, MO.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: cross of jesus, discouragement, Holy Spirit, human ambition, illusions of life, Jerusalem, obedience, Oswald Chambers, self pity, wilderness
“Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it; yet the Lord set his affection to love your fathers and chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day.” -Deut. 10.14-15a
The subject of God’s love is not a syrupy, flighty, or hollow subject. It is not the stuff of spiritual lightweights, nor is it a distraction from the weightier matters of Scripture. His love is not merely an attribute to be considered, nor is it a mere compartment among His many traits. It is not a cheap and fluffy revelation, but the very essence of who the Lord of history is.
The love of God is a vast reality, and it has ever and always been bound to His personality and purposes. A Biblical understanding of the love of God is absolutely foundational to the life of the Church, and if we have yet to know Him as the One who “sets His affections to love” us, we have yet to know Him as He is.
The Deuteronomic writer paints with a broad brush in these two verses, and I wonder if they strike our hearts as they must have struck his.
Verse 14 tells of the greatness of God as Creator and Ruler of the entire created order, and of heaven itself. He is high and lifted up, far above the peak of the highest mountain, transcending in every way the greatest of earthly kings and the most powerful of angelic beings. The earth belongs to Him, and “all that is in it.” We cannot wrap our minds around His greatness and glory, we can only ascribe the honor to Him in worship, and be swallowed up in wonder at His Person.
But in that great sweep of awe and transcendence, the writer reminds the children of Israel that the Lord has “set His affection to love” their forefathers, and that the chosenness of the fathers was also upon them as a nation. In that chosenness, it was not only the commandments that applied to them, but the setting of His very affection and love as well.
Could they believe, in the trial of the wilderness, with blisteringly hot winds against them, that the concentrated affections of God Himself had been directed toward them? Unfortunately, most of them could not. But He remains the same, and His heart is still set towards the sons of men, with desire to cleanse, redeem, and show His love to them in remarkable ways.
There are notes of His pure and fervent love sounded throughout the Scriptures, from the patriarchal times right through to the prophets, most notably Hosea, and it reaches a climax in the revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. Israel, as a people, has a great bulls-eye on it’s chest, and the arrow of His affections will one day hit it’s mark in an everlasting way, when all at once she has been purged and redeemed in the Day of the Lord.
Remarkable for the Church, which is mostly made up of Gentiles, is that we have been “grafted” into the same covenantal glory with God. Through Israel, most pointedly through a Jewish Man called Jesus, we have been inducted and adopted into the understanding that God has set His affections to love us. Do we believe it? Have we a consciousness, in the midst of emotional collapses, failures, and wilderness times, that He has set His affections to love us?
Have we an awareness that it is not only the great heroes of the faith that He loves, but that His heart is set toward us as well, not only to command and call us, but to love? Dear saint, you are indeed a “wild olive shoot,” a vessel not yet totally formed, but you have been grafted into the full revelation of God’s affections and love, and this has always been His intention and desire. Ask the Lord for a greater perception of His set affections towards you.
From that tender place, the mighty light of His love will shine in your soul, and you will “circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” You will fear and love the Lord God of Israel with all your heart, and everything will be made new.
Many generations ago, He set His affections to love the fathers of Israel, and in this generation, He has set His affections to love you. This is no small thing, and to come into this understanding is to “taste of the powers of the age to come.” Bask in that reality, and you will walk in “newness of life.”
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: angelic beings, israel, love of God, Reality, Revelation, Scripture, the church, The Earth, wilderness
Isaiah 9: 6 – 7
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
I’d like to look at a theme that has been burning in my heart for months about the theme of ‘Sonship’. Preaching from the above text, at the beginning of this year the Lord clearly spoke to me concerning this theme, and in regard to something He wanted me to embrace more than ever. Also, I believe that this is a key theme for the Church at large to embrace, as it will be essential in the future move of God.
In the above Scripture, we see the nature of ‘sonship’ in the Son – Jesus. It foretells of His becoming a child, though He is in fact, eternally a Son. (‘A child is born… A son is given…’) And the text clearly shows that because Sonship is something Jesus ultimately manifest in His life, through becoming a child and submitting to the Father, He inherited authority and power. His ‘Sonship’ was set for us to follow, as sons. His Sonship was not only His ‘status’ by name only, but was also experienced. He did not need to enter into the ‘experience’ of sonship (becoming a child) on the one hand, yet did so because He was a Son! Jesus even said in His teaching, that unless we become as a child, we cannot receive or enter the Kingdom.
So as in the natural, sons submit to a father, then later on they receive an inheritance, so it is a type of what is actual in the Kingdom. We are declared to be sons upon being Born-again – if you like a ‘status‘ is given. But then we must enter into the experience of sonship for a greater manifestation of power, and a full inheritance, because we are sons. This is evidenced with Christ in Luke 3 & 4, where Sonship was decreed by the Father at Jesus’ baptism, but then Sonship was experienced through the submission in the wilderness testing / temptation, and the subsequent inheritance of power with God in advancing the Kingdom. Here, Christ came out in the ‘power of the Spirit…’ and He ‘proclaimed the Kingdom…’ But please note: the Spirit compelled Jesus into the wilderness! We have also received the Spirit of Sonship. And by God’s grace we should not reject the dealings of God. They are for our destiny to be realized.
