The verse for today is well known and one on which I have spoken many times in the past. What I have to say today is quite simple but has come to me very deeply and in a very current way, which is why I want to speak of it now.
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18)
Another translation is:
Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint.
How true it is: where there is no vision, where there is no constant keeping God in our sights and our focus there, it’s very easy to grow lax and careless in our way of living and thinking. But where there is vision (and this is true of any sphere of life), where the heart is set upon a goal, there is discipline and there’s a training towards the fulfilment of that goal. It’s a very current subject just now, isn’t it, because of the problem with external examinations for school pupils and the difficulty in keeping pupils working towards the goal, when you’ve in fact removed some of that goal in the sense of taking away the external exams.
In the spiritual realm it is absolutely vital that we have vision, and that not in a vague sense. The vision always is God: every other vision stems from Him. He opens our eyes and sometimes gives us a very specific goal to aim at, but it’s all contained in this endeavour to find and to live at the heart of the life of God, and in the heart of His will. Because we are separated it would have been very easy for us each to follow our own vision, ‘every man doing that which is right in his own eyes’. Thank God, He has very wonderfully covered for us as a people, and He has kept the eyes of many of us still very trained upon Him, indeed more so in some ways than in the past, because of our acute dependency on Him to keep us alive spiritually. It is quite wonderful to see this happen. While listening to two of you singing the other night, I was realizing how the anointing is deepening rather than lessening on many lives (though not all) during these difficult days. What is vital for us is that we never sink into an attitude of mind that we’re just marking time, like a train that has stopped at the station for hours, but that rather we are travelling on into that that God has prepared for us, and our current situation is no mistake: it’s part of the pattern. I’m not saying it has all come from Him, but any circumstance has to get past Him before it gets to us, and He weaves it into His own plan and pattern.
The day gets wearisome – doesn’t it? – in this third lockdown. But God. He suddenly transfers our gaze from the world around us, and we become vitally aware again of the spiritual world. Really what drew my attention to this text was that at our Zoom meeting on Tuesday night last week, which we end with a time of prayer, there was a lovely atmosphere, a lovely covering, but just suddenly I felt a rush of power and anointing of God, and vision, and a certainty of the horizon being filled with that God who is a consuming fire, the God who is all-powerful, and suddenly the spiritual world was throbbing with life and all around, and it took me for a few minutes completely out of the limitations of our present circumstances.
I have been re-reading the books about the Rwanda revival; they stand many readings. For the church in Rwanda there came a wonderful revival that went on for many, many years. But before it came there was a dark hour, the darkest before the dawn. There was famine in the land at the time a young missionary went out there, called Dr Joe Church. He went straight into this situation of famine where the conditions were utterly horrendous, with desperate suffering and desperately hard work for these medical missionaries in particular: heartbreak and toil, and at the same time seeing that the churches at times could be full of people, but with no certainty that any of them were actually born again. And in his heart and in the hearts of some others, including some of the Africans, I think particularly from Uganda, who were truly saved, there came a desperate desire for more and for the moving of God. As a student at Cambridge he had been one of a group of young Christian men who were on fire for God (some of whom were out there with on the mission field with him by this time). They believed in the teaching that was coming from Keswick of holiness and of the fullness of the Spirit. They used to have missionaries come and speak to them at Cambridge, and many a poor missionary would have been devastated to know that after their visit the students would get together and pray: O God, never let me become like that – because there were missionaries who had got very dry on the field and very lacking in the fire that perhaps had once motivated them. These ardent young lives prayed that they would never lose that sense of fire and vision.
And so now they sought for God and began one by one to discover that what they needed was the fullness of the Spirit. They were truly saved. They were sanctified and they had known real touches of the Holy Spirit. But at the end of their tether, in desperate conditions, they needed the Holy Spirit. And He came on them one by one. This is shown in different ways, but it is always accompanied by a new power: power to live and an efficacy in preaching the gospel. In actual fact the Holy Spirit began to move in ways that seemed independent of human channels, but really much of it would be related to the prayer that was going on. And He came in convicting power, devastatingly convicting power, that brought men and women to the feet of Christ. Then those who had in some cases been professing salvation revealed that in fact their life was still full of superstition, witchcraft, occult practices and immorality. They were deeply converted, filled with the Holy Spirit, and so revival spread. It brought with it a lot of trouble inside the church – that’s usually where the main opposition comes from – and they were not easy years, but they were wonderful years of wonderful fruitfulness. The darkest hour had come before the dawn.
What has been impressed upon my spirit for us is that we keep making progress. Frances Ridley Havergal, famous Christian writer and singer (many of whose hymns we still sing), as a little girl lost her mother when she was eleven years old. But she always remembered her mother had said to her again and again: ‘Fanny, get yourself ready, prepare yourself, for what God is preparing for you.’ And that is our responsibility just now, to prepare ourselves for what God is preparing for us, that we are ready to step into the blessing that He will bring and is bringing. What was impressed upon my own spirit was to seek for a greater enduement. We’ve been baptized in the Holy Spirit, so we ‘understand’ what people are meaning when they speak about the fullness of the Spirit … but we don’t really. We have a little, tiny understanding. O to be flooded and to have that vision, that there is a greater enduement for His church and for us as individuals, no matter what age we are, young or old: we’re not going to coast to a finish, those of us who are a bit older, but rather to come in eventually to the harbour at full tide, borne along on a mighty tidal wave of the Holy Spirit. He says:
I know the plans that I have for you, plans of good and not of evil, to give you a hope and a future.
Take courage. The road is brighter ahead, not darker. The glory of God never decreases. It remains the same, but our perception grows. Moses viewed the Promised Land, but one day he stood in it by the side of Christ. And that is our goal: to be at Christ’s side, in the harvest field, for His glory.
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