Daniel, speaking of the antichrist, tells that he (the a.c.) will wear out the saints of the Most High (Daniel 7:25). The antichrist has not been revealed yet, but it sure seems that he has been hard at work behind the scenes to do just that. We get up every day and seek the Lord and we keep going, but we are tired and the road we are traveling gets harder. For those in a watchman ministry it can become quite heavy if we fail to balance it with prayer and plenty of time in the scripture rehearsing the good news, so we don’t lose sight of it.
When I lose perspective there is one sure way to begin adjusting the focus, and that is by enumerating all my blessings, and recalling all the times and all the ways God has delivered me through trials and difficulties before. And then with perspective restored, go back to the Word and take nourishment that not only strengthens me, but like physical nutrients, it builds up my immunity as well.
In God we have an endless supply of stamina, but generally we don’t tap into His endless reserves until we have exhausted our own. Learning to live “in the yoke” with Him is the only way to continue in His strength as a matter of course in the day-to-day. For most of us, there is a continuous flux. We get in the yoke, and stay there until we feel rested and then we think, “Ok, I can take it from here now”. We go in our own strength again for a while until depleted, and continue the cycle. That is just like a child, and God understands it but His will is that we remain in the yoke at all times. A sign of maturity is that leaving the yoke happens less and less, and when we do step out, we don’t stay out there long.
I think that by design, some of us are more prone to consistency than others. Some of us are up against rhythms and patterns that work against us. I have conditions in my body that undermine the intent to be consistent. For many years I berated myself for this. It isn’t acceptable to give into them entirely, but now I have learned to work with (rather than against) the flow of those rhythms and be a little more compassionate with myself. I still push when it is called for. But for the most part I necessarily live in such a way that I must “keep back” in reserve, some measure of energy by making minimal commitments, and avoiding stress as much as I can. I am certain there are those around me who do not understand this, and come to their own conclusions about it, and I accept that whether it is fair or not, because it simply is the way it is.
It’s not a matter of feelings or preference, but a matter of being the best steward of your resources that you can be.
I realize the scripture in Daniel is referring to actions the antichrist will take during the tribulation, but it is clear to me that the spirit of the antichrist has already been at work in this world for some time. I frankly am, a worn-out saint. I have battled with sickness in my body for 2 decades and am weary beyond words. Even Christians are shocked when I express my deep, deep yearning to be free from this world and this body, when I am not even 50 yet. In a world where fitness and youth are pursued like the brass ring, many likely conclude that I just gave up at some point and ought to “get back in the game”. Back in “the game” is the last thing I want.
I am wearied by the futility of worldly expectations, the illusory gains dangled before us, and the capacity of the human race to willfully ignore and deny and remain blind to an obvious mirage. Even the professing church continues to fail in acknowledging her own role in the current conditions of the world. I look back and I know that I was guilty of that in the past, and it grieves me and I have repented in tears of sorrow. Sin is what wears out the saints. Our own past sin, the sin of those around us, the cesspool of sin we can’t escape because if we are driving down the road, it assails our ears from the thumping stereo of the car in the next lane, and our eyes from the billboards. It has permeated and saturated the culture. And though we may have small ports of safe-haven, it becomes harder every day to breathe without inhaling it. God will remove us from this toxic environment before too much longer. Salt doesn’t just lose its savor from sitting around un-used. Salt also eventually loses its saltiness when it’s saltiness is spent and used up. Salt that stays in the salt-pile among other salt, loses its savor more gradually than salt that has been out there being salt in a decidedly salt-deficient environment such as the world we live in today.
There are many ways to be salt. Entering into the troubles of another, shouldering their burden and offering comfort and hope. Down in the trenches kind of help. Hands getting dirty kind of help. Serving “tirelessly” within the church is one way to give to the Lord, and takes its own toll, but serving in the muck-a-day world in the dark workplace, in the depths of sorrow and suffering and ugly harsh realities, that is costly in terms of giving of one’s self in a way that never quite gets replenished. Because it is a spending of self that truly gives self away. It’s a little like those folks who went in at Fukushima to secure the area and minimize the radioactive fallout. Radiation sickness is a given for them, early death is a given. They bore the brunt, to minimize what others would bear.
I think that we will be surprised at what burns as dross and what remains of our efforts and endeavors down here. A good many deeds which took place far, far removed from the church-house, will likely prove to be of enduring mettle, whilst a surprising number of “church-related” works may burn. Church in these final hours of the age is no doubt significantly removed in every way, from what it was meant to be when first established in the first century after Christ lived, died and was resurrected. The corruption began immediately. A cursory reading of the first few chapters of Revelation makes it clear that the current state of the church is no surprise to God, and shouldn’t be to us either, if we’ve read the Book. But does that mean we just give up? God forbid! No, we continue to strive and to stand and to proclaim and to work as best we can until that trumpet sounds.
