Saturday, February 17, 2018
It is the will of God that all of His children should live their lives being led by the Spirit, rather than by their senses and natural reason. The apostle Paul wrote:
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
Our senses and our rational mind will not lead us to the will of God. They stand as an obstacle to a true walk of faith, in most instances. It was in 1996 that we moved to the house in Fort Valley with the security system. We were still attending the Southern Baptist church where I first heard the message of grace, but the pastor who had been instrumental in teaching this message had recently left this church to pursue other ministry. This church went through a period of about two years when they had no pastor, although God had sent the man whom He desired to step into this role before Mac Goddard had even left.
Leon Nelson was a godly minister, passionate about God, and a man of faith. He also happened to be black. Mac Goddard had invited him to come preach to the body on several occasions before he left, and his messages were very challenging, for he proclaimed a message of a vital faith that would make a difference in the saints’ daily lives. Leon was asked to come and preach regularly at the Sunday evening services, and, after Mac Goddard departed from this church, the elders decided to continue the invitation for Leon to do so.
The elders began looking for a minister to replace Mac Goddard immediately, and Leon Nelson’s name was brought up for consideration. It was difficult not to consider him, for the timing of his appearance, and the departure of Mac Goddard, seemed more than coincidental. This church, however, was almost completely composed of white members, and in the state of Georgia many people are not indifferent to the color of another man’s skin. Although such things as race should make absolutely no difference in the consideration of a man’s suitability for ministry (there are NO Scriptures that list being a member of a particular race as a qualification for ministry), we would be very naive to believe that prejudices do not exist within the church.
At one time I was naive to such things. I do not ever remember my parents speaking a word of prejudice about a man’s skin color while I was growing up. I was raised in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, and I had almost no exposure to people who were colored. In my freshman year of high school I attended one of the largest schools in Oregon, which at one time had nearly 4,000 students. During my freshman year there were only four black students in the entire school. Race simply wasn’t an issue in the area in which we lived, or in our home, so when we moved the next year to Georgia I had no anticipation that others would feel differently.
I noticed almost immediately upon arriving in Georgia that there were some people who expressed deep racial prejudices. Yet, for a time I thought it was lost people, who were strangers to the love of Christ, who alone were prejudiced, and I did not expect to find this same bias in the church. During my senior year in High School we were attending the First Baptist Church in the Georgia town we lived in, and there was a traditionally black college in the town. The assistant pastor of this church was a young man, and perhaps he was a bit naive at the time as well. He began visiting with some foreign students at this college and asked them if they would like to attend Sunday School at the church. A couple of young black men from Nigeria declared that they would like to do so.
I went with this assistant pastor to pick up these students a couple of times, and then he asked me if I would do so by myself, saying that he had some other things he must do. I remember the first time I pulled into the church parking lot at this white Baptist church, and got out of my car with these two young men. Other church members stared at us, and some even pointed. I did not understand why they were doing so. During the church service I sat on a pew with these two men, and nobody else in the church would sit with us.
I did not realize that there was a reason for this the first time it happened. When it happened again the next Sunday understanding began to dawn upon me. The pew we were sitting in was right in the middle of the sanctuary, and the pews all around us were filled, but here we were sitting on one end of our pew, taking up perhaps one fifth of its space, and the other four fifths were vacant. Only then did the thought come to me that there were some in this church who did not like the fact that there were blacks present. My eyes were opened to the fact that professing Christians could be just as prejudiced as those outside the church.
What a shame this seemed to me, for I truly enjoyed fellowship with these young men I was bringing to church. They seemed to have a real sincere love for the Lord. I saw no basis for a child of God to be entertaining any thoughts of racial prejudice. It seemed to me to be absolutely absurd. One might just as well reject another man based upon their shoe size as their skin color.
That such prejudices exist in the church strikes me as one of the greatest failings in this hour of apostasy. It was many years later when I met Leon Nelson, and I was immediately challenged by this man’s zeal for the Lord, and in my spirit I felt a kinship. His Sunday evening messages were something I looked forward to greatly. I am convinced that God brought Leon to this church to step into the role vacated by Mac Goddard. Mac had taught the church a message of grace that led them from the bondage of Egypt into the wilderness, and Leon was God’s chosen servant to lead them through the wilderness and into the land of their inheritance.
