Fire Me Up God! & Make Me Well Done!
There is a whispering voice echoing in the back of many of our minds that says “What’s the point? Who will cares if I keep doing what I’m doing anyway? Who even notices? Am I even making a difference? There are many people out there who are much better than me, why bother? No one will help me. I don’t have the resources or the money. I’m getting tired of doing this with no visible and tangible results so I must not be making a difference, or maybe this is NOT God’s will after all.” and the list of excuses goes on and on. To be bluntly honest, we wallow in self pity and complain about how hard it is to follow a calling we were “so sure of” when we started, but when the going gets tough and things don’t line up the way we had hoped, that’s when you find out what you’re made of and if you meant what you said when you proclaimed “I’ll follow you anywhere Lord, I’ll do whatever you want me to do. Mold me, teach me, give me strength and wisdom”…and secretly in the back of my mind, though I don’t want admit it, “make me successful at what I’m doing for you.” When the heat is on, the refiner’s fire is burning, we find out if we’re willing to go through the whole refining process in order to be purified like gold, or if we are weak and jump out of the fire too soon, still holding on to the part of us that wants to have a say in what God is doing. I openly admit that was me. I thought God should give me some reward for all of my toiling for Him and at the very least, let my efforts succeed. But He did not give in to me or give me what I wanted. He knew I wasn’t ready, wasn’t done, and He did it for my own good. I complained and whined and I still did not get my way. Then I realized that I was expecting something out of all of this for myself. I was not the righteous do-gooder, pure of selfish motives I thought I was. And one day I finally gave in to God and allowed Him to put me through His refiner’s fire – for real. I wanted all of that out of me. And results? My tangible results I used to demand He show me….I let go of that desire and need, and just let Him use me, now ready to be shaped into His image and not my own. It was not easy, I admit, but wow! What an eye-opener I had about my own spiritual condition. I was like many Christians who really haven’t yet faced the truth about themselves. That they are still defending their own will without even knowing it, hiding it in religious garble.
Whether you are on the path for a huge undertaking or a home-grown hands & feet as your ministry or calling, we will all eventually face this moment of soul searching and possibly join the pity party. If you’re honest enough to admit you’ve ever thought any of these kind of thoughts, then you’re probably one of the few who have come face to face with the truth that you let yourself get in the way of what God was trying to teach you through these experiences, and His intention to help you come to the true path we should be walking, which is seeking His face, seeking to know HIM more fully, and desiring only Him above all other things, even our ministry. Because if we are truly on that path of desiring only God, all the other stuff we think we need to “do for God” is secondary. But here’s something really cool: When you really, truly, come to the place where God is all you want, and everything else doesn’t matter anymore…doesn’t matter if you are successful at your ministry, doesn’t matter if your church grows in numbers, but in spiritual growth, doesn’t matter if you can make a living at this or not, doesn’t matter if you are recognized for your efforts, doesn’t matter if you even do it at all because knowing God is so ultimately first place in your life that you can walk away from anything you’re “doing for Him” and still be ok, still know who you are, and still have the “joy of the Lord” – when you truly come to this ultimate place, that’s when you can do your ministry with complete peace, joy, and delight, knowing God is in control and the outcome is HIS to decide. He can finally get things done through you because you finally got out of His way. You allow Him to refine you like gold and become an obedient and willing servant, tilling the field, planting the seeds, and allowing Him to water it with His spirit.
Of course, this is the fairytale version we all claim on the outside, but we still have to battle those “me me me” viruses that creep up from time to time. We’re human, it happens, it will continue to happen. And never think so highly of yourself that you think you’re above it, that you’ve “mastered the flesh bug”, because that’s when you are going to stumble and fall the most. Pride comes before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18 “First pride, then the crash -the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”
Look at all the big time TV preachers and Christian musicians who have fallen from grace. It can happen, and it can happen even to those we think are strongest. It’s easy to let what we’re doing for God get in the way of just being with God. It’s easy to think that “living for God” means “doing things for God” or even for others and we slowly start to drift the focus off our own internal state, and outwardly on to others. We measure our spiritual health by what we’re doing outwardly instead of taking the time to seek God and look Him in the eye as Margaret Becker so eloquently sang in her song “Look Me in the Eye”. We use church as a substitute for soul searching, and when the church or the pastor, or the worship team isn’t doing what you want or need, we hear the excuses “I’m not being fed.” Truth Mirror: you’re looking for milk, an easy feeding, because you are still a spiritual baby. You think it’s someone else’s fault you’re in the state you’re in because your hungry grumblies aren’t happy. You want it NOW like a crying baby, unwilling to wait, to be still, to seek God for what you need. What you really need is to stop hiding from God behind that fig leaf. He can see you anyway. Do you honestly think you’re fooling Him? I know I did. And I used that excuse about church before too. I know there is never going to be the perfect church, and eventually the one you think is “close to perfect” is going to disappoint you one day. But your spiritual life is not just about church. It’s so much more than that. The Kingdom of God is within you.
