In our next two articles, we will be wrapping up our series on Faith in the Night Seasons. I pray this series has been a blessing and has helped you understand a little more clearly some of God's ways. Even though an intimate relationship with the Lord often comes through trials and brokenness, nothing in all the earth compares to it.
Last month we talked about some of the incredible blessings that come from having faith in the night seasons and from attaining intimacy. I'd like to continue in this article to explore several more blessings that come from an intimate relationship with God: a contentment and a rest that no earthly force can ever emulate; a freedom, not only from sin and unrighteousness, but also from self-seeking, self-importance and self-love; a freedom from our enemies (spiritual foes, people who desire to hurt us, our own destructive thoughts and emotions and the circumstances in our lives that control us); and, of course, the greatest freedom of all-the gift of humility (the ability to accept the truth about ourselves). Let's take some time to expand upon these blessings.
When we finally realize that every circumstance that happens to us is "Father-filtered," we can be comforted by the fact that since God is in everything, nothing can really hurt us. This validates the importance of knowing what God's will is in our night seasons and that often He does allow hard things into our lives to push us towards intimacy with Him. Thus, contentment is not determined by our circumstances, by the actions of others or by how we feel. Contentment only comes from knowing that God loves us and that no matter what our circumstances are or how we feel, He will be faithful to His promises and bring us through.
A Scriptural Example: Paul
Paul understood this. He understood both sorrow and joy, distress and comfort, anxiety and rest. He had more difficulty in his life than you or I will ever know in a lifetime. But the way he bore up under all the pressure of these trials was in personally knowing God's faithfulness and Love. Through all his wild adventures, Paul learned that an intimate walk with Jesus must be independent of external circumstances. As he declares in Philippians 4:11, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, in this to be content." And in verse 6 he says, we must be "anxious for nothing." In other words, there was nothing in his environment that could ever change his inward contentment. This is our goal as Christians.
The verse that has meant so much to my life lately is Acts 20:24. "Let none of these things [other people, circumstances or my own feelings] move me [from the presence of Jesus]" (Nancy's translation). Paul learned how to do this-how to be content in every single circumstance of his life. "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
This kind of contentment, which is available to every one of us, is something that no earthly force can ever emulate. Now, I'm certainly not where Paul was, but his prayer has become my prayer. And as a result, I am beginning to see God (as I lay my will and my life down to Him) free me from things that I never thought possible.
As Christians, we have the continual choice to either dwell with God in an intimate relationship (above the trials going on all around us), or dwell in the midst of the noise and confusion of our current, difficult circumstances. Sometimes it seems that we focus too much on trying to get God to change our circumstances, and we miss what He is doing in us through our circumstances. Unfortunately, if we don't learn the lessons that God is trying to teach us, He will often make us go through similar circumstances again so that we will learn them. Contentment is simply a state of mind and it only comes from living a totally crucified life.
An Example: Corrie's Sister, Betsie
After all the horrifying things that Corrie ten Boom (who wrote the book The Hiding Place) and her sister, Betsie, experienced in prison, and all the hideous things that the Germans did to them, Corrie justifiably turned to her sister one day and said, "Don't you hate them (the guards) for what they have done to us?" Betsie sweetly looked up at her sister and replied, "Corrie, what better way to spend our life than to share the gospel with men who need it the most?"
Contentment comes from daily, moment by moment, abandoning our wills and our lives to God, no matter what is going on around us. It means the appeasing of all our desires, because we know that only God can fulfill them. This kind of contentment is not found through our accomplishments, in others or in our circumstances. This kind of contentment is only found in Christ and what He will do for us. A contented person is one who has no other need and no other desire than to be possessed by God. Thus, the secret of contentment is knowing where our satisfaction comes from. If Jesus is our only satisfaction - and we know that He will never leave us or forsake us - then when we find ourselves in difficult times, we'll be able to still say, "none of these [other] things move me" (Acts 20:24). If, however, we look to any other thing, any other person or any other situation to satisfy us, then we'll, once again, open ourselves up for disappointment, frustration and sorrow. Contentment comes from knowing only Christ will supply all our needs (Phil 4:19).
The Rest of God
Contentment in our lives leads us to the "rest" of God, or the promised land that we hear so much about in the Old Testament. Remember, Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and never could seem to find true rest. Over and over again, God told them about the "promised land," and urged them to go in and possess it. As I recall Biblical history, the whole time they wandered in the wilderness, the Promised Land was only a few hundred miles away. Yet the Israelites could never seem to find it. The reason? Because, in their dark night, they didn't believe God.
