T. A. Sparks wrote, “He is ever reaching farther and farther beyond us, and drawing us out beyond ourselves, beyond our resources of mind and will, yet drawing us on, and making us know that we have got to go on. We just cannot stand still; we have to go on.”
In Hebrews we read, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto maturity; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God…” (Hebrews 6:1 KJ2000)
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto children, My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? But if you be without chastisement, of which all are partakers, then are you illegitimate children, and not sons… Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-11 KJ2000)
Tribulation works experience… being drawn on beyond ourselves, that is what He is doing in those who are His sons and daughters.
I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak… in labors more abundant, in stripes beyond measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes less one. Three times was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are outside, that which comes upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must boast, I will boast of the things which concern my weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 11:21-30 KJ2000)
This kind of makes our little afflictions look pretty light, yet God knows what we can take and what is necessary to refine us as gold unto HIS glory. Praise Him that He won’t let us settle for a mere Sunday Christian existence.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us. (Romans 5:3-5 KJ2000)
Let us go on… whatever it takes, dear Father, draw us out into the perfection you desired in your mature saints.
Looks like we’re on the same page with what has been laid upon our hearts. I hope that I can stand with Paul, and say that I kept the faith and finished my course. What I have endured has been plenty for me. I couldn’t begin to imagine what Paul went through, and still cared for the believers like he did. Thank you Michael!!
Mike, I know you well enough to know that you have been through more than most people could stand and God has done a deep work in your heart as a result. I am so blessed to see that you are now walking in a new release of life after so great a death. You are a blessing to us all. It is always good to see that we are not only on the same journey but the same page together. Love you, my brother!
Love to you too my brother! I’m trusting my Father afresh, to guide me through this time of my life.
Please allow me to AMEN! both of your comments. Michael you are well aware of the things the Lord has brought us through whilst in our wilderness time. The good news is that He has and is with us during it all. Dying is hard. My mother in law has been doing private duty work for elderly people for years. During this time she has seen many of them die. She has told us of how long it takes for a person to die. Even very old people cling to life until they just can’t hold on any longer. She has said many times, ” it takes long for some people to die. It’s hard.” I can attest to that from experience as I know you can. Dying to self is the most difficult thing I can think of. Just about the time I think I’m dead in an area, that thing raises it’s putrid head and I could just beat myself with a stick. So often I think of dear brother Paul who cried out about the same thing:
Romans 7: 15-25
5 “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to—what I hate. 16 I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking. 17 But I can’t help myself because I’m no longer doing it. It is sin inside me that is stronger than I am that makes me do these evil things.
18 I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to but I can’t. 19 When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. 20 Now if I am doing what I don’t want to, it is plain where the trouble is: sin still has me in its evil grasp.
21 It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned; 23-25 but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin.
So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done[c] by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free.”
Bless you dear brothers,
I am your fellow traveler,
I think that the only way we can get from Romans seven and into Romans eight is by having our flesh put to death. For some it requires traumatic bouts with illness, for some a lengthy spiritual wilderness, for others a stint in prison, for others the loss of someone they deeply loved… God knows just what it will take and He will guide us through it even though at the time He seems far away. His goal is always the same, though,
“Let us go on… whatever it takes, dear Father, draw us out into the perfection you desired in your mature saints.”
Indeed, God draws us where He wants us to be. The only thing a believer can do is to actively react to God’s call for repentance. Even the power to turn from our old ways comes from Him. Nonetheless, we are those who decide whether we yield to despair or surrender our self-will to Christ. This is not easy (although He helps). However, we may never forget that Christ wants to give us more and more of Himself. He is longing for His Bride, He is yearning for the day when He can give her His all. The more we humble ourselves before Him and before others, the quicker He pours out His Spirit (Rom 5:5), and thus, the sooner spiritual maturity can be achieved.
“Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must boast, I will boast of the things which concern my weaknesses.”
I can sign Paul’s words personally. To me, it is not possible any longer to not ache for someone who is weak or has been offended and suffers because of an offense.
Even if I had been God’s very instrument to offend some people with prophetic words in order to bring them to repentance, I can’t help but deeply share their pain and weakness caused by Christ’s chastisement, which He announced here,
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Rev 3:19 –
Or in other words (describing my feelings),
“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Cor 12:26 – ESV)
By the way, my dear brother, I was very glad to detect this new entry today because I have been eagerly waiting on it for quite some time (as you might remember 😉 ).
