I walked home from work today and was "venting" at God. I don't know if that's allowed but I did. I was thinking about how so much of life is made up of hoping. Hoping for ... more. 2006/2007 were very key years for me in my spiritual life. There were such exciting promises that God was going to visit the country in glory and power and things would never be the same again. I had dreams personally. I heard some such exciting sermons particularly at "Together on a Mission" in Brighton. And I'm not quite sure what happened.
This year has been one of the most challenging of my life. But what I've noticed is that the strategies of the enemy have changed! Earlier in the year I dealt with bullying at Acorns Childrens Hospice and the resulting stress of that with lying management - and the experience of being on anti-depressants. Now things are different! I love my job and find it rewarding and challenging. But I'm so bored and frustrated waiting for "something" to happen in life! As Rob Rufus puts it, I find myself eating food, passing it through my body and taking up space in life. And that is NOT good for someone with my temperament!
So my walk home ...
I was pondering about frustrations and promises of God that haven't been fulfilled and I think that the church generally reacts in a couple of ways - two are wrong and only one is RIGHT:
The Old Testament says that unfulfilled promises make the heart sick. I have seen again and again church leaders especially so full of hope in the Charismatic Movement during the 1970's and 80's - and I have audio-tape after audio-tape of their preaching hope and vision. And yet you look at where they are today and they are embittered and disappointed. They have looked and hoped for revival and for world-change and haven't seen it.
Rather than holding on and trusting in the promises of God some have embraced functional cessationism and declared that if God will not reveal Himself then clearly He never intended to pour out His Spirit or give His gifts in the first place. They retreat to the relative safety of the Word of God (conviniently ignoring the fact that the Word of God NEVER EVER says that God has stopped anything) and adhere to doctrine and theology. And death.
The other option is that some churches don't lose their hope but they become impatient waiting for God to move and devoting time to praying and seeking Him. So they become distracted. They begin looking around the world to see "success stories". Looking to churches and church leaders who seem to be seeing a measure of numerical growth. Those churches and church leaders then become famous and are invited on tour around the world to speak at conferences to give their "tips".
The churches attending those conferences hear those "tips" and mistake them for the anointing of God and thus try and integrate those "tips" in their churches. Now this may work to a degree. People may come into those churches. But it will never, ever produce a Pentecostal revival where the glory of God hovers over cities and nations and we can watch and see MILLIONS swept into the Kingdom of God.
So what do we do?
We remind ourselves of the promises of God and we remember that some are yet to be fulfilled. We don't give up hoping and praying and watching for them. We remember that God is more passionate than we are to fulfill those promises and waiting for a people who are content to wait for His perfect timing. Here are my two favourite UNFULFILLED promises. That means that a day is rapidly coming when we will see them come to pass.
A. Numbers 14:21: "but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD".
This is probably my most favourite promise in the Word of God. It got a lot of coverage in the 1970's at the Bible Weeks. It was even sung after one of Ern Baxter's monumental sermons at the Dales Bible Week. It HASN'T been fulfilled yet. But it is GOING to be! One day - Isaiah 60 will be fulfilled as well and all nations will come to the dawning of the light! One day all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord!
B. Acts 2:17: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams".
If Numbers 14:21 was my favourite promise in the Word of God then this surely must be the second. I read this and am staggered at how so-called "teachers of the Bible" can hold to a cessationist point of view. How Christians can proudly despise "experience" and claim they are "doctrinal". This promise is an outpouring of unparalelled proportions. To be sure - the Day of Pentecost was the "beginning of that fulfillment" (as F F Bruce writes in his commentary). But it's not been done yet.
So as I was turning the corner almost home - I got back to thinking about swine flu and the possible "second wave". I earnestly believe that swine flu or pandemic influenza is a demonic counterfeit. The whole health service is waiting planned and ready for whatever the future may hold and dreading it. Whereas the church should be poised, ready and waiting looking like Elijah to the skies waiting for a cloud to appear. This isn't the time to get distracted or disappointed! This is the time to fix our eyes on the horizon and wait for the glimmer of glory that says the tidal wave of glory is coming.
Because I truly believe that the tectonic plates of hell's strongholds are shaking and moving and when they do - a massive tsnuami will result. God has promised on HIS Name that all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. So bring it on! We're waiting!