Today’s reading in “My Utmost for His Highest” talks about how the core of Paul’s vision upon his conversion became the driving purpose of the rest of his life. I have had a tendency to miss the point of this, which Paul so eloquently summarized in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” The vision and the purpose weren’t a plan to go and do, but rather an understanding of how to be, a vision of the glorious joy of knowing Christ and telling people about him.
This got me thinking about my own vision. I still have a tendency to try to attach a plan to "go and do" to this vision, but setting that aside I can get to the core of what I have seen at those times when I have been nearest to God, and I imagine it’s not all that different from what Paul saw. One of the few times I have heard God very clearly, he said only two words to me. They were in answer to my constant prayers to understand what I should do with my life. His words were, “Love me.” Simple enough, and yet it took me a long time to really understand the import of them.
I have frequently told the story of how I came to be a radical follower of Jesus Christ; how after years of not allowing myself to deal with the pain of the time of crisis through which we were living, I finally, when faced with the powerful love of God in a deeply spirit-led worship situation, had to let it go and let him break through. Following this, I realized that although I had been in church every single week for all of my life, I had never really known God and had been missing out on the real blessings of being a Christian. I hadn't understood how much better it could be, and once I discovered that God was so much more than I ever imagined, I vowed to help others find what I had found.
It is difficult to explain to someone who has been coming to church every week for years, serving on various committees, volunteering diligently, that there is more, that knowing God in a deeper way is possible and incredibly worth the effort. I think they have to experience him that way themselves to really, truly understand, and ultimately the goal of ministry is getting them to seek to do that. Everything else about being a Christian is then the natural result of that relationship. Unfortunately it is so much easier to get people to buy into focusing on serving rather than seeking, and too often we allow ourselves to settle with lesser expectations rather than challenging people to go further.
What ultimately drew me to this point of seeking was seeing that deeper relationship at work in other people; seeing them be completely caught up in worship, and hearing about how deeply God was touching them. And in being so drawn, I opened up enough for the Holy Spirit to do his work in me. Our pastor Richard often talks about the mystery of God, and I think this is the crux of that. What exactly happened to me, and how and why, I cannot say, but I know it did, and it still does to people all over the world every day, and I pray that we will not settle for anything less.
And that’s the point. It’s the most simple thing in the world, and in a way the most complicated, but also the most wonderful. If in reading this you are saying, “I want this too,” then I pray you will have it, have Him. I know you will succeed, because the Bible promises, “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29) With all your heart and with all your soul. Don’t settle for anything less.
Having said all this, in looking back over it I realize I've not said anything about how knowing Christ beyond the surface-level understanding I had previously is to know of his deep and powerful love for us. Maybe ultimately that's really the point, because it is through experiencing that love that we are empowered to share God's love with others; allowing his love to compass our lives is to become vessels that overflow, that can't contain the wonder and strength of it, that give and give and give because we can do nothing else. Sadly, I have not allowed this in myself for quite some time. I have gone back to being afraid of the depth and strength and power of God's all encompassing, abiding love--afraid of the passion that it inspires in me. But I know that where God's love moves in, fear cannot remain, so as I seek to draw near to him more than I have for awhile, I know that fear will fade. Praise God.