THE BREEZE, BALMY CHRISTIAN LIFE
I have often thought how easy it would be to make the message of God’s Word to Christians appealing to the natural man. There’s just one thing you’d have to do to have a breezy, balmy Christian experience: keep yourself away from the “forward edge.” Don’t get too involved in witnessing to people; don’t get overly involved in church life or in building close working relationships with coworkers in the gospel, and don’t step out in faith and put yourself at risk.
Doesn’t all this sound familiar? Solomon, at one cynical point in his life, reached a very similar conclusion. “Do not be excessively righteous,” he said in Ecclesiastes 7:16, “and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?”
Obviously, Solomon was speaking from a purely humanistic point of view. Though he had fallen away from God, he was able to maintain what he felt was a sound reasoning process. He was simply being pragmatic. Be righteous, he said, but don’t get carried away. Don’t be so righteous that you get yourself persecuted or put yourself at odds with too many people. It’s not worth the trouble. That was his version of how to live a breezy, balmy life. Keep away from the forward edge.
However, the Lord has something pretty strong to say about this position. He calls it lukewarm. He prefers to have us either hot or cold; then He can work with us. If we’re hot in our pursuit of Him, He can guide and direct us to the fulfillment of His purposes. If we’re cold and hard, He may be able to break us. But in the lukewarm state, there’s little He can do with us — except to spew us out.
“I know your deeds,” the Lord spoke to the Laodicean church, “that you are neither hot nor cold; I would that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm … I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15,16). These are strong words. Clearly the Lord dislikes Lukewarmness in His people.
Why would a Christian allow himself to become lukewarm if it is so utterly displeasing to God? One reason is that in a lukewarm condition we are at least untroubled by many of the hardships that come upon those who are intent upon following after God. I know, because I was there. In fact, in terms of personal tranquillity — in the external sense, anyway — the “best” time of my life came during a period of Lukewarmness. I was completely out of the ministry. I was determined not to get involved in any activities of the local church I was attending. I would merely go there, hear a Sunday morning sermon, go home and have a nice meal, and go to bed. I would get up, go to work, make money, put cash in the bank — and that was my existence for over a year. It was wonderful. No problems, no troubles, no trials or hassles. Compared to the struggles I’d had earlier, I thought, “This is living! This is what it means to be happy!” But along with no trials, troubles, or problems, there was no fruit. My life was spiritually barren.
What a contrast that fruitless, barren, and the seemingly tranquil condition is in the face of a sometimes continual onslaught of difficulties that comes upon the ardent follower of God.
When you have a heart for God, when you see that He has a unique design and purpose for your life, when you know deep in your inner man that God has called you to be His servant, when you know you are called to ministry — and I mean the general calling on all Christians, not just the traditional ministerial role — then difficulties are certain. But there’s a reason for it.
As soon as you set your heart to pursue God’s calling on your life, the breezy, balmy weather goes away. Suddenly storms rise up. Now there are plenty of restful, peaceful times in the Lord. Life in God is not a ceaseless trial. There are times of battle as well as times of rest, times of struggle as well as times of joyous victory and triumph.
These seasons come and go just as surely as the seasons of weather come and go. But if we are committed to the idea that all of life is meant to be balmy and breezy, then we’ll be turned away from pursuing the ministry and destiny God has for each of us. We will seek out experiences and circumstances that are designed to make us happy. We’ll avoid taking on any more responsibility in the church than we absolutely need to, and like water flowing downhill, we’ll seek the path of least resistance.
As an equipping minister in the body of Christ, deep in my spirit, there is a belief about every Christian. This belief was put there by the Spirit of God and is one that every equipping minister needs. That belief is simply this: every Christian is called by God to serve Him in a unique capacity and to fulfill a special destiny. Believing this, when I see someone going through testings and trials, when I see people fighting to get back to the breezy, balmy life, I am careful how I counsel them. My aim is not to simply get them calm and happy again — though I certainly desire to see that. Rather, my aim is to get them to see the purpose of God for their lives.
Because I see every Christian as a potential history-changer because I see a Daniel or a Joseph or a Ruth or an Esther in every saint, I also want them to see that God Himself is at work shaping, training, and preparing them. Of course, not every problem a Christian faces is the direct result of God shaping them into a Joseph or an Esther. Many of our problems are a result of our own errors and sins. But every difficulty, no matter what the cause, is designed by God to work something important into us. Our aim, then, is not to simply get out of trouble or to just get back to being happy and calm. If that were the case, our goal would be to get away from the risky forward edge of life, to stay away from pursuing any kind of calling or ministry.
But when we know that God uniquely created us, especially and individually in our mothers’ womb, we find an unshakable, undeniable sense of destiny and calling. We aren’t always clear about it, we don’t always understand it, but we always come back to it. In our quiet moments, when we’re honest with ourselves, we know God has called us to do a special work in this world. Knowing this, we can face all the troubles and trials that seem to come with the pursuit of God. We can face them with the deep belief that they are working together for good — for the good of God’s purpose in our lives.