Leon lived a life of faith, and faith is necessary to enter into one’s inheritance in Christ. Without faith the saints will perish in desert places. The church searched and searched for a replacement minister, and all the time God had placed him right under their noses. No one could be found to step into this role, and they would not ask Leon to do it. Leon was allowed to preach on Sunday nights, but it was as if there was some unwritten code that prevented him from being asked to preach during the morning service.
To be sure, Leon’s race was not the only thing that kept him from being considered for the role of pastor for this body. His message of faith, and his sober words calling the saints to walk with integrity before God, hearing from the Spirit and doing exactly what the Spirit commanded, were intimidating to many in the congregation. There were many among this body who simply recoiled at the thought of following God wherever He would lead them. Like the Israelites who were daunted by the giants in the land, by the walled cities and the many strongholds, so too did many in this body shrink back from the command to go in and take possession of the land.
I Corinthians 10:1-6
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us...
But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
For the space of two years the leaders of this church looked for a replacement minister without any success, and for this same two years they would not recognize the minister God had brought to them. God is patient with us, and bears long with us, but when we are determined to have our way instead of His, eventually He will relent.
They did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. He gave them their desire, but sent leanness into their soul.
This body of believers wanted a minister who was more like them. Even as the Israelites rebelled against Moses, the man whom God had selected, and put forth Korah and Dathan and Abiram to lead them, this body of believers was eventually given a man to lead them who would not challenge them in the way Leon had, nor firmly admonish them for their failures.
After two years of searching, this body found a man to their liking. This man’s first name was Steve. The Lord allowed me to have a close relationship with this man, and, after he had been at this church for about a year, he asked me to accompany him on an overnight trip. We shared a room together and were able to express things that were on our hearts.
Steve had a wife and three children, and they were all living in small rented quarters. He shared with me that he had a desire to purchase a house in Fort Valley, which was closer to the church, but he had been holding off because he was unsure of his future, and the future of the church. His decision to remain in his small rented quarters was arrived at by examining things with his senses and making a rational decision that he felt was the safe course.
The Spirit strongly convicted me that Steve’s decision was carnal, and that if he did not have faith for God to do a work through this body of believers, that as a shepherd of the people he would be unable to lead them into the things God had for them. The Spirit showed me that the issue of the house that Steve desired, but would not purchase, was something God had brought before him in order to reveal the unbelief in his heart. If he could not trust God to work through this people, and this lack of trust was keeping him from purchasing the home he desired, then his unbelief would have a disastrous effect upon his ministry to the body. He would be halted between two opinions, never willing to place both feet in the water while looking to God to do the miraculous.
The Spirit led me to share with Steve concerning these things, and Steve began to feel the conviction of the Spirit. Not long afterwards he came to me and shared that the Spirit had convicted him in this matter, and that he had decided, as an act of faith in God’s desire and willingness to work through this people, to buy a house in the community. He was excited about this decision because it was a desire of his heart to have a home, and he felt keenly that the Spirit had indicated this to be His will.
The Spirit led him to a beautiful house in a nice neighborhood. The house was a dream home to him, far beyond what he had expected to find. I was myself amazed at the house and the yard, for it was very scenic with ancient oaks on the property, and in a quiet neighborhood. As he spoke to the realtor, the owners, and the bank, Steve found that he had just enough money to close on the house and take possession of it. However, God had a test for him before he was able to do so.
On the day before he was to meet with the bank and close on the house, the realtor called Steve and told him that a mistake had been made on the paperwork, and he would have to come up with several thousand more dollars than he had been told. Steve did not have the money, having already pledged all that he had available. He was brought to a crisis of faith. Would he be daunted by the obstacle that his senses were reporting to him, or would he believe the witness of the Spirit, that God had called him to purchase this house and would go before Him?