In His Love,
your sister Susanne
Susanne (and all),
You wrote, “The only thing a believer can do is to actively react to God’s call for repentance. Even the power to turn from our old ways comes from Him. Nonetheless, we are those who decide whether we yield to despair or surrender our self-will to Christ.”
This about describes the struggle I am currently in. Will I yield to despair or yield my self-will to Christ? I have had one of those days, today, where “I feel like a nickel waiting for change”– I feel weak and frustrated. As I think about the last thing I posted and your responses, I have to admit that I have written something that is beyond where I am at this time. I still would love to have a bit of heaven on this earth… a piece of land where I can enjoy God’s creation without the defilement of fallen men who would seek to bring their living hell into my life. Does that make since to anyone? I guess I am just tired of all that this world has turned into. I feel weak in the face of the degraded society I must live in. I have had this longing in me to escape, to varying degrees, ever since I came home from the Vietnam War. Maybe it is part of getting old and what God is doing to get my eyes set on HIS eternal kingdom and to give up trying to find “my piece of the rock” in this life. You would think that I would have arrived at this point by now. The flesh dies hard. Your prayers are appreciated.
Michael…you are experiencing the melancholy of “Godly discontent.” Jesus said, “Unless you hate your life in this world, you will lose it.” Many of us are in this process, as God deals with us in our loss of all things, to gain Christ. I have lost a wife, a new love, the respect of my two sons, and now my home.
We can let it cripple us, or we can lift our eyes to Him who sustains us through all things. This is all meant to get our eyes off of the temporal, and on the eternal. Paul wanted to die to go be with the Lord. This same yearning sinks deep into every man of God. You have my understanding, and prayers my brother.
Mike, thanks so much for your reply and the wonderful phone call as well. “The melancholy of Godly discontent,” that is a thought provoking phrase. Thanks for reminding me of Paul’s words, “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse (dung), in order that I may gain Christ and BE FOUND IN HIM, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith…” Philippians 3:8-9 RSVA). When the Spirit showed me that those who are Christ’s, first believe INTO Him (proper translation of John 3:16 and other salvation verses) and that from then on we abide IN Him, I should have known that I would not be allowed to drag all my worldly desires and possessions into Him and His kingdom with me. As you are also experiencing in your life, this kingdom living is a stripping process. Job, when being purified by God, suffered the loss of everything except his nagging wife and his discomforting friends. It seems that the carborundum that grinds away our old natures is all we are allowed to keep, besides Christ Himself. 🙂 Like you said, taking our eyes off the “losses” and putting them on Christ is the key… “that I may KNOW Him…” and even be conformed into everything that is Christ… even His sufferings and death, THAT is the goal! What shall we say if we neglect so great a salvation?
Mike, thanks for your encouragement and helping to get my focus on where it belongs… those things which are eternal IN Christ.
Love you, my brother!
It is certainly my pleasure to share in this journey and path we are on my brother!!
Oh oh oh, my dear Michael,
You don’t know how much your encouraging comment has touched my very heart. Also, you have been in prayers before – I have been feeling your pain – and I won’t stop praying for you until you tell me, “Stop it!” 😉
Weakness is something I know very well, too. I often wonder why God uses such a nobody as I am. This reminds me of Tullian Tchividjian who created a wonderful equation. It was
JESUS + NOTHING = EVERYTHING
To me, the nothing is Susanne Schuberth. However, our gracious and merciful God blessed me with making Christ my EVERYTHING.
And you are so right, Michael. Nobody of us would have chosen to suffer with Christ. Nonetheless, it is the only way to share His resurrection power too, isn’t it?
If I could say at least one thing to encourage you, I’d like to point again to those wonderful God-breathed articles, books, and blog posts with which God blessed you and George and all those who read them. It is a clear sign that you are really called by Him; a fact which He confirmed again with this very blog post here. If we knew how many hearts have just been and will be touched by your honest Spirit-led words, we would “go out leaping like calves from the stall” (Mal 4:2). 🙂
Well, ahem…what did you say about “getting old”???
