It was November 10, 2009 and my soul was defeated. I was struggling with my brother’s death five months earlier in a boating accident, continued strained relationships with my mother and father, and some unhealthy dynamics in the ministry I was serving in. Change was taking place, some purposeful and some quite by accident and it was hard to see what God was doing in the midst of it all. Morris Dirk shared his insights from Isaiah 43 and I began to have hope once again.
Not the Captor, but the Creator
14 The LORD your redeemer, the holy one of Israel, says, For your sake, I have sent an army to Babylon, and brought down all the bars, turning the Chaldeans’ singing into a lament. 15 I am the LORD, your holy one, Israel’s creator, your king! (Isaiah 43:14-15)
The change Isaiah prophesies is for Israel’s sake because of who God is. It may be true that Israel went into captivity because of their sin, but it is more true that God acts on their behalf because He is their Creator. The change has more to do with God and Israel than with the captors. The final word is always the Creator.
Spiritual warfare is part of the process of change. In order to see what God is up to we must learn to become Christ-fixated, not enemy-fixated. Paul mentions the enemy 20 times in Ephesians, but he mentions Christ 20 times in the first chapter! If we fixate on the enemy we will crash, like a fighter pilot who watches the enemy rather than the horizon. We must listen to the author of Hebrews,
1 So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, 2 and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1–2 CEB)
Not the Past, but the Future
16 The LORD says— who makes a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, 17 who brings out chariot and horse, army and battalion; they will lie down together and will not rise; they will be extinguished, extinguished like a wick. 18 Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history. 19 Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? (Isaiah 43:16-19a)
God tells Israel to forget the Exodus! Don’t get stuck in the past, no matter how glorious it was. Israel’s past story should have served as a reminder that a future story was coming – a story of salvation. We must not get caught up living only in the grand parts of the story; we must live in the now, this moment. We must allow a move of God to take place in each generation.
Not the Desert, but the Streams
I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness. 20 The beasts of the field, the jackals and ostriches, will honor me, because I have put water in the desert and streams in the wilderness to give water to my people, my chosen ones, 21 this people whom I formed for myself, who will recount my praise. (Isaiah 43:19a-21)
At the end of the Babylonian captivity God could have airlifted Israel back to Jerusalem, but he didn’t. Instead, God moved Israel through the desert. Idealists like destinations, not deserts and idealism leaves no room for suffering. Those who know Christ deeply have met Him in the desert. Life in the desert is possible if one can find a stream. God always provides a stream.
God’s Kingdom is Never Lost
In the end, if we are willing to focus on the Creator rather than the Captor then we will see what God is doing. If we are willing to look toward the future rather than live in the past then we will see what God is doing in this moment. If we are willing to move into the desert we will find our stream and come to know “the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19)
Three years ago, almost to the day, a new change was set in motion. After returning from my mother’s funeral I was confronted with the demand to release our ministry’s school to the school staff. They could no longer stand being part of the local church. Our visions were different and so the decision was made to divest the church of the school. This transition has been so incredibly exhausting, hurtful, and confusing. The danger is to miss what God is up to in the midst of the changes.
While we may not be able to understand everything we have no clearer glimpse of what God is doing than when we worship him and focus on him. The temptation is to talk about the enemy, but the cure is to hallow God’s name.
While we may not be able to understand everything we have no better opportunity to see God at work than we focus our attention on this moment and the possibilities opened up by the future. The school was, at one time, the church’s greatest ministry. That time passed away quite some time ago. The school became the school’s greatest endeavor. The time has come for the church to push out into the deep and cast its nets on the other side of the boat and see what god has in store.
While we may not be able to understand everything we have no other hope to see God at work than by seeking the streams in the desert. We confess our weaknesses. We embrace our brokenness. We prepare for warfare. We get ready to suffer in order that we might “the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19)