There is one thing that I have learned in life. You can’t have anything “both ways”. Without God we can do nothing, and whenever we do manage to “accomplish” something good and worthwhile to the sake of the Kingdom, it is never we ourselves who accomplished it, but God and His power in us. God gave each human free will. I will share the gospel but I will not make the mistake of thinking that I can do the job of the Holy Spirit. Give the gospel and leave it there. We are not to beg. If God calls someone to preach, that is what God called them to do, and even if the pews are empty, that man ought to preach, and will be answerable to God on whether he did or didn’t. If God called a man to evangelize on street corners or knock on doors that is what he ought to do. Whether he does it alone or with others, he need not turn aside from doing what he knows God called him to do, in order to try to persuade others that it is their calling as well, when it may in fact not be.
My calling and gifting is in writing and in prayer and intercession. Everyone is not an eye, everyone is not an ear, everyone is not a mouth and everyone is not a hand. The feet are for going. The hands are for working and building, and in my case, writing. If I am not “going” what fault of mine is that? I am not the foot. If I am not praying, then I am guilty of disobedience. There are those who are called to preach, and those who are called to administration, and those who are called to travel to “the uttermost parts” to take the gospel, and then there are those who are called to work in the secular world to bring in the funds so that others may preach and go and build and administer. The worker in the secular job ought not to be made to feel lesser for a role “less holy”. In fact perhaps he should be commended all the more for continuing to honor and serve God in a decidedly un-holy environment. Therefore those who have the higher calling of direct ministry should be careful not to look down on those whose role it is to give by means of secular work, that the “holy work” may be sustained. We ought all to “study to be quiet, tend our own business and work” (1 Thes. 4:11).
We are all tired and weary, but our faith is strong and sure not because we are so faithful and committed, but because it is fastened and founded in the sureness of God Himself and His ability to keep us “against that day”, for faith itself is “not of ourselves, but a gift of God, lest any man should boast”(Eph. 2:8). I am weary most of all, of Satan’s ploys to heap condemnation upon us. Am I all that I can be in the Lord and for the Lord? No, but God’s not finished with me yet. He alone will form this lump of clay into the masterpiece He has in mind. My task is to yield. If you ask me, the thing most lacking in the remnant church today, is the yielding. We have altar calls, so we can “get down to these altars and do business with God” but if it is 5 ‘til 12, don’t linger down there too awfully long, we have a program to adhere to, after all.
We never escape being human. We “overcome” our blindness in one area, only to discover we are near-sighted in another. We “correct” only to find we have over-corrected and veered to the other extreme. There is nothing new under the sun. There are people who truly don’t try in life, who never come close to meeting their potential. And then there are those who refuse to acknowledge the limitations that come with being human. I recognize this maybe a little better than most folks by virtue of having lived most of my existence in the extremes, and having to consciously strive to find the middle ground of stability and realism.
Am I down, discouraged, depressed? No. Not by a long shot. But I can see, in this “paste on a smile, never let ’em’ see you sweat” world, how my lack of Stepford-esque smile might be construed as such. We have surrounded ourselves with fun-house mirrors and optical illusions so prolific, so distorted, that few of us can even recognize our own true reflection any longer. And maybe that is one of the main reasons I am so worn out. There aren’t that many of us left who are still trying to maintain the image and vision of what is true in this mixed up world. It is so much easier to capitulate.
Astronauts and crackpot pilots go through rigorous training for the purpose of being able to maintain equilibrium under sensory-distorting conditions experienced in flight and warp-speed, anti-gravity space travel. These are environments and conditions foreign to average daily life. Well, it is like we are living under those conditions every day now. And it is very easy to think we still have our wits about us, when we in fact are starting to black out. Under such duress, the merciful relief of succumbing to the black-out state is ever so tempting. But we dare not!
Keep your eyes on the Lord. Stay in the Word! Do what you know to do. And be true to your own calling. Don’t judge what others are doing, and most importantly, don’t look to others as your reference points. Look to God alone, His Word, alone, test and try the spirits and all doctrine by the infallible Word. Yield to Him and trust Him to keep you. There are times the ride will be so bumpy, the only thing you can do is hold on. And there will be times that will be all He asks. Thank God the victory is already secured. We have great joy, yes, fullness of joy in Him and in our glorious future, but right now, right now it’s sober times!