From New Wine Magazine – August 1986
I once fasted for a long period of time for the gift of miracles. During my fast, I prayed, “Where is the God of Elijah?”. If I ever heard God speak to me, I know it was then. He said, “Where are the Elijahs?”. God had been reluctant to use me and I finally understood why. It was because of my spiritual immaturity. I was no Elijah. God couldn’t use me the way I wanted or even the way He wanted, because it would probably destroy me! The Apostle Paul understood that problem. He stayed in Ephesus for three years, gently opening the Scriptures and teaching the Ephesians the good things of God. In his farewell address he said;
“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood” – Acts 20:27-28.
Then he began to warn them of trouble ahead;
“For I know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now brethren I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” – vv29-32.
Paul was saying, “Now that I have taught you all these good things, they are going to get you in trouble!”.
Waiting for Us to Mature.
It is so difficult for Christians to understand that it is the good things that God shares with us that get us into trouble. If we don’t hear anything or know anything, then we are not as responsible. But the minute we begin understanding the fullness of God’s purpose, we face one complication after another. I used to read stories about men like D L Moody and I’d think; “Oh Lord would I like to have what they had! What an inheritance!”. I have since found that God wants to give us such an inheritance – it belongs to us – but if we receive it before we are able to handle it we get into trouble. He holds our inheritance, waiting for us to grow up so we will not abuse it or lose it. In Luke chapter 15, the prodigal son went to his father and said, “Father give me my inheritance. I want that which belongs to me and I want it now!”. The Father could have said, “Son the minute I give you your inheritance its going to get you into trouble”. He probably knew that once he gave his son that which belong to him, he would get into trouble because he was neither old enough nor mature enough to handle it. Sure enough as soon as the prodigal got his hands on the money he began to misuse it.
The same thing happens in the realm of the Spirit. I say, “God I want that which belongs to me. I want the anointing. I want the power. I want the authority. Lay it on me!”. He says, “Son if I do, its going to get you into trouble”. And I say, “Just try me. Go ahead”. He does and I get into trouble. Proverbs 20:21 says, “An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning, but in the end thereof shall not be blessed”. That is what happened to the prodigal son.
Jesus Had to Wait.
At age twelve, Jesus understood the purposes of God for His life, but He had too had to wait on God’s time. When Jesus was thirty, God revealed Himself to Jesus and as He did, Jesus began coming into His inheritance. But before He received it, He spent forty days in the wilderness and was tempted by the devil. Only after that did He get up in the synagogue and say;
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favourable year of the Lord” – Luke 4:18-19.
The scriptural method of receiving our spiritual inheritance is that God comes to us and reveals Himself so that what He wants to give us doesn’t injure us or hurt us. Jesus once said to the disciples, “I have yet many things to say unto you but ye cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). A good way to shake people up is to say, “I have some things I want to share with you but you are not mature enough to receive them”. We all have the kind of spiritual pride that says, “Maybe others aren’t mature but I am!”. Many Christians insist, “God I want my inheritance now!”. And so they force Him. They fast and pray and claim their inheritance. Sometimes, God gives it to them but then instead of a stable life in Christ, they become what I call a “shooting star”. Three months, six months or a year later they are gone. But that’s not what God wants for us. He wants us to find our place in the body of Christ, grow in our understanding of His will, reflect His glory and keep right on shining.
The kind of maturity that God is looking for in us is that which will enable us to protect what He has given us. I have heard it said that the wolf only howls at the door where there is food. It’s the same with the powers of hell. They know where the food is. They know where God is moving. They know where things are happening and they come to stir up trouble. Paul told the Ephesians;
“For I know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them”.
But Paul did not say, “Because I know that I am going to stay here and protect you”. No, he said;
“I commend you to God and to the word of His grace which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified”.
