Thursday, 9 April 2009

Brokenness: Study four part 1. Pathway to being an instrument

“What a wonderful God we have-- he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we undergo sufferings for Christ, the more he will shower us with his comfort and encouragement. We are in deep trouble for bringing you God's comfort and salvation. But in our trouble God has comforted us-- and this, too, to help you: to show you from our personal experience how God will tenderly comfort you when you undergo these same sufferings. He will give you the strength to endure.” 2 Cor 1:3-7 (TLB)

In his book, THE GOD CATCHERS, Tommy Tenney rightly commented that

“everybody runs away from pain by all means but there is no man that God used to bring healing to the brokenness and pain of man and woman in this fallen world who did not go through one pain or the other; starting from the Lord Jesus Christ to all the apostles, great hymn writers etc”.

You cannot meaningfully be useful in an area where God has not touched you. Sometimes, God allows us to go through painful experiences in our zeal to serve Him, not because of our sins nor because He hates us, but because He wants to use us to reach out to the broken people of this broken world. God does not have any other option than to “smite” His trusted servants whom He knows cannot fail Him and comfort them so that they can comfort others with that same comfort. He did it to His Son and still does it today.

“10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Isa 53:10-11 (KJV)

For us to partake in God’s salvation, He had to bruise His Son, Jesus, and put him to grief so that he bears our sins. He took our place and became the scapegoat for our sins. Those who follow the Lord Jesus cannot suffer so as to bear their sin nor the sin of other people. Jesus has done that for us once for all. However, there is what Paul called, the “fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil.3:10). He equally said that “the sufferings of Christ abound in us” 2Cor.1: 5. It has pleased Him to involve us in this business and fellowship. Oftentimes the path to moulding us into instruments He can use is the path of brokenness.

Brokenness: Study three . The Pruning of the Vine branches

“1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” John 15:1-2 (NIV)

More often than not, God’s children go through some painful experiences not because of any evil they have done but because of their faithfulness and the need to increase in fruitfulness. Hence, God sets out to trim their growing ambitions, passions, desires, lusts and emotions so that they will bear more fruits and stand the test of time. He loves His redeemed ones and wants them to radiate more of his glory and power and look more like His Son.

Participants in this pruning exercise

God: God the Father is the Husbandman, Vinedresser or the Gardener. The garden belongs to Him. He planted the garden with a purpose and tends it. Every branch that bears no fruit, He cuts away and they die. They cannot be in the garden and remain unfruitful. The outcome or type of fruit of every branch depends on what He wants and not what the branch wants.

Jesus: He is the Vine which gives birth to the branches. No one can actually be in God’s garden in the first place except he is in Jesus. He is the Vine. Without the Vine, the branch is useless; hence without Him we can do nothing. Abiding in the Vine is the only guarantee the branch has in order to be alive and fruitful.

The Disciples: We are the branches of the Vine and our living depends on Jesus. There are two kinds of branches – the ones that bear fruits and the ones that do not bear fruit. The latter is cut off by the Gardener from the Vine while the former is subjected to purging or pruning.

Now, why is that? The branch is already fruitful, why the cutting and shaping? It may surprise you to know that these are some of the questions we ask as God does His work, especially, when He does it in such a way that we do not like or understand, though it pleases him. During pruning, the unnecessary parts are removed. The growth and shape are controlled so that the purpose of the gardener is achieved. Each time I pass a flower garden that has just been pruned, I see some of the flowers bringing out fluids, some of their parts will die and some parts of the remaining leaves are cut off also. It reminds me of how some of us cry and shed tears when God cuts off some familiar things from us which might be so dear to us. Like the flower at the period of the pruning, which may lose its beauty, we see gloom everywhere around us. But come to that same garden some days later, you will see a wonderful and beautiful shape with beautiful flowers. That is exactly what the gardener wanted.

God prunes His children so that they can be more useful to Him. It is the viable branch that abides in the Vine that receives this pruning and not the one that has refused to abide. God often uses His “sharp knives” on His faithful, fruitful children and not on the unproductive ones.

“2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…. 5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:2-5 (NIV)

Now always remember that the reason for God’s pruning is not to destroy the branch. It is because the Gardener wants to improve our fruitfulness. Have you heard some people ask, “Why me? I pay my tithes, I pray and I’m faithful. Then why are these happening to me?” God may be working out something bigger than your mind can imagine. It is possible that even if God begins to explain to, you can never understand what He will say. Always know that God has no bad intentions towards you.

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer 29:11 (NIV)

He loves you and has shown it absolutely on the cross when His Son died for you. The Gardener has no bad intentions and his wish matters most towards the garden.

Finally, The Vine carries and supports the branches. That means that it bears the pains and the agonies with the branches in whatever pruning process the Husbandman uses. You are not alone. The Lord Jesus has promised that He will never leave us alone. He knows every thing happening where we are and has assured us that he will be with us till the end of the age. The hairs of your head are numbered and none falls on the ground without His notice.

