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23 June, 2013

The Ministry Of The Inner Life - Part 2

Not long ago, I was talking to an older Christian lady who has been a Christian for about fifty years. She then told me proudly about a prayer and a deal she made with God. When she finished her story, I did not say a word simply because I did not know what to say. My mind was vacillating between, her stupidity, her stubbornness, and her ignorance that is larger than life. I also felt pity for her and her obvious need to have Jesus come into her heart. Her prayer was exactly the way Oswald Chambers described it. Which means her prayer was pitiful, self-centered with lack of belief in the atonement of Christ and so on.  The prayer she was so proud of, I can sum it up for you in this way “God do this favour to me and I will do this for you” Yet, this was not the worst part. The worst part was when she told me what she wanted to do for God, it was so juvenile, like saying to God, give me a million dollars and I will say thank you to you. She was so proud that her prayer has been heard that I asked myself, where am I supposed to start with this person?

 We would be wrong to ignore what Oswald said in the first paragraph of June 20 devotional and jump into the second paragraph while thinking that it will all work out like by magic, if we learn to pray for our friends.  Here is what Oswald said in the first paragraph: “The fact that I am trying to be right with God is actually a sign that I am rebelling against the atonement by the Cross of Christ. I pray, “Lord, I will purify my heart if You will answer my prayer— I will walk rightly before You if You will help me.” But I cannot make myself right with God; I cannot make my life perfect. I can only be right with God if I accept the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ as an absolute gift. Am I humble enough to accept it? I have to surrender all my rights and demands, and cease from every self-effort. I must leave myself completely alone in His hands, and then I can begin to pour my life out in the priestly work of intercession.” Through these words, he is telling us to learn cultivate the inner life before we learn to intercede for others.

As you learn to cultivate the inner life, you have no need to make deals with God anymore because you know His role along with yours. Also, His atonement has magnified in your life in more ways than one. Oswald is also saying that apart from learning to cultivate an inner life you need to change your attitude toward God, you need to change your motive and your reason for doing good deeds and walking with Him.  

He is telling you to learn to humble yourself before Him by understanding first of all your need for Him and who He is, then accept and embrace your new found knowledge in Him and incorporate it all  in your life. Then, lay down your life at His feet. Actually, if you pay close attention to the chapter of the Bible that Oswald based his devotional for June 20, you will find that, Job 42:10 tells you “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” But, once again, it would be wrong to take verse 10 of Job 42 and run with it by claiming it for your life without putting into context what has happened in Job’s life.

I have to be honest here. When God moved in, to change my life by turning it upside down and inside out, as if it was not enough, He then shattered it into millions of pieces, I read Job and I was strengthened when I read partly  verse 42”10. I kept living with the hope that one day I will be like Job and God will be giving me much of what I have lost. As time went by, this idea or this presumptuous faith was a hindrance in my walk with Him and He had to deal with me because I was stuck. And because it was presumptuous faith, it caused me so much anxiety and I was messing up the waiting process He put me in, to work through me.

But, if you have ever gone through a wilderness time or dark nights with Him, you know for yourself, of all these emotions Job has gone through. One of them was his attitude toward his life and the fact that he felt he was dealt with unfairly. From a human point of view it is true. You also find, that  God broke the silence and finally answered Job’s many questions and it was not at all what Job was expecting but it was sufficient. From chapter 38 to chapter 42 the conversation is between God and Job where God did most of the talking and basically you can sum up God’s answer in few words, “who do you think you are Job?”

Then, you find the beauty in chapter 42. If you take a look at verses 5-6, you will see Job’s response to God “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” After this treacherous time in his life, before he prayed for his friends and before God restored his wealth and everything Job lost, he found out the ministry of the inner life and he could see God with his spiritual eyes. He experienced his creator in a way that he had never before, he found out being His bondservant is awesome, but when you pass from bondservant to friend, it is more awesome than your heart can take.

Look at the awesomeness of knowing God in the inner parts. Job asked for forgiveness and repented in verse 5-6, yet he was still suffering because of his health and with all the losses he incurred in his life. God had not restored things for him yet. But, when you meet with Him face to face, none of it matters. This moment he was experiencing with Him that led him to ask for forgiveness and to repent, meant the world to Job and it was more precious than silver and gold. Of course, God always takes the sweetness of those moments away from us because it would give us an edge and this life would be easy as we would be floating all the time.

Furthermore, during the time of hardship especially when we experience lost beyond measure, it is extremely important to understand that we cannot expect the outcome of our lives to be the same as Job. We can always expect to grow and to be more intimate with Him, but the rest is up to Him. As God dealt with me to help me get rid of my presumptuous faith, I found that I had to come to a point where I was satisfied with Him whether He restores my life back to what it was before or not. As time went by, I learned from the Holy Spirit that sometimes the wealth we received in terms of experiencing Him and the knowledge of Him we accumulate as we walk those dark nights, should be enough to make up for what we lost in terms of materials and health. 

One thing we learn as we learn the ministry of the inner life is that, prayer is a big part of this ministry. Prayer becomes sweet to our soul and you find out that you have lost that narrow mindedness where you concentrate on you all the time. Personally I find when I am praying for everybody else which is every day, it is like I have a constant need to ask daddy for a favour for one of my friends, a family member, someone you see on the street etc. Except, in this relationship, your earthly father could get tired of you coming day in day out but, the oneness in your heavenly relationship with the Father calls for you to keep asking and He simply enjoys that you take it onto you to keep coming with those requests. The ministry of the inner life is indeed a delightful one.