In the above Isaiah passage, this ‘son’ also inherits ‘government… upon His shoulders…’ and He inherits names: ‘Wonderful Counsellor (Supernatural in counsel) Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…’ etc. So though a son eternally (given) He comes to a place of being just a child (born). This is one of the great mysteries of all time. He in His Sonship becomes nothing, then inherits the Kingdom and subsequent authority!
One more thing of note in the Isaiah passage is that Jesus the Son is called ‘Father’. In Israel the King’s heir when inheriting the throne became a father to the people, not according to age or stature but according to God’s choosing & dealing with the man, and in turn, man’s response to God’s workings. True sonship produces true fathers; true fathers manifest authority in a fatherly way. They in turn raise up and release new sons. This is both seen in the natural and this is how it ought to be in the Kingdom of God.
What then do ‘true sons’ inherit by coming under the Father’s dealings and authority?
1. Sons inherit governmental authority.
A hireling does not understand the dynamics or heart of the Father, nor His house, neither His desire for it. A son however, does, and as a result will actually ‘give himself’ for that fulfilment.
Isaiah 22: 15 – 24 speaks of a situation in which a man by the name of Shebna is steward of over the nation of Israel. The steward was basically a prime minister, under the headship of the King. Isaiah describes a number of assaults on the nation, and always brings a word from God looking for steadfast and faithful leaders to respond to what God is saying. Shebna in this account fails to fulfil the duty of his office, and instead accepts the death of the nation, and only seeks his own memorial to be fixed, rather than caring for the future life of the people. Thus God disposes him from his position and function, and replaces him with a man called Eliakim son of Hilkiah. Look at what the Lord says to Eliakim:
“On that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honour for the house of his father. All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.”
Note the following:
· The terms ‘my servant’ and ‘son of’.
· How God makes him a ‘father’ to the people.
· The keys of the Kingdom (of David) are given to him. Keys to open, permanently, and shut permanently. (Authority and power)
· This Scripture while historical is also prophetic of Jesus Christ, and is linked in with Revelation 3: 7 – 13. Here the Philadelphian believers may have been excommunicated from the local synagogue, however in their becoming outcasts for His name’s sake, Christ comes to reassure them that they have a place of access and authority in His Kingdom. The day will come when their persecutors will acknowledge what God has done for them and granted to them. As over-comers they can take their place in the Temple of God. Christ in having the keys to the royal household, has given them a place with Him, not those who presume authority.
In other words: Kingdom authority is realised when God’s servants not only enjoy the status of sons, but because they are such, they ‘enter into’ Spiritual sonship. It may be God’s dealings through suffering; it may be a wilderness experience, or it may be demonic attack. Those that learn in those times to come under the shadow of God, experience what it is rely solely upon the Father. He then enlarges their capacity. They then inherit authority in the Kingdom, which is spiritually exercised in a paternal / fatherly way. This is how God expresses Himself.
This is often why when we look around the world those that are persecuted for the faith often carry spiritual riches beyond those in the west. Or those who have done great exploits in the West, have often gone through great wilderness experiences. It is God’s way to bring us into the likeness of the His Son. The Good Father wants His sons to inherit! But He also wants His sons to have His Son’s heart and not take the glory for themselves when endued with such authority in the Lord.
2. Sons are released into Kingdom power.
There is nothing more precious in the sight of God than when a person having gone through the wilderness, comes out in the power of the Spirit, and makes a telling impact in their generation for the Lord.
Moses came into his role as deliverer for Israel after ‘tending sheep’ in the backside of the desert. Previously, he had tried to bring matters into his own hands and bring a ‘judgment’ regarding an issue between two of the people of Israel, and ahead of God’s timing. But upon that mistake, he is thrust into the wilderness where God taught him solitude, brokenness and to see the Divine in the midst of the meaningless. Moses came out with a rod of power that literally delivered an entire people, brought God’s power and subdued an enemy nation.
Paul, previously Saul after his conversion is moved into a similar forgotten place for a season. We don’t need to talk about how God used that man. Sure enough, God’s government and power flowed through him, even when in prison.
3. Sons manifest ‘The Son’.
Just as sons inherit government and power because of submitting to the Father, they likewise begin to manifest the ministries of Jesus: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are the five-fold governmental functions or ministries of Christ in the Church. They serve as headship ministry to the rest of the Body, and cause the Body at large to become as Jesus is. They also manifest something of who He is to a dark world.
I remember a word brought from a brother in the UK once about some mighty men God used at the turn of the 1900s. He said by the Spirit, that they were as they were because they had been ‘Born in the FIRE!’
The fires of revival? For sure. But also the Fires of testing. The greats of yester-year were not just particularly favored, but they experienced ‘sonship’. They went through the wilderness… they humbled themselves as children. As a result they inherited as much as they could this side of heaven. They through suffering and hardship carried a deposit of the Kingdom. God’s government rested on their shoulders! They saw the Kingdom expressed in the power of the Spirit. All because they went the Jesus way of ‘sonship.’
May this be a year when true sons begin to emerge to a place of expression of God’s rule, and become fathers to a new generation of saints expressing the glory of God in the earth.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: God's government, isaiah 9, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Scripture, Son of God, sonship, wilderness