“Therefore we do not lose heart,” Paul said to the Corinthians, “but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary light, affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:16,17). He calls it “light affliction.” Think about it — light affliction. Paul was persecuted, beaten severely by his countrymen five times, shipwrecked three times, chased out of cities, forsaken by coworkers — and yet he says “light affliction.” How could he say that?
Look at your own troubles. Have you ever been beaten with thirty-nine lashes? Have you ever spent a day and a night floating around in a shipwrecked boat? Have you ever been chased out of a city for preaching the gospel? I haven’t. And yet sometimes we say about our problems, “These are heavy afflictions. I want the balmy, breezy life.”
My aim here is to help you see the special calling that is in your life. But I dwell so much on the subject of trials and testings because I have seen all too many Christians begin to recognize the call of God on their lives only to fall aside the moment the perfecting, maturing work of God began.
I would like to share from my years of experience in ministry and from observing many people’s lives — both those who turned aside from God’s call and those who persevered to the point of bearing fruit — some important lessons. These lessons can guide you to the fulfillment of all that God wants for you.
Nurture your God-given dream. Too many Christians today no longer have any dreams in their hearts. They have been so beaten down by the cynicism of the world that all the dreams God once stirred in them are gone.
I’ve often warned people that if they don’t take a strong stand within themselves, by the time they’re forty, cynicism will take hold of them. They will begin to say, “I’ve seen it all… I’ve heard it all before… This really isn’t going to come to pass… I’m never going to…” They become very negative about any kind of fruitful spiritual life.
I can’t tell you of the numbers of people I have known over the years, both men and women, who once held God’s dreams and visions in their hearts, but have since turned away. Many are still leading good, clean Christian lives. But their sights have fallen. They are no longer reaching for God-given goals. Their goal has settled down to one thing: the breezy, balmy Christian life. And in many cases, they are full of cynicism.
If you do not, from the time you are young in the Lord, build the kind of relationship with God where He speaks to you and you speak to Him and He reveals His heart to you, by the time you are thirty-five or forty, cynicism will take hold.
How do you nurture your God-given dreams? First, by nurturing your relationship with God. As you talk with Him, as a son to a father, about every difficulty, challenge and obstacle you face, your relationship with the Lord will deepen. A friendship will emerge. You’ll begin to listen to Him and receive His counsel. You’ll be able to hear His wisdom and receive His guidance for every problem and need you face. In fact, it is through a growing relationship with Him that you will be able to keep your dream or vision alive. Spending time with Him every day, praying and listening, you will learn what He wants you to do, what goals He is setting for you. And you’ll see Him walk with you every step of the way and guide you to the fulfillment of the dreams He personally has put in your heart. Remember, though, you cannot nurture this relationship without spending time with Him — DAILY!!
Pray in the will of God. Too often our prayers go unanswered, and subsequently, our prayer life dries up, simply because our prayers are not aligned with the will of God. Many of my prayers in the past were not answered at all. That’s because I did not pray in the will of God. And maybe that’s because I did not understand the will of God. I would say in my prayers, “Lord, I have this ambition… Lord, I have this desire… Lord, I want this done… do this for me…” But the prayers weren’t answered. Today, that’s all different. Now I see so many fulfilled prayers. The difference is that I have learned how to pray in the will of God.
“And this is the confidence we have before Him,” the apostle John wrote. Yes, we are to have confidence. We are meant to have certainty about the direction of our lives. How does this confidence come? By praying in the will of God, by daily asking for His will to be done in our lives. John tells us specifically where this confidence originates: “…if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked of Him” (I Jn. 5:14,15).
To put it another way, God is moving down a certain path. My aim is to be moving with Him. In all my decision-making I have to make sure I know where He is going. “Jim Durkin,” He has said to me in so many words, “will you listen to Me? I want you to see that I am moving purposefully through history. My determination as I move through history is to see My Son exalted in this church age. I want this earth filled with His name. I want His story, His person, His majesty, and His glory proclaimed. I want every creature to hear it. And son, I want you to cooperate with Me and be a part of this purpose.”
It has never failed that when I understand where God is going, what He wants, and what is in His heart for this world, my prayers are answered. And my joy is full.
Get your time frame aligned with God’s. So many people start out with such tremendous enthusiasm over God’s plan or vision for their lives. But because they do not see God’s time frame, they grow discouraged.
When you read the book of Genesis and let’s say it takes you one month to read it, do you realize that what took you a month to read took a thousand years to actually happen? Consider Abraham’s time frame. “Abraham,” God said, “I’m going to give you a son.” It was twenty-five years later that the son was born. To David, He said, “I am going to make you king of Israel.” Eighteen years later David became king. “Joseph,” the Lord said, “your brothers will bow down before you.” It was thirty years before he was to see that come to pass.
