This week was our school’s annual Veteran’s Day chapel. I sat and listened to our speaker’s address, former warrior being honored and to honor those veterans seated in front of him. He gave a strong testimony of how his little 14-year old sister had given him a New Testament just before he went into the military which he carried on every mission as well as still held in his shirt pocket this day while he spoke, reaching for it and showing us it was still there. He told story after story of how his sharing of the scriptures had resulted in many saved and the power they had that reached the hearts of men in his company well beyond his service to our country. He also gave our students some very simple but powerful advice. He said whatever you do, whatever your life holds, if you will do these four simple things, make them priority, your life will count for what really matters. He explained that each one dropped off of the other one, like a domino effect if you will. First, start each day with a devotion to God and devoting your day to God. From there, God will give you His desires, godly desires which will help you make godly decisions, and ultimately result in a life of godly discipline. Simple faith with simple means of obedience resulting in a not so simple life yielding extraordinary results; his backdrop was humility, self-sacrifice and bravery. I thought to myself, “Wow, we so need men like this old guy. Wonder if they still exist?”
I’ve been reading my devotions from a book called Prayer, by A.W. Tozer. As I read this week, I am put in mind of our veteran speaker. Tozer says to us about today’s saints, “many saints see this world as a playground, not a battleground, and thus are frolicking instead of fighting.” He goes on to identify that “we must build up ourselves in our most holy faith by the Word of God(listening to God), obedience to the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit(a righteous doing before God), and prayer to God(daily conversation with God.)” He reminds us that Paul viewed it as a spiritual battle going on around us all the time: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil…With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” (Eph. 6:10-11, 18) No doubt this old warrior found it easier to consider life a battle, rather than his playground of sorts.
A.W.Tozer along with some other saintly warriors fought through this life with much the same mindset, one of seriousness about the things of the faith, realizing the enemy’s warfare would not play well with their salvation and their ability to stay the course of their commitment to Christ would be to persevere through ongoing and constant prayer. In other words, their weapon of choice was not anything they could wield on their own; it was only possible through the Holy Spirit praying on their behalf in order for them to persevere through trial, persecution, sufferings, and the like. Tozer contends throughout his writings that the only safeguard for his faith is that of prayer.
When we make decisions without coming first and last to God, we can be sure that there are consequences-
and the most damaging consequences are damage to our faith, our future obedience, our relationship to our Savior,
and Lord, and to the name and glory of our God before believers and non-believers. Let us be diligent to pursue
“in everything by prayer.”
Who is this guy? This is what I wonder as I think of his words and what solid strength they are and like scripture, they transcend time and man’s circumstance. It should make sense in that he is talking about being one with the Holy One, likening our very existence and survival to the faith by the power of Christ alone. However, this is 2016 and words so long ago as to have lived between 1874-1917 having transcended into this present world of instant gratification, many technologies, and constant change is nothing short of miraculous to me! I have these crazy moments where I say to myself, “I must meet this man, hang out with his friends; why Lord, this is the kind of man I would like to date!” (But I digress.) Then, I remember he is already with Jesus, and I am altogether bummed. Note -Tozer would have never used the word bummed in his writings as I have just done, for the very thought of it is wholly self-absorbed.
Since discovering the anointing of these writings, I have decided to spend significant time with these old men, reading the devotions of Chambers and Stanford, the writings of Tozer, and the historical accounts of Newton, Simeon, & Wilberforce. While I wholly lean into the scriptures, study its patterns and make connections to self and the world around me, I see God’s divine hand in allowing their thoughts and principles to husband me through my newfound singleness. I find this a safe place to hide out while I heal from my own loss. I can sort of “date these gentlemen” whose faith I want to know and experience even if they have all died and gone to be with Jesus. (I’d say that’s really safe dating, wouldn’t you?) Personal power and prestige are meaningless vanities they recognize as evil futilities and distractions away from God’s calling and their continued recognition of dying to self and pressing on in obedience to their faith feels like fresh wind to me in my tired state, like love on my damp lashes. My eyes must stop crying for my personal loss and pain and look deeply into Jesus for healing now and His preferred future for me and mine. I cannot hear anymore empathies from well-meaning friends or family and I cannot listen to their concerns for my future, though there has certainly been strength in each kind word and deed that has held my hand.
Instead I must move forward in a new love relationship and it is my prayer that though for now it’s in print it will move my mind and heart ever toward my God who will breathe on me and reveal my identity and strongest love relationship with Him once and for all. These men have penned the divine in old words offering me new breath every morning and so many writings, there is not enough time in the days to read them all. I am inspired and reminded that our God is the giver of words and time is of no consequence to Him. Now if only I had a hammock and some big old oaks!
Whether or not he will speak this clearly to us as a generation (for we are so distracted with self) remains to be seen. In Roots of Endurance, Piper speaks as to why he is highlighting the life of Charles Simeon, (next week’s dateable) citing to help us see his sufferings and persecution as the normal portion of faithful Christian living and ministry.” Piper goes on to describe himself as a “child of my times” of which one of the pervasive marks of our day is emotional fragility saying, ‘It hangs in the air we breathe. We are easily hurt. We pout and mope easily. We blame easily. We break easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. And our commitment to the church breaks easily. We are easily disheartened, and it seems we have little capacity for surviving and thriving in the face of criticism and opposition… we all need help here.We are surrounded by, and are part of, a society of emotionally fragile quitters. The spirit of the age is too much in us. We need to spend time with the kind of people-whether dead or alive-whose lives prove there is another way to live. Hebrews 6:12 says ” be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Piper concludes this introduction as cause to examine the life and times of Charles Simeon. Wow-so much truth in one introduction to our need for former saints and old schools of thought about our commitment to be a slave to Christ.
This is where I find my self and my strength today. Casting my cares upon a Lord who is the perfect husband and who has provided plenty of attention to my life for such a time as this and in such men as this to show me His heart for me and my future which shall no doubt become more of a reflection of His divine calling on my life the more I learn, trust, obey, and persevere into the next phase of living. My encouragement to you is this: no matter the circumstances you find yourself in, seek God’s face first every morning and last of every night; ask Him, How Now Shall I live, Lord? Plead for the Holy Spirit to walk through you, speak through you, and move through you to affect the kingdom. Then, just live it and trust Him to bring it. And finally, trust that what He allows, he brought for such a time as this. Be strong in the Lord, persevere in time of trial, read the scriptures and the writings of those who love(d) them, and enjoy the Lord, for He is good all the time.
Top Recommended Reads: Prayer, by A.W. Tozer; Roots of Endurance, by John Piper; My Utmost for His Highest,(classic edition) by Oswald Chambers; and The Complete Green Letters, by Miles J. Stanford