“29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” Matt 10:29-31 (KJV)

Our lives have a happy end and everything works together for our good. That is why one of the names of Jesus is Emmanuel, which means “God with us”. We cannot be separated from Him like the branch cannot be separated from the Vine.

God does not leave us to grow on our own. From time to time, He comes to trim off our excesses so that we remain in shape. The beauty we admire in people takes pains and patience to keep e.g.: shaving, going to the saloon etc. if we are to remain useful and relevant, God must needs now and again come to our lives to touch us - cut away any abnormal growth and put us back to shape again. Is God doing something already in your life? How are you responding to Him?

“My God my Father while I stray,
Far from my home on life’s rough way,
O teach me from my heart to say,
“Thy will be done””
(AM 357)

Brokenness: Study two part 2. Weaning of a baby

Later, you will be able to download the study format for this topic.

Weaning is a process to accustom an infant to food other than its mother's milk. This disengage oftentimes is by enforced discontinuance. There are a few babies that take weaning lightly. In most cases, they cry and refuse to eat any other food. They want to continue taking the familiar milk. However, no matter how the child likes milk; no matter how the mother loves the child and does not want to see the child’s tears, she must wean the child. This is for the good of the child. If the child continues to take milk when he is supposed to be chewing bone, it becomes unhealthy.

See an example of a baby who is supposed to be chewing meat but unfortunately, refuses to grow.

“1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”
1 Cor 3:1-3 (KJV)

Paul, who planted the Corinthian Church, desired it to grow unto maturity and so did God. But they wanted to continue serving God in the flesh. The same word translated ‘carnal’ in King James Version can also be rendered, ‘fleshly and worldly which refers to the lower side of man as apart from God’s touch or influence and estranged from God and prone to sin’ (from International Standard Bible Encylopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (C) 1996 by Biblesoft. Emphasis added).

These are believers who are trapped in this kind of fleshly living. Paul in addressing this matter did not pamper the Corinthians. In fact one of the brethren was suspended from the fellowship for a season. (See 1 Cor.5:11-13). Direct rebukes were given over specific issues. There is no other option, they have to learn and grow.
When God decides to wean His child, it can take varied dimensions. He can challenge us to stop our way of life which is not pleasing to Him like He did to the Corinthians. He can also remove us from our familiar ground or remove our familiar experiences from us with the intention that we will seek Him more fervently and more intimately. In the course, we begin to learn Him again and get to know more about Him that we had not known before. Oftentimes, we stay too long at a place of a miracle to the extent that we begin to roam round a circle. We begin to build ‘ministries’, doctrines, and tabernacles around a place of encounter with God. We stay there and refuse to move forward even when God has moved on. We become self-conceited and develop thick skin against change. Before long, you begin to see all the fleshly attitudes exhibited in the Corinthian church in our midst. Pride, familiarity that breeds contempt prevails. ‘Ministries’ can still be clothed with some spiritual garbs but the truth is that God is no more there. God wants us to move on and do something different, we tell Him that “we have ‘arrived’ here and have no intention to leave this familiar place”.

When we are in this kind of state, oftentimes, God can take some serious steps to move us forward. It happens also to people that got born again newly. They can testify that any time they cry during prayers, God answered hastily. Anytime they fast, it works like magic because God will just answer everything they requested for from Him. There are some that have a place that they have sanctified as a ‘holy place’, out of their love for fellowship with God and desire to pray and see Him do things only He can do. None of the prayer points taken to the ‘holy place’ comes back without an answer. Sometimes it is the way God used to speak to them. They do like Gideon; God responds and gives them direction. Everything is like ‘plug and play’. Their faith is boosted and they grow in the Lord.

However, after two, three years or so, things change. None of those ‘things’ works again and the child of God is confused. He has a problem and he tries all those ‘methods’ he is familiar with and none of them works. He fasts like before but the problem refuses to go away. He tries the ‘ways’ he used to get ‘words from God’ and they do not work any more. He goes to the ‘holy place’, but the familiar feelings he used to get are all gone and it’s like nothing has happened. He searches himself and cannot find an apparent sin I his life. He tries to confess even some sins he did not commit and none of those things work. Now, does it mean that God has abandoned His child? Not at all! Does it mean that the kingdom of darkness is having ‘upper hand’? Never!

God is growing His child to become a man, a grown servant He can trust and use for His purposes. He teaches His child that waiting unto Him is part of worship. He teaches him that He delights in a continual fellowship which can take place any where other than the ‘holy place’. He is the God that is everywhere and you can call on Him in your inner room, he will hear. You can call on Him standing up or kneeling down, He hears. Anywhere you call upon Him, He will answer, and not because of the feelings you develop each time you go to the ‘holy place’, but because you trust Him, even when you do not see any sign. He teaches you that it is not the ‘method’ that works but He. He will want you to get attached to Him instead of to the works He does around you. The primary reason why God saved you is for fellowship. Every service you render to him is still within the fellowship. Look at the reason He chose the apostles:

“14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, 15 And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:” Mark 3:14-15 (KJV)

He called the twelve to be His regular companions and as they relate to Him, He sends then out to preach and teach. Any time somebody loses the fellowship which is the primary calling, the second part of the calling becomes of no kingdom value.