So here we are on this earth for sixty, seventy, eighty years, and two months or two years after we set ourselves upon the vision or ministry God has shown us, we are ready to give up. “O Lord,” we cry, “nothing is happening.” But when you step into God’s heart and see from His perspective, your time frame changes. You become patient with His purposes and confident that He who called you will bring it to pass. This was Paul’s confidence, which kept him moving steadily onward. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. There is a fundamental principle of success in God’s kingdom. If you want your own dreams fulfilled, your ministry to flourish, your life to be blessed, you must follow this principle. Actually, it’s more than a principle, it’s a Person. That Person is the Holy Spirit. And the principle is simply this: you have to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
No one can bring your life to success and fruition. No human agency — not the government, not the church, not its ministers, not your parents or your friends, can make your life a success. In fact, even with your best efforts, your hardest work and the highest application of all your mental and physical powers, you cannot make your life truly successful. Abundant fruit and success will come only as you become so submitted to God that you are led by the Holy Spirit in all you do. You may not follow His leading perfectly, but if your heart is set to follow Him, you will always return to listening to His voice.
The voice of the Holy Spirit is the most important voice we can ever hear and know. That’s because He wants to speak to us personally. He lives inside of us and He wants to influence everything we do. He wants to guide us, surround us, go before us, open God’s Word to us, teach, comfort, and convict us. If we are to pursue and ultimately fulfill God’s call on our lives, it will be possible only by the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, I want to stress one word: SERVE!! If God has any calling on your life, and I believe He does, it will begin and end with serving. Jesus set the greatest example in that He took upon Himself the form of a servant- Too often our eyes are caught with glitter and glamour. If there is glitter in our eyes it should be the glitter of an eternal reward. And the way to guarantee that you reap an abundant reward, both in this life and in the life to come, is through serving.
Every great man or woman of God in history became that way by first becoming a servant. Greatness, Paul said, comes by becoming like Jesus, “who although He existed in the form of God… emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bondservant…” (Phil. 2:6,7). For this reason, God highly exalted Him. Too many Christians want greatness without becoming a servant. And when they find that the way to greatness is through service, they turn aside and want nothing at all.
In God’s kingdom, greatness is measured by the size of the servant’s heart found in us.
If you know what your ministry or calling is — and it may not always be clear, or there will be times when it changes — you can always be confident that it begins and ends with serving. If you aren’t exactly clear what God is doing at some particular point in your life, then you can simply serve, wherever and whenever possible. In so doing, you will, in God’s time, be lifted up.
Brethren, as a father in the Lord, a minister of many years, a brother and friend in Christ, with all my heart 1 believe that God has called you to a special work in this generation. His hand is upon you. He is directing your life. The trials, testings and difficulties you face — even those painful times that are so hard to understand — are all designed by Him to prepare you for greater service and fruitfulness.
Trust God. lie confident that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
He who was the greatest servant of all will make you a faithful servant to Him, that you might bear abundant fruit. And your fruit shall remain.
It would be better to have not received an inspiring message than to have received one and not acted upon it. Use the following Action Response suggestions to help you take action appropriate to the message you have just read.
ACTION RESPONSE: A PRAYER
If God spoke to your heart as you read this message, take a step to affirm His Word and make a commitment to new action in your life. If you agree with the following prayer, you may want to add some words of your own and then sign it as an expression of faith. Pray this prayer daily until you begin to see new changes in your life.
“Father, You have personally called me out of darkness and into Your marvelous light. You have called me to serve You in this life and to bear much fruit. You have given me a heart to follow You, to live at life’s forward edge. I choose Your will and say, ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done.’
Thank You for the dreams You have put in my heart, and the gifts and abilities You have uniquely given me so that I can carry out Your will for my life. Through daily prayer and fellowship with You, I will nurture the dreams You have given me. I will allow You to use every circumstance in my life to perfect and mature me.
Holy Spirit I invite You to train me to hear Your voice and follow Your leading. I know You are with me each day to help me do God’s will.
Jesus, You are the greatest servant of all. I want to be like You. Live through me, that I might serve as You served.”
ACTION RESPONSES FROM GOD’S WORD
Lukewarmness is spiritual apathy, which comes from a loss of vision. Without God-given hope, which gives us the motivation to reach for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, we will cast off restraint and begin to drift without purpose. Or we will pursue lesser purposes than God’s purpose for our lives. Inevitably, apathy about God’s purposes will set in. Avoid lukewarmness by daily asking God to keep your vision clear and your sights set high. Rev. 3:15 — Pr. 29:18 — Phil. 3:13,14
Practice Listening to the Holy Spirit
As we learn to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, He guides us in some important ways. First, He shows us God’s vision and plan for our lives. He also helps us identify our God-given gifts and abilities. He shows us how to develop these gifts as we carry out God’s will. And He teaches us how to be prosperous and successful in all we do. But we must learn to hear His voice. This means making it our most important goal to know the Holy Spirit. And this means spending time daily in fellowship with Him. Jn. 14:26; 16:13 — Rom. 5:14 — 1 Jn. 2:27
Whether or not we clearly know what God’s plan is for us at this moment, we can trust that as we seek Him it will become evident. However, we do not have to wait to begin serving Him. In fact, His will often does not become clear until we begin serving, especially since His will for our lives always involves serving. As we serve, our specific place of service in God’s kingdom will become clear. Phil. 2:3-11 — Matt. 10:39; 20:25-28