I want to start with a short recap from last week, when I was speaking about my daughter Christine at three years old, and the help that she had given to my sister in bringing her a Daily Light that had a word from God. A lovely story then came to me from one of our congregation, Audrey Burns, who I’m sure will not mind me sharing this with you. It brought back to her a memory of her seven-year-old son, when she had been having a tough time. He just marched up to her and said: ‘Mummy, you’re a conqueror!’ and that gave her the victory. So that was another lovely story of how God can use the action of a little child.
But my theme for today is ‘having an appointment with God’. In the way life has gone in our present society, we become more and more aware that we must have appointments, and are even talking about how we must book before we go somewhere even for a coffee. We don’t really like our life being so governed and regulated as that. But it is a wonderful thought that God makes appointments for us and with us. I think that’s very clear in the story of the woman at the well, where Christ said to His disciples that he had to go through Samaria. He had an appointment with that woman. She didn’t know about it till she arrived at the well and found Him sitting there.
I often remember how, when one of you was much younger, Miss Taylor took you aside after a meeting for prayer, and you had a wonderful encounter with God. I can remember her saying that what had thrilled you so much was the fact that it was God who had made the appointment. And that is a wonderful thought, that God actually wants to make an appointment to meet with you or me.
There is a story of Rees Howells, a deeply anointed man of God, who was used in Africa in the salvation of thousands of souls and in the establishment of a college for prayer in Wales. As a young man being trained very deeply in the ministry of intercession, he was very tied up with the needs of other people. But throughout many years he had a trysting place with God up on the mountain, where as he passed through an iron gate he forgot everything else and spent time in the presence of God. One particular month was given him there of unalloyed worship and communion. When the enemy was trying to disturb him during this time, Rees was told to leave his taunts behind the moment he shut the gate. It would be like heaven on earth to him that God had an appointment with him as soon as he passed through that gate.
It is absolutely vital that this becomes integral to our Christian life and our walk with God: that we have at the very centre the desire for God. The poet speaks of a ‘jubilant pining and longing for God’. We discover that we really need to take our eyes off the world around us and off our own lives, our own needs, pleasures and joys – the things that can choke out the seed of the word of God, or the things that can drag us down. A lot of people nowadays are struggling, some against a sense of nameless depression, some with real anxiety and worry and in desperate need, because of what has happened around us with this pandemic. And you can be taken aback perhaps by feelings that you have never had before, perhaps with something like depression, and you don’t know quite what to do. But what we discover is the great unchanging God, and that the removal of some of the things in life that cushion us can cause us to turn our eyes to the heavenly country. There’s a saying which I dislike very much, that someone is ‘too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use’. But C S Lewis says that if we are not heavenly minded, we cannot be of any earthly use either. To be of real use to our fellows on earth, we have to be heavenly minded. Being heavenly minded isn’t being airy-fairy, but it is discovering that the answer for life is not here on this earth. The answer for our own spirits and our own mental wellbeing is not found here on this earth; it is found in the heavenly country. In other words, it is found in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
We think of somebody like Moses, who carried such a heavy burden of responsibility and leadership of the children of Israel. He tried all sorts of ways earlier to lead them out of the land before it ultimately happened by the power of God. But while he was still in the wilderness and they had been sinning (as they frequently did, being human), he finally discovered that God alone was his answer and his strength, and he was propelled more deeply into the spiritual world, just as we can be at this very present time. The spiritual world is wonderful. Moses pleaded: ‘God, show me Your face – show me Your glory.’
Show me Your face, Lord, Your power and Your grace;
I can make it to the end if I can just see Your face.
That was what Moses discovered, and so can we. Will He be there for us? Yes, we will discover that He has made the appointment. He has known all about this time that was going to come in our world. I was talking recently to a postmistress outside our own locality, who described how she had been brought up on a farm and was just so glad that her parents, grandparents and great grandparents didn’t suffer what we are suffering now. I said: ‘Well, they had the war to face.’ She said: ‘Oh, but this is different.’ She obviously thought that the present time was worse. I don’t know that I would agree with her, but I understood what she meant: the pain of it, barriers between people having to wear masks, and so on. But God has known all about it, and God has an appointment with you and me and with His church, to go more deeply into the Spirit, to find our spirits becoming more alive in God. Search after Him. Ezekiel found that the river deepened until he had waters to swim in. And that is what we need to refresh our mind, our spirit, and even our physical being. We need the spiritual world, which is full of God and of Christ, and is wonderful. We are not riding into the sunset that the old cowboy films used to finish with. We are riding into the sunrise, here and now finding that God is there and God is light. He becomes our dearest friend.
So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God, because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Is that not beautiful? He has made us friends of God. We think of that in association with giants of the faith like Moses and Abraham, who is described as that – but Paul says we have been made the friends of God, because of our Lord Jesus Christ. How precious He is – what He has done for us – what He is to us.
I’ll just finish with this part. Abraham was called the friend of God, I think over many years, as his soul grew in faith. But there’s that wonderful chapter where he has been told by God to take Isaac and sacrifice him at the top of a high mountain ‘that I will show you’.
Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of… On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. (Genesis 22:2, 4-5)
I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. He went to pray, he went to worship; he wasn’t focusing on his broken heart, he wasn’t focusing on his need. He said: ‘I’m going to worship.’ Try that. ‘Lord, I’m coming into Your presence just to worship You, to pray, to be with You.’ Abraham’s faith was well rewarded. He didn’t know the revelation that was awaiting him upon that mountain, as he and Isaac and God went up that hill that became the hill of revelation. It revealed to him something of the Calvary that was to come, and yet has always been there in eternity. As he walked with God; he surely found fellowship with the Father, who took His Son up Calvary’s hill, there to sacrifice Him. It became to him the mountain of revelation, of the unveiling of the deeps of God. How satisfied his soul must have been. God showed him the ram caught in the thicket. Abraham had said: ‘The Lord will provide Himself a sacrifice,’ and He did provide Himself a sacrifice.
What a mountain we have to come to! We find again and again that God will have made an appointment for us to meet there with Him. All else becomes forgotten. Rees Howells would go through the gate into a place of fellowship with God. We find that we are well-fed children, and His Name becomes exceeding precious.
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