In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:7-8 RSVA)
I recently wrote an article on our blog titled, “The Death of a Vision.” I described an ordeal in which I dreamed that I was to pray for the healing of a sister in Christ named Sandy. She was a dear friend with terminal cancer, and according to the dream I was to pray in person while laying my hand on her. I did this in front of the congregation at the leading of the pastor. She later died of that cancer. It was a traumatic time for me for I was still young in the Lord and just knew I had heard God.
Since I posted that article I got an email from long time readers of ours, a couple from Australia who commented and shared from their own experiences on how God trains us as His obedient children. Writing for her husband this sister wrote:
“God gives us the vision as you had, but often the details are not as the vision actually is and we misinterpret them, as God knows we will. Then we are in the problem phase of the whole process as we try to hold onto our belief in God and our ability to hear His voice despite appearing on the surface of things to having got it all so wrong. Then, eventually comes the provision of the promise, as with your other ladies being healed [many years later after Sandy died. ~ mdc]. It’s not straightforward is it?”
This explanation of hearing God and misinterpreting what we hear because of being emotionally involved or just not understanding and then disillusioned by the outcome was right on. I have gone through these three phases in my life more than once; 1) The Vision for your calling in Christ, 2) The Problem – the vision does not work out the way we had planned, and 3) The Promise – God comes through, but not the way we thought He would. All you have to do is look at the lives of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah and David (to name a few), to see that this is part of the way that God trains His saints for obedience to Him.
After Sandy died, her husband, Dan, sought me out to comfort me. In my dream I saw Sandy in perfect health at the peak of her maturity, and she radiated life. Dan explained that I had seen the heavenly Sandy after the Lord took her home, and that I should not be dismayed, which was very kind of him. I saw Sandy in her perfected body in a room flooded with light, but I chose to believe that it was here on earth and that she was physically healed.
Eventually, my first interpretation of the dream of me stretching out my hand and seeing people healed did come true, but not until I went through a lot of dying. God knows that man is corrupted by power and that old Adam in us must be thoroughly killed before He dares to use us in the lives of others in such a powerful way. I had to go through many years of Him killing everything in me before He used me almost 20 years later to heal those other two women that had terminal cancer.
These successful healings set me up the next temptation, to think that I was a “healer.” One friend, a retired pastor, even suggested that I “exploit my gift.” We all have read about and seen the TV version of people with famous healing ministries and all the hoopla that carnal people make over them as they are elevated to stardom. In effect Satan is right there saying, “All the kingdoms of the world are mine to give if you will obey me and just bow down and worship this image of fame that I have for you.” He is good at what he does and many people fail at this point. Paul wrote that Satan will come “with all power and signs and lying wonders seeking whom he may deceive” and he does.
I overcame the temptation to see fame, because by then the Lord had drilled into me that I was nothing and it was not my place to think otherwise or try to “grab the gold ring” when it is within reach, but rather to rest in Him and let Him do what He wants to do when He wants to do it. But once the word gets out that you have been used to heal terminal cancer, you get a lot of attention just the same and you really don’t want to disappoint others who are dying. That is the real test–will you obey the wishes of others, or will you disappoint them, seem cruel and cold, obey the Lord, and stay put?
Bob Mumford told a story in one of his books or tapes about a neighbor across the street who was training his retriever dog. He would take a stick, throw it and say “Fetch.” After many days the dog would go get the stick, bring it back to him, and he would tell the dog, “Heel.” The dog would sit by his side and wait for the next command. Eventually the dog was doing both these commands well. But then one day the man threw the stick and said, “Heel!” instead of “Fetch.” That that poor dog nearly came unglued. The action said “Fetch,” but the command said, “Heel.” That is what God does with us. He fine tunes us to obey and we can’t always go with our experiences. We have to listen to His voice.
As young Christians, when God does something miraculous or prophetic in our lives, we want to run out and tell everyone about it. What starts out as enthusiasm for the Lord ends up with us believing in our own “press releases” and blowing our own horns to draw attention to ourselves.
The sister in Australia went on to write in her comment,
“My biggies were thinking I was being told to trust a pastor for three years when he was the most untrustworthy person I have ever known! It took me a year to trust anything other than the Lord is my shepherd and he is worthy. Talk about learning to walk all over again!
“I don’t think I’ll even go into the next biggest challenge I had in trusting in what I believed I was being told by God but it was devastating. For three years I believed that something wasn’t going to happen, that God was reinforcing what I was hearing, and then it happened and I was shattered. Again! Now we hold very lightly to what we believe we are being told and just wait to see if it happens and if it does, then we talk about it to others.”
Being obedient and then having things blowup in your face as a result, as many of us have found out, pops our bubble. We think that if we obey the Lord, everything will turn out great, but in the short haul it doesn’t always do so. In the long run it does, but often not the way we think.
Sometimes obedience makes us do things that cause misunderstandings and rejection from the ones we love and care about. This very fact has gotten many of us bounced out of our churches in the past, just because we obeyed the Lord! Obedience is not about instant gratification as we would like, but about following and obeying His voice. The results to our comfort zones can be disastrous. Jesus was a classic example of this kind of obedience and so was Paul. It got them into hot water with the religious establishment of that day and eventually killed!
There is often a cost to obeying the Lord as far as our immediate well being in this world is concerned. This cause and effect mindset had to be undone in me. I felt that as long as I obeyed the Lord or his representative (read: pastors) perfectly, everything would come up roses. It did not. Jesus obeyed the Father perfectly and it cost him everything on the cross, but it produced a far greater weight of glory and reward later — the bringing forth of many brethren and the sons to the Father. Jesus learned obedience through the things which He suffered and He is the Son of God. What makes us think that we will have it any easier? He endured the cross because of the joy that was set before Him, not the things that seemed right in His own eyes.
The real lessons in our lives are never about us having the best of both worlds. God is a good Father and He does not spoil us. We read in Hebrews that He rebukes and chastens those who are His children and He scourges those who are His sons (Put that verse in our politically correct ideas of how to raise kids!). If we are one of His, God puts us through all kinds of trails because He is a good Father. He is more concerned with our eternity with Him than He is with our temporal comfort here on earth that lasts for a short time.
T. Austin-Sparks wrote:
What is the purpose of sonship? It is to bring us into a place of spiritual responsibility. God never puts responsibilities upon ‘official people,’ but upon sons. Therefore He has to train us as children in order to develop sonship in us, to bring us there where we can take responsibilities for God. He seeks to bring us to a state of spiritual maturity, to full growth. This cannot be done in some Bible school, or by putting people ‘into the ministry.’ God never works on an official side. Oh yes, God does take us into His school. He can also take us into His school in some training institute. And it is a blessed thing if He does it.
But God’s school is something very different from mere scholarly activity. His Word says: “My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art reproved of Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” Note this word “whom He receives.” The exact meaning in the Greek is not ‘receives,’ but “whom He positions” or places. It is a matter of position. God is seeking to develop a state in us where He can trust us. When God is dealing with us, there is behind it a wonderful assurance that He is going to put His trust in us. He is bringing us into a position of trust. We do not just want to be servants, bits of a machine, but sons who have become one with the Father, and in whose hands He can put spiritual responsibilities. When we truly recognize this, we begin to understand why God is dealing with us as He does. But because God is in it we knows that the end is sure. He will bring His children through.
So dear saints, if you feel that God has slighted you and rained on your parade, He probably has, but it is for your maturity and for His long-range purposes. God is funny that way–He believes that He is God, not us. God bless you as you submit to Him as your Father who loves you and knows what is best.
May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 RSVA)