What is the Spirit saying in and for 2010?
In the only letters that Jesus ever wrote to the churches he concluded each one with the injunction: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." It is a responsibility placed on each and every believer.
Sunrise over the Kessock Bridge
The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, "Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably." 1 Kings 22:13
But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear His word? Who has listened and heard His word? Jer 23:18
The pressure is ever on within the church to 'speak pleasant things'; and in a time of spiritual darkness, that pressure intensifies. Such were the pressures on Micaiah and Jeremiah. And in any hour of darkness we are perhaps more susceptible to be misled by words the bring (fleshly) comfort than those of a sterner and less palatable nature.
However I was encouraged recently to hear of an incident last year at the time of the banking collapse. The newspapers reported that the Queen put a question – which many were asking – to a group of high-flying city financiers: "Did no one see this coming?" In response all the eyes turned to one man in the group for a respond to the Sovereign's question – such was his standing amongst his peers. The man was and is a Christian. However, like those of his colleagues, he too had suffered financially at a personal level through the deep crisis. Now I don't know quite what answer was given to the Monarch's sensible and straightforward question. Indeed I don't know what answer could ever be given. But it was what the financier said later in private conversation that really thrilled me. He reflected: "I have never been so financially destitute but so spiritually excited." And I must say, I share his sense of anticipation.
A thought and picture that lingers....
In hearing from the Lord at a personal or corporate level I am always more likely to trust those thoughts and convictions that stand the test of time. If nothing else, the passage of time tends to sift out the spurious and transient from the genuine persuasive work of the Holy Spirit. And for a few years I have carried a picture in my head: it remains there. It didn't come as a 'vision in the night' but rather just appeared in my mind as a convenient metaphor to describe what I have been feeling.
On the occasions that we go to the theatre to watch a stage production, I follow a certain pattern of behaviour. At the time of the interval between the acts of the play, most of the audience leave their seats for a comfort break or a coffee: I am no different. However l always try and return to my seat early and avoid having to squeeze past a crush of drawn-up legs just before the curtain rises for the second half of the performance.
As such I find myself towards the end of the interval seated in a quiet and almost-empty auditorium – with the thick fire curtain cloaking the stage. And it is in this situation that one can pick up indistinct noises emanating from behind the heavy drapes. Past experience tells me of course that the muffled sounds derive from the activities of the stage hands as they change the props, the scenery and the stage furnishings. And invariably, and for dramatic effect, when the curtain does eventually rise, the audience will be treated to a completely new scene. There will be new colours, costumes, backdrops and lighting. There will be a huge 'Wow' factor.
And spiritually-speaking that is where I am at. I have a strong sense - and I don't want to sound irreverend at all - that God is up to something. There is something going on which is presently hidden but which will, in time, be revealed. I don't know when or how the scene will change, only that it will be very obvious when it does. Of course whenever the Holy Spirit is active the enemy of God will invariably be at work also: his continual striving is to thwart the things of God. So it may be through something that we would not normally (in the worldly sense) rejoice in, but will, I believe, be something that we will see God in – to His praise and to His glory.
Watch and pray...
Having said all of that I believe that it is not only through spiritual impressions on our minds that we are led in the things of God. The men of Issacher read their daily newspapers and 'understood the times and knew what Israel should do' (1 Chron 12:32). Much later when God through the Holy Spirit gave birth to the church, Peter joined up the dots between that amazing Pentecost scene and the revealed Word of God. He whooped with the realisation: 'But this is that which was spoken by the prophet....Acts 2:16 KJV)' . By observation married to a mature knowledge of God's word he recognised just what was happening before his eyes.
Yet is was not long after that Peter found himself in prison and Stephen martyred whilst Herod put James to the sword. And my Bible informs me that the nearer we get to the end of days the more our tired planet will groan (cf Rom 8:22,23) and the more Godless it will become (2 Tim 3:1-4).
and keep our armour bright...
Our world is in a highly unstable and dangerous condition. Throughout history there have been despots and megalomaniacs who had the inclination to visit calamity upon us, but they didn't always have the means. Now there are madmen who have both the intention and the means.
We also see a culture and climate – around the world and now including the West – which is becoming increasingly hostile to the Christian church and the Gospel. However this is only to be expected as it is what the word of God outlines for us (Matt 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) and explains why Jesus repeated in His letters to churches: "To him who overcomes..." (Rev. 2:7ff).
And the enemy is not exclusively outside of the church. I can sense internal conflict pending which will make the global controversy over sexuality seem like a walk in the park. But all that is not for this page. The time will come upon us soon enough; and it will be very apparent when it does.
as we go forth in Him.
So as we step out into the darkness we go with the Light of the World. And I recall the injunctions in Wesley's hymn:
Stand, then, in His great might,
I trust and pray that whatever the coming year holds for us we will see the Kingdom extended through the saving of souls to the glory of God in the body of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
With all His strenght endued;
And take, to arm you for the fight,
The panoply of God.
To keep your armour bright
Attend with constant care,
Still walking in the Captain's sight,
And watching unto prayer.
From strenght to strength go on;
Wrestle, and fight, and pray;
Tread all the powers of darkness down,
And win the well-fought day, —
That, having all things done,
And all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o'ercome through Christ alone,
And stand complete at last.
Footnote: What is the Lord saying to you at this time?