There is a very valuable lesson for us here. No matter what God allows in our lives, no matter how bleak, how black, how painful, how confusing or how hurtful, we must choose to believe that God is still in control of our lives and that He will still lead us through to His "promised land." "And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which He swore unto thy fathers...to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full" (Deut 6:10-11).
At the end of our dark night, if we have allowed God to do the necessary work, we will find a state of rest. He will have brought us to the end of ourselves, to the end of our works. And, the greater our rest, the more we will progress in our walk of faith. God's rest means coming to a place where we are not striving for anything, but are simply abandoned to His will. It's where we have no expectations, no presumptions and no ambitions, except in God and what He wants for us. Whatever we do, we want it to be only His will. As Hebrews 3:19 tells us, faith is the key to this kind of rest. If we have unbelief or doubt, then we will not be able to enter. God's rest comes only by living our lives according to His will and constantly avowing, "No matter what You allow in my life, Lord, I trust You."
The bottom line is: Do we believe God or not? God wants us to experience the kind of rest that is not depressed by sorrow, altered by temptation or terrified by adversity. He wants us to be "fully persuaded" that no matter what happens, He will work all things together for good.
Freedom of Spirit
Another wonderful blessing that comes from intimacy with Jesus is the freedom that it affords us not only from sin and unrighteousness, but also freedom from self-seeking, self-importance and self-love. Intimacy literally gives us freedom from slavery or bondage to the "flesh." "The Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is [reigning], there is liberty [freedom]" (2 Cor 3:17). Intimacy with Jesus gives us not only freedom from human expectations, presumptions and comparisons, but also freedom from guilt as well. We must never take this for granted. All of our sins-past, present and future-and our guilt over them can be taken care of by daily confessing, repenting and giving them over to God. Guilt is a crippling disease and can never be eradicated from our lives, except by the blood of Christ.
Intimacy also brings us the freedom to admit our own failures and the freedom to forgive others of theirs. Oh, how the Christian body needs to experience this kind of freeing Love. The body of Christ has become "lame" because we do not live out this kind of freedom in our relationships. There are more Christian divorces, more broken Christian relationships and more splintered Christian churches now than at any time in history. Having an intimate walk with the Lord also brings us freedom from being ruled by our emotions-emotions of either rejection or approval. This is what will allow us to be totally "other-centered" and, to hear and receive direction only from God.
The Bible often speaks of being "overcomers." An overcomer is simply one who experiences freedom from self, freedom from others' reactions, freedom from his circumstances and freedom from the enemy's attacks. As overcomers, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, our spirits can soar like the eagle above the clouds (above the storms), because our eyes are only upon the Son. The eagle was intended for the heights, just as we are. When the eagle remains in the heavenlies, then he is safe from harm. No enemy can touch him there. And, the same is true with us-when we remain in an intimate relationship with the Lord, no one can harm us. Yet, so often, rather than fly like an eagle above the clouds (as God intended), many of us would rather huddle with the chickens in the barnyard. God wants us to be free and to be soaring in the heavens. Are you?
Of course, the greatest freedom of all is humility. Intimacy with Christ brings with it humility. Humility is the ability to accept the truth about ourselves. It's being able to see ourselves as we truly are. A truly humble person is one who is not afraid of failure, because he has perfect confidence in God's power and His ability.
Humility is not shyness, hesitancy or timidness but an attitude of refusing to make ourselves the center of attention. A genuinely humble person is one who no longer is concerned about his own self-interests, his own reputation or personally being acknowledged. He doesn't waste his time on defending these areas any more. He is fully content with taking a back seat, being filled with the fulness of Christ and sharing His Life. Humility is putting God and what He wants above our own needs. The essence of pride is "I will." The essence of humility is "Thy will." The Greek word for humility comes from the root phren, which means "to rein in or to overcome." May God give us the strength and the humility to bring into captivity our sin and our self, so that Christ can be formed in us and we can enjoy His presence. If we are not willing or not humble enough to rein in our self, then we can't expect to ever experience intimacy with Christ.
The only route to humility is the Cross. We are humble only to the extent that we lose ourselves in Him. "For I [am] determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2). When we look upon the world as something that is supposed to be focused on us, we will be imprisoned by self and unable to give or secure love. When God breaks through our darkness and destroys that self by the dark night, He sets us free to love and be loved the way He intended all along. We'll be free from needing love from anyone or anything, save God Himself, and free to initiate Love to others.
Humility is simply acting out "not I but Christ" (Gal 2:20). When we display this kind of humility and this kind of Love to the world, others will notice. Because this is the kind of freedom and this is the kind of Love that everyone is desperately looking for, but very few know how to find!
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