“The grace you’ve been given is not just the grace of forgiveness and acceptance; it’s also the grace of empowerment. So get up and follow…. So here’s how this works. God has promised to supply and empower; your joy is to follow him by faith where you live every day. You don’t wait for the provision before you move. God has not promised that you will see it beforehand. You don’t try to figure out what God is going to do next and how he will meet your needs; you move forward in the certainty that he is with you, for you, and in you”
“And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee…”
Wisdom of the Ages
“Those who know your name will trust in You, for You, have never forsaken those who seek you”
“Persistent prayer in the earnest, inward movement of the heart toward God. Isaiah lamented that no one stirred himself to take hold of God. There was much praying in Isaiah’s time, but it was indifferent and self-righteous.
There were no mighty moves of souls toward God. There was no array of sanctified energies bent on reaching God. There was no energy to draw the treasures of His grace from Him.
Forceless prayers have no power to overcome difficulties, get results, or gain complete victories. We must win God before we can win our plea.”
“And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities”
For months, I have inwardly debated writing something about the times we are living in and have— until now— come out on the side of keeping my thoughts to myself. But I just read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s commencement address to Harvard in 1978, and the prescience and relevance to our own era are too uncanny not to comment on. He could give the same speech today, and we would have no idea it was written over thirty years ago.
Solzhenitsyn wrote The Gulag Archipelagofrom his experience in the prison camps under Communist Russia. It is a scathing critique of Communism, and Solzhenitsyn pulls no punches. Even in his speech at Harvard, he states unequivocally,
“I hope that no one present will suspect me of expressing my partial criticism of the Western system in order to suggest socialism as an alternative. No; with the experience of a country where socialism has…
“One person can’t change the whole world. But one person can change the whole world of another person.”
I decided to pull into the wholesale gas station. Might as well, even though I only needed half a tank, I was already in town and gas was cheaper here. I leaned against the car and watched the numbers click away behind the Plexiglas. Filling up wouldn’t take long.
When the attendant saw me, he slowly made his way over, nodded and greeted me with a gentle, “Thanks for stopping in.” He wore a yellow vest and a baseball cap. The bill reached over his thin framed glasses. His face was covered with a light blue disposable mask and his hands with latex gloves. From what I could see of his face, I guessed him in his late fifties. I acknowledged him with a “How are you today?” not realizing, the ensuing conversation would leave me changed for a long time.
There are two types of how-are-you. If a person is in a hurry, the question can be asked once. It is a rhetorical question. The recipient knows not to intrude with an honest answer and says, “Fine.” Both parties move on knowing they did the polite thing.
But then there is a different how-are-you. If a person is sincerely interested in wanting to know, she immediately follows the first how-are-you with another question quite similar. Nobody ever gets an honest answer after asking just once.
I found myself asking, without thinking, one of those follow-up questions. “How are you doing with all of the changes these days?” He looked at me as he folded his hands together to straighten the loose fitting gloves.
“Now, they make us wear these even outside!” He pointed to his mask and pulled it over his nose.
“How is that going?” I asked.
He took a step closer to my car, still careful to mind his distance.
“I am ok with it. I am compromised and have to watch myself.” He said with a slight sadness in his voice.
“Oh. Are you sick?” I asked, trying not to dismiss nor intrude.
“Well. I … have cancer. I don’t think I would do well catching the virus,” he said
I checked the meter. I still had a way to go.
“Oh no. I am so sorry. Do you have a good support system? People who help you?” I asked.
“Well … No … I mean … this might be too much information … but … my wife died three weeks ago. I have family. But she was always there for me.”
I looked at his nametag. “Bob … I am so sorry. I can’t even imagine.” My words stuck in my throat. I didn’t know how to react.
“It would be her birthday in two days.” His voice cracked.
“I am so sorry. May I share something?” I said, and took a deep breath. “When I don’t know what to do or when I come across a difficult situation I can’t handle, I pray and ask Jesus for help.”
His eyes squinted just a little behind his glasses. I could tell he was smiling. “Oh yes. Without the Lord I wouldn’t be here.”
Now I smiled at him, too.
He continued, “I wasn’t going to come to work but I couldn’t handle it at home any more. I needed to get out.”
The moment overwhelmed me. Despite mask and gloves, despite Bob and I being strangers, despite a sense of turmoil and unimaginable grief, there was a deep sense of peace. It was a connection between humans. I felt it. It filled the moment. It happened regardless of the layers of polypropylene and a surgical mask. “Bob, I am so grateful you came to work. I am blessed I got to know you. I will pray for you.”
I could see his eyes smiling as he nodded. “Thank you.” With a loud snap the fuel nozzle stopped. I hung it in its place and got in the car. Tears flowed as I drove down the busy highway. The saying is true, “The shortest distance between two people is a story.” While Bob may have been there to help me fill up my car, he did much more. He allowed God to use him to show us both the power of a few minutes.
Paul’s pursuit was to “win” or “gain” the fullness of the majesty and wonder of Christ. He was “reaching” unto something beyond the perspectives of man’s concepts and teachings. He was stretching, reaching, pressing unto the fullness. There existed in him a passion for the “One Thing”. In light of this “prize” he could not and would not rest in his current knowing of Him. Oh, may we see afresh the vast horizons of glory reserved for those who feel the fire and call of God in Christ Jesus!
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” Luke 9:23