December 9, 2011

Bring It On God

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I remember standing in front of a Sunday school class a few years ago. I was halfway through college and interning at a church in my hometown. While teaching one Sunday morning, I remember saying, “You guys need to become students of the Word”. While this statement is true, my motives for saying this were completely off base. We were walking through the story of the Flood and instead of discussing spiritual applications or even historical context, I was asking questions such as “Had it rained before? How old was Noah when he got off the ark?” Questions that, honestly, had no relevance to what the Lord was doing with our youth group. At that time, becoming a student of the Word meant gaining as much knowledge of Scripture as possible so that in any situation, I would be able to give a sound biblical answer. Yes, Scripture does tell us to be ready to give a defense of the hope we have inside of us. However, the way I was presenting this principle, it meant little more than simply this: gather as many biblical facts as you can and stuff them into your mind.

My desire to memorize the Scriptures, know the ends and outs of theology, and ultimately, become what I believed to be a student of God’s Word was not grounded in wanting to know God more. It was based on the fact that my relationship with the Lord centered on gaining more knowledge about Him. In essence, more knowledge of Him meant growing closer to Him. Again, while there are elements that are true about that statement, it is still slightly off base. Gaining more knowledge about God is essential to discipleship and that can’t be missed. In fact, without knowledge Scripture tells us people perish. However, growing in knowledge of God can only take you so far. It must be followed with personal, deep understanding for it to be fruitful and lasting. While this may sound like a ridiculous thought, let me explain. Knowledge and understanding may be similar in connotation, but, in reality, I have found them to be very different. Often times, I have come to the personal understanding of something about God, even though the knowledge might not have been present. I understood in my heart what was going on, but my mind didn’t have the proper knowledge to put it into words.

Memorizing verses like Psalms 16:11 where the psalmist proclaims, “in your presence there is fullness of joy” is a prime example. I had the knowledge of this verse, I believed the Word of God when it made this statement. But had I ever experienced this “fullness of joy” for myself? No! I lived with knowledge about this verse, but had no understanding of what it actually meant until I experienced this type of joy within myself; a joy David raved about all throughout Psalms. Then, and only then, did it mean something deep inside of me. Another good example comes from Philippians. Paul writes how after one encounter with Jesus, he looked at everything he had in the flesh- knowledge, passion, bloodlines, and even righteousness by the law- and said it now meant absolutely nothing to him. It was all rubbish compared to the beauty of his newfound relationship with the Creator. That used to sound crazy to me! How could you have everything, and then basically leave it all behind simply because you met this guy named Jesus? I could have had these verses memorized, but until I got to a level of closeness with the Lord where nothing on earth mattered but being next to Him, they would have meant absolutely nothing. They would have been knowledge void of understanding. I could go on for pages about other passages of Scripture that have only come to life when the Lord provided understanding. Lyrics to songs, past situations, and old sermons that I have heard only made sense after the Lord brought them to life. Am I saying that we’re going to understand everything in this manner? Is every bit of knowledge we ever gain about the Father going to be understood fully? Probably not, but I can promise one thing. The pursuit is more than worth it!

My goal is not to simply drive home this point. Undoubtedly, you have probably experienced what I’m writing about at least in some capacity throughout your ministry. So my goal isn’t just to inform, but to present a challenge. I’m challenging you as a leader to ask the Lord to give you understanding that will change lives. Teaching and preaching only out of head knowledge will not bring lasting fruit. I also believe if you are honest with yourselves, the greatest joy in ministering comes when you get to preach something that you have experienced on a deep, profound, personal level. It is hard to tell someone to trust in Yahweh Jireh (God our Provider) when you have never had to rely on Him as sole Provider.  However, if you’ve truly had a season during your life where He had to be Provider or you would not have made it, preaching a message about Yahweh Jireh will come out dripping with the power of God.

Those are the testimonies that are incredibly powerful and lasting! If you preaching out of overflow about God being our Provider could change someone’s situation, shouldn’t we desire to preach out of that overflow . . . on every subject? An overflow that results from personal experience can change lives. Dry, stale head knowledge will never be received in the same manner. So my challenge to you is simple (it might sound crazy too), but I believe it can lead to changed lives. One thing is certain; it will give you the opportunity to be a part of someone else’s story, a story that can result in redemption and joy.

As a shepherd of God’s people, you are called to lead. Begin to ask the Lord to give you understanding in areas that have never been made real to you. Stop just singing about God being our Healer and ask Him to give you understanding of what that truly means. Am I saying ask God to allow sickness to come upon your life? Maybe.  Tell the Father you do not want to speak to another person about joy that is unspeakable and full of glory until you have felt that joy penetrate every fiber of your being.  Ask the Lord to give you supernatural insight into what is going on in your student’s lives. If your students lack compassion, don’t teach on it until you’ve asked God to fill you with real, true biblical compassion. Make it your goal to preach out of overflow instead of obligation. Is this going to be “cookie-cutter” perfect? Maybe not.  The Lord may not always decide to show you. But this will also push you to seek the Lord before you decide what to teach or preach. The Lord sometimes has purposes that are higher than ours and may decide to take you a different route. This is simply a challenge for you. One that I believe can potentially change the way you preach when the Father begins to bring greater understanding to different areas that have previously been stale head knowledge. Even if the Father decides not to take you this route, I believe He will still reward you. Blessings will flow out of this, not simply because you decided to do something different, but because the Father rewards a heart that is willing to be transformed. A heart that is sincerely open to being molded and shaped for His glory.  While this may sound tough, every moment will be worth it after the Lord allows you to preach out of overflow that only He can provide.


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