He was saying, “I have delivered to you your inheritance. Now it’s up to you to learn how to protect and defend it”. One aspect of our inheritance is healing and I have seen many people healed by the power of God. But then after they get home, they call me and say, “I’m sick again”. They got healed on my faith but didn’t have enough maturity to defend their inheritance on their own. Healing isn’t automatic. It must be received from God and then defended and that takes maturity. We have to learn to defend our place in God. We have to learn to defend our calling in God. We have to learn to defend our finances in God. When I say, “Lord I believe You are going to supply”, He does, but then I struggle to keep His provisions.
That happens to us all the time. I give my son his lunch money and he starts out for school. But before he gets there two kids meet him and shake him down. They say, “Boy give us your lunch money!”. So he comes back to me and says, “Dad every time I go to school two boys are waiting for me and they take my lunch money”. I say, “Son one of two things must happen. Either you’ll learn to protect your fifty cents or you will go hungry”. My son has to grow up; he has to get mad enough and bold enough to say, “You’re not going to get my lunch money!”. When Christians finally get provoked enough, they will rise up in holy boldness and say, “Devil get off my back! In the Name of Jesus leave my child alone!”. It happens and then we ask why it didn’t happen a year ago. It was because we weren’t mature enough or bold enough.
Great and Precious Promises.
God is a Father. He knows better than to give us things we can’t protect, which is why His provisions are given to us as promises; Salvation is a promise, healing is a promise, baptism in the Holy Spirit is a promise, deliverance is a promise, financial provision is a promise. 2 Peter 1:4 says we are given “exceeding and great precious promises”. By the time we have the faith to claim the promise, we should have the maturity to protect it’s provision. It isn’t only receiving the provision that counts; we have to protect and defend it. God called me to preach while I was still in the Royal Navy. Being naïve I went to some buddies in the Navy and said, “God called me to preach!”. They almost took my inheritance from me before I even got started. “You? Preach? Who are you kidding?” they scoffed. And I thought, Maybe God didn’t call me after all. But when I got alone with God and asked Him about it, He zapped me with His Holy Spirit!
I then said, “Okay God called me to preach”. I learnt that I needed to protect the word God had spoken to me. God speaks healing, financial provision and spiritual usefulness to us. He says, “If you will obey Me I will bring you into a life of usefulness so that your life will affect others”. But it’s a promise that has to be worked, cultivated, brought to maturity and then defended. As we learn to defend our inheritance, God gives us more. As Jesus had to defend His inheritance in the wilderness, so we have to defend ours through a time of struggle. I heard a story about a man who was sitting on a dock fishing. As he was fishing he saw a cocoon attached to a nearby post, and in the cocoon a butterfly was struggling to get out. After a long time, the butterfly got out two feet and the first section of its wings. But its struggle was so great that the fisherman couldn’t stand it. He took his fishing knife and cut the cocoon all the way open. When he did, out on the wharf fell this little butterfly half born. The first section of his wings and two feet were all fully formed with the colour and all the beauty of a mature butterfly. But the bottom half was all emaciated, the wings still folded back and the legs still folded in. The butterfly staged around on the wharf a little while and then died. I must confess I have cut a few cocoons in my life. I’ve cut some for my own children and when I was pasturing, I cut them for my people.
Some of the gospel we have preached has been the instantaneous kind that says, “Push, push, click, God will do it for you”. He will do it for us. But as He does, don’t complain about elements of the struggle. I have seen too many Christians who have had their cocoons cut for them. Few of them ever come around to the new birth the proper way. When God seems to leave us alone in the middle of a struggle and we have to battle our way through on our own, its because He wants us whole. He hides from us simple because the struggle we’re going through is essential for a proper birth into the realm that God wants us in.
One night a man had a dream that he went to heaven. When he got there he met Paul and Peter and some of the martyrs of the Middle Ages, and John Wesley and D L Moody. Then he woke up. Later he said, “The thing that bothered me was that I didn’t feel like I belonged in the company of men who through great struggle had achieved what they had”. An inheritance quickly gained is not profitable in the end. There is an inheritance that belongs to the Church. But it isn’t something God gives capriciously or without thought, for giving it too soon would get us into trouble. We need to grow up. For us to do that, sometimes God must hide Himself!
“I commend you to God and to the word of His grace which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all of them which are sanctified”.