Steve was not accustomed to walking by faith, and his confidence in God’s love and character were weak. He shared with me that he drove out to the church that evening, which was out in the countryside, and he parked there and got out of his car and began to rail against God. He accused God of deceiving him, of bringing him to a place of having his hopes built up, only to dash them at the end. He shouted out many words of unbelief and shook his fist at the heavens. Steve shared with me that he was tempted to get in his car and drive away, leaving behind the church, his calling as a pastor, and his confession of God.
The next day Steve went to the closing at the appointed time, expecting to be given the news that he could not take possession of the house. However, God worked it out where the owners and realtor absorbed part of the extra cost, and Steve was able to sign the papers on the house and move in. God had already determined how He would work things out and fulfill His words to this pastor, yet he failed to trust God. As God does with His children, time after time, He brought Steve to a test to reveal what was in his heart.
When I heard the account of what had happened I was reminded of the Israelites at the Red Sea, and how they had brought a reproach against God by asking, “Did you bring us out here to kill us because there were not enough graves in Egypt?” Great was God’s displeasure over this pastor’s lack of faith in His character. The Spirit spoke to me and told me that He had rejected Steve as the one to lead His people into the plans He had for them, and it was not long afterwards that God removed him.
I felt much grief in my heart when I learned of Steve’s charges against God, and of his great failure of faith. Such things do not happen in a moment of time, but they are the fruit of a life that consistently fails to trust God in one matter after another. God will test all of His children in the wilderness that He might see what is in their hearts.
You shall remember all the way which Yahweh your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart...
I lost track of Steve for a number of years after he left this church, though I had heard that he had gotten a pastor’s position in another town and had eventually moved there. He has since left there also, and about a year ago I ran into him again. Steve stopped by our home one day, but not to visit, for he had no idea it was our house he was at. He had taken a job selling home security systems, and he knocked on our door to see if he could sell us one.
I found it ironic that a man who had been called as a minister of God would fall so far from a walk of faith that he was now making a living by convincing others that they could find security in the arm of the flesh. When he had been called to lead men and women to trust God in their daily lives, declaring to them that God was a present help in time of trouble, a refuge and a strong tower in time of need, he had now given up any pretense of leading others to manifest such a faith in God. He was going door to door with his message of trust in the security man offered.
Recently, God has shown me that my calling is the opposite of being a security salesman. He has called me to be a vulnerability salesman. I am to urge men and women to follow the Spirit into areas of great risk in the natural. I am to exhort them to cast all upon God, and to lean entirely upon Him in times of need. The call of a minister is to lead the saints to a walk of faith, where they trust in the words of an invisible God more than they trust in the report of their senses.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].
God has set a good and pleasant land before each of His children. He must take us through the wilderness to arrive there. He will test our hearts to see whether we will trust in Him. If He finds faith in our hearts, even as He did in the hearts of Caleb and Joshua, then He will certainly bring us into this good land. Even if the generation around us perishes, those who trust God will enter into the promises of God by faith.
God has told us in His Word what this land before us is. He is Himself our inheritance. His names describe the land before us. He is Yahweh Yireh, Yahweh our provider and source of provision. He is Yahweh Rophe, Yahweh our healer and fountain of health. He is Yahweh Shalom, Yahweh our peace. He is also salvation, and righteousness, and He invites all of His children to know Him in fulness. He invites us to enter into the land before us, but it can only be possessed by those who walk by faith, and who do not shrink back from the giants in the land.
Many saints have viewed this land from a distance, but have not yet begun to enter in. Many will not enter in because of unbelief. As the Psalmist stated:
Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe in His word, but grumbled in their tents; they did not listen to the voice of Yahweh. Therefore He swore to them that He would cast them down in the wilderness...
The church of which I spoke that would not accept God’s minister and leadership for them, but chose instead a man who would not lead them in the way of faith, is no longer in existence. In the space of a few short years it went from around one hundred and fifty in attendance to twenty. Ichabod (the glory has departed) was written by the Spirit over its doors, and its candlestick was removed. Before it closed God spoke to me and said, “Any who desire to go on with Me, by faith, into the land before them will be permitted to do so. I will not disqualify any person due to the unbelief of others.” In the following chapters you will read of our next steps as we were led forth of the Spirit to enter into the good land before us.
Chapter from Evidence of Things Unseen
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