Hey, Michael, this is a wake-up call!!! Always remember, in His Spirit we are right now eternally young and thaaaaaaat beautiful. Please, don’t forget it!!
I love you in Christ’s unconditional LOVE!
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Dear Michael and all,
I do feel the same powerful feeling of wanting to escape from the decay of this life..I started feeling this way 20 years ago..didn’t understand it at all back then..I was just trying to fit in with what denomination I had felt was the “one” true church who had the right doctrine and path to God..I never fit in at any church I went to..I remember back then just desiring a simpler life, but oh how off track I continued to be..I look back and just wish I had turned the world off and just tried to focus on our Father through Jesus and let Him show me who He really is…not turning to others for revelation but sharing the love of God and our experiences instead..I have two young children and I cringe at what they are exposed to today in this world..This has made the desire to escape even stronger..There is so much noise in this world, many distractions..It feels like I’m fighting a losing battle somedays..I feel like a failure alot lately..I shared with you in email a bit of my struggles and am still dealing with a fear of trusting a loved one and with forgiveness..I feel like a bad witness to the one whom I need to really forgive because I feel like I am not showing who God really is. I feel like I have let God down…What Ken said about “Dying to self is the most difficult thing,” actually gave me hope, that what I’ve been experiencing is a process..I just think I make dying to self so much harder! God forgive me..Blessings to you all, praying for all of you..
Thanks for writing. Somehow your post slipped by me and I am sorry I am just now replying to you. I find myself slipping into discouraging times as I look to my own insufficiencies and therein lies the problem.
Jesus prayed to the Father,
We know that we are to be in the world, but not be of the world, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Somehow in the wisdom of God He knows that it is in the world that we must live and grow up into the fullness of who we are to be in Christ. Not pain, no gain. He also promised us that He would never leave us even to the very end and that all these things are working together for the good of the wheat in His field, including being planted in it right next to tares.
I think we get discouraged when we look at the world and the mess it is in and our own inability to cope or do anything about it, but Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” You see we are only MORE than overcomers IN Christ Jesus… as we abide IN Him and not in ourselves. Through all our misgivings and struggles we are being weened from relying on ourselves for anything, that we might be found IN Christ and know HIM as our sufficiency. Everything else is being shaken including the church and its institutions. Jesus is becoming our ALL in all as He kicks out the props we have depended on. Even so, Lord Jesus come.
Love you my brother,
I am in fellowship with you as I read your writings, because of our shared struggles. Struggles are sufferings. Sufferings can bring about what we can not. I reread 1 Peter yesterday, particularly looking for the roll that suffering has for the believer. Let us rejoice.
You wrote, “I am in fellowship with you… because of our shared struggles.” Paul wrote, “That I may know Him, the power of His resurrection, the FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS, and be made conformable to His death.” As young Christians we all wanted that resurrection power… to be powerful Christians for Jesus and to avoid weakness at any cost. Part of maturity is going beyond the signs and the wonders into a deeper fellowship with Him — the fellowship of HIS sufferings and letting His death work in us as well as His life. Part of being IN Christ is to enter into the sufferings of those who are in HIS body as well. “When one member suffers, all members suffer.”
Thanks, dear sister, for sharing my struggles with me.
Amen Mike, and Michael, on the profound comments. Great encouragement, especially this as it touched me deeply “experiencing the melancholy of “Godly discontent.” Jesus said, “Unless you hate your life in this world, you will lose it.” Many of us are in this process, as God deals with us in our loss of all things, to gain Christ……..We can let it cripple us, or we can lift our eyes to Him who sustains us through all things. This is all meant to get our eyes off of the temporal, and on the eternal. Paul wanted to die to go be with the Lord. This same yearning sinks deep into every man of God.”
Thank you TJ for identifying with us on this path. Few there are who go in through the gate of the “pained and constricted way.” May God strengthen you, as you follow Him.
“Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]…” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP)
T. A. Sparks said so well what we (including yours truly) are dealing with…
Amen and thank you Mike. Thank you for articulating, and defining, such trevail for which I could not find words, nor understand. The Sheep’s gate indeed for which The Shepherd has gone before us…..
that we must through much tribulation enter into the fullness of the domain of the King
Just wonderful comments brothers and sisters, to which I wholeheartedly agree. I would however like to speak toward this blog author’s desire to have “a bit of heaven” and a “longing to escape” from time to time.