God can decide to wean His child and accustom him to things he was not familiar with because He wants him to grow and be a mature son who can handle issues of inheritance.

We have a lot of people in God’s service today who do not reflect their Master in character because we have rebelled against training. We refuse to entrust our lives into the hands of the Master Goldsmith so that we can be refined. Like soldiers that gave up in training and ran away, some of us have abandoned God’s dealings and ran away doing our ministry our own way. Like begets like and no wonder on the last day, the works will not survive (See 1Cor.3: 12-14). Whatever is not tested here is likely not to withstand God’s test on the last day. Decide from today to move forward in your Christian experience no matter what it may cost you.

Brokenness: Study two part 1. Purifying of silver and gold

“2 Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning. 3 Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! 4 I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. 5 I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me. 6 Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me. 7 There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge. 8 Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: 9 On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: 10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:2-10 (KJV)

Job was a man that really passed through more things than what some of us are going through today. Have you been in situations where you felt like Job? He looked to the right hand and left hand; he could not locate God in what he was going through. Even in places where he had seen and experienced God before, he looked and felt God had left him behind and moved on. Not only had God moved on without him, he felt that even when he seems like coming close to locating God so as to talk with Him, He hides Himself making things more difficult for him. One of the most excruciating experiences we go through is not oftentimes our difficult circumstances but the pains we go through when God seems so far away in the midst of our troubles. You try to do the things you are familiar with, the things He used to respond to anytime you do them, and He does not respond to you. You are not alone. Job called it a time of trial, test and God’s examination (TLB). He said that when God is finished, “I shall come forth as gold”.

Brokenness is an experience that ordinarily is not sweet to the person involved, but it is aimed at making him look better in a way that pleases God. God uses all our experiences, both the ugly, hurtful and ‘good’ experiences, to make us shine better in this dark world. The whole idea of the gold smith putting gold, though precious, into the furnace is to improve its quality and not to destroy it; to remove the dross so that He can use it for vessel.

“Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.” Prov 25:4 (KJV)

The trial of our faith is more precious than gold which perishes and God, being the Master Gold Smith, oftentimes subjects or allows His child go through a “purifying” experience to improve his character, develop spiritual inner strength, expose and purify his heart, and cause the image of His Son to be seen more clearly in them

“7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 1 Pet 1:7-9 (KJV)

Every dealing of God, though painful it may be, is to help us grow and better represent Him in this world as His sons He can trust. The more our character is refined, the more men see Jesus through us. The more we are transparent. It is not always a forever experience; it comes at a time God may want to prove us.
We live in a world that does not like pain and we avoid it any how we can. That is the way we are. However, sometimes, there is no other way to work out God’s purpose in us other than through pain. There is no other way to refine gold if you must get the best out of it. Gold is not glorified together with the dross. The dross must be removed and the process is through fire.
Nobody displays the gold with its dross in the show room. The ore must be taken to the gold smith who puts it in the furnace. As it stays in the furnace, all the dross will be melting away as the temperature rises. The longer it stays in the furnace, the higher the quality of your final product. I heard a story where a gold smith was asked when he knows that the gold is due to be brought out of the fire and he answered, “When I begin to see my image on the gold, then I know it is time to bring it out”.

Our heart can easily drift from God and get attached to a lot of things we are familiar with. It can easily be tied down by the world. The same way the silver smith uses the crucible to test silver, the gold smith uses the furnace to refine gold, God uses our experiences to refine us.

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.” Prov 17:3 (NIV)

In kingdom terms, woods, hay and stubble are useless materials. God does not have anything to do with them. They cannot meet God’s standard and cannot be used for any thing of eternal value. It may have surprise you that the materials God purifies are the gold ones.

“2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: 3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. 4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. Mal 3:2-4 (KJV)

This speaks of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and what will happen in His days. God will raise vessels that will offer acceptable sacrifices to Him in righteousness. The sons of Levi will be purged as gold is purified. Now, why will it not involve all of the sons of Israel? This is because, not all will be able to withstand the purifying experience. Only the Levites will stand and the reason is because God wants to use them.

One of the problems we have today is the issue of worldliness. Believers are in competition with the world; hence they compromise in all kinds of things so as to meet up. We lose our identity and distinctiveness before there is no apparent dividing line. Most preachers no longer challenge us to live holy lives. They challenge us to go and get money and bring into the church without caring how and where we get the money from. They tell us that we are not supposed to suffer at all. We are to continually be on top of others, dominate and rule over them. This makes us not to be ready for God to use us for His purposes. Our eyes no longer go to service opportunities but to thrones to occupy. God does not use already made instruments. He makes His instruments and uses them. This process of re-orienting and preparing us is not all the time a smooth one. I oftentimes takes the form of purify like gold is purified in fire.