Some of you know I like speaking about the cross and our need to embrace one. This is of course the central theme of true Christianity, both the message as well as the practice thereof. Like all wilderness travelers I too have been given opportunity by our Lord to deny myself and those “gifts” are given and sanctioned by heaven and mine to embrace. But may I suggest that foregoing all earthly comforts isn’t really what Jesus is after?
I went through a season years back where I literally attempted to live the above out. I gave up this, sacrificed that, even sold all of my fishing tackle. Somehow I thought that would make me closer to Jesus and more effectual in service. Nope, didn’t happen. I still hadn’t learned the manner in which Jesus was working to gain a stronger hold upon my desires, my possessions, upon my all.
There are times when Jesus specifically calls us to abandon certain things or even people for a time. I would never attempt to convince any of you otherwise. You know what He is speaking to you. But the issue for me became clear when I understood what Jesus was actually desirous to build- local ekklesias filled with living stones through which a full expression of Jesus could be seen and experienced among men. The Scriptures make clear that if people are to be convinced of the reality of the Father sending Jesus, they need to “see Jesus” (the expression of Jesus being lived out among His children). Just because churches have entirely failed and thwarted this doesn’t mean we each are called to live isolated lives with individual crosses to bear. There is a season for this no doubt, but are these seasons not to ultimately be joined corporately in practice even as we share upon this site? Is it too much too believe that just as Jesus is bringing us together here, that He could also bring some of us together over there?
Over the years I’ve become convinced that the primary focus of all cross bearing is this- that Jesus must have ownership over me, and if He has me, He has everything I might be tempted to say or think is “mine.” This world and especially here in America all we think about is ourselves. My job, my home, my business, my money, my ministry etc…….it’s awful, and entirely out of sync with what Jesus is building spiritually and yes, even practically too! But in this case, the spiritual first, then the natural. How else might we tolerate one another! Jesus say’s to those who have left everything to follow Him (who have embraced their daily cross and followed Him without reservation),
“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” [Mark 10:29, 30]
Don’t you see. You are all my brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers to me. Everything I have is yours, because Christ own me.
As in everything, our Father must orchestrate the times and seasons where all things will be brought to fulfillment- in this world and the world to come. I for one pray often toward this end, for ultimately my “little bit of heaven” and my “longing to escape” is found and enjoyed in Spirit amongst you all.
Might I suggest “The sin and consequence of independence” upon my own site to reiterate my points above?
I see nothing wrong with “having a bit of heaven” upon this earth, provided its not owned by any individual. In this manner our Father will keep us humble and the world will see the proper witness of what it means to live for Christ and one another.
Just remember…..such as these won’t be exempt from persecution…..as this living IN CHRIST practically is the very expression our adversary has and does attempt to prevent or convince us is impossible.
How have you been Michael? Glad to see you writing again. I’ve been fairly tied up myself as of late.
Michael F., thanks for sharing your thoughts and what you have learned along the way, following our Lord. I agree with what you wrote. The blog which I wrote to which you are referring was about a passing anxiety I was going through and I dared to share it from my feeling of weaknesses. I did it because the Lord told me to. He also warned me not to get my eyes on anything on this earth and let it distract me from His purposes in all these things. Always look for the divine appointment and God-ordained opportunity to share Christ’s love with others and not get too withdrawn. God has no holy hermits, but has placed us all in a body and we are members of one another. Jesus prayed that Father would keep us IN the world without taking us OUT of the world for a reason.
Also, most of us have learned from bad church experiences not to be real with one another because we have often been pounced on by other Christians or shunned like we had a disease any time we showed weakness. I always thought it strange in church when someone after the service would come up to me and ask, “How are you doing, brother?” As if they cared, but before you could half share the troubles you have been going through they would say, “That’s great brother. I have to go. See you next Sunday!” I am so thankful that we have been given a great High Priest who sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us and who is in touch with all we are going through. Should we not have the same compassion for one another? What good is fellowship if we don’t allow ourselves to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep? I thank the Father for putting me in a family like all of you who write on this blog. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if we could all meet face to face in the days ahead?
Love you all, Michael