Luke 17: 20-21 “Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
We need to stop blaming other people for our own spiritual climate, whether people hurt us, disappointed us, or downright fell from grace. Because if we really want to be mature in our faith, we need to stop whining like babies, demanding our milk, demanding to be fed by someone else, and we need to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…then all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 And we wonder why our calling isn’t working out, why our ministry isn’t thriving, why we’re not getting the results we want, and either we ourselves or others we know give up at this point. They failed to do the one thing that is so vital in all of this. Seek HIM First. Outwardly it looks like we are seeking Him first, but inwardly if all truth be exposed, we are not. I think it takes a big man or woman to openly admit this. It takes someone who is truly eager to know God to admit it to themselves and openly before God. I used to believe that all the good things I was doing for God were all for Him. But I now realize that part of me was still hoping for some of the credit. Yeah, I did want to do big things so people would notice God and I could point to God and say “see, look at what God did through me.” But because I know where my own shortcomings have come in the past, I can see right through those shout-outs I see now from people. What we really need to be shouting out is “look at what God did.”, not “what He did through me.” There is a difference, and most people who think they are doing God’s work fail to recognize that they are still trying to receive some of the credit for what God is doing by shouting out all their success and calling that “God’s favor on them”. “Ouch!” I’ll say it for you because I know I may have just stepped on someone’s toes. I think I’ve learned now that it’s a good thing when I get my toes stepped on. It means there is probably something inside me that needs refining. Something I’m still trying to defend and not admit that part of my flesh still has hold on me in a certain area. Even defending a religious mindset that needs to be exposed for what it is.
I love the whole idea about being put through the refiner’s fire. (Malachi 3) We hear about it all the time. I’ve referenced it in many of my songs & so have many others. We hear pastors speak about it and we nod our heads in agreement with a big “Amen”. But when we’re put to the test, we pray for deliverance, to be taken out, not to go “through” the refiner’s fire. But there is a reason we are being put through this torture, this trial, this uncomfortable situation, this test. I’ve failed so many of those tests. I begged for deliverance, even just jumped right out of the fire and did the wrong thing and even blamed it on someone else. I wasn’t done, or should I say “He wasn’t done with me.” And I came out looking like a big globby mess. I wasn’t completely purified like pure gold when it is heated and purified by the fire until just the right moment and all impurities are melted away. But through many failed attempts and not passing the test, I’ve learned to just allow it, to see where God is taking me on this path, and to see what lies inside of me that still needs refining. Note: what “lies” inside of me. We deceive ourselves sometimes, don’t we. I think many people get really good at believing their own lies in order to cover up the truth they try to hide from others and God. There is still a LOT inside of me that needs refining. One thing after another, He is revealing it to me. And I’ve come to admit that freely and openly, despite what onlookers might think, despite what upright people may conclude about me and my spiritual walk. I think too much pious hiding behind religious cloaks is dangerous. I think Jesus was on to this when He ticked off the religious leaders of His day. I think those kind of Pharisees still exist in the church today and make it hard for God to really do His work. After 2000 years we still haven’t learned what He was trying to teach us. We are still so spiritually smug that it repels people from the Kingdom instead of attracts them to it. And somehow we think we’re better than others because of it. What arrogance! And when we behave like this we can’t see that we are looking like fools, and not in a positive way so many boast “I’ll be a fool for God.” It’s time we get over ourselves as Christians.
I was once caught up in this religious hoopla, thinking this way was “right”. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12 It’s easy to put religious mindsets above being Christ-minded. It “seems right” to us, but in the end leads to spiritual death. And unless we are willing to stay in the fire, to be purified, even from things we think are right, things like following rules that we have made our God instead of God Himself, unless we face our own spiritual truth in the refiner’s fire, face the test and do not give up, we will never know what it means to fully see His face, to be able to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. And this so called “calling” or “ministry” of ours will die, it will not thrive, it will become too big for us because we’re trying to handle it on our own and control its outcome instead of letting God control the outcome. Sometimes we even try to convince God that what we want is something He should give us. And we pray hard, believe hard, but God doesn’t do what we want. Is it possible that He knows we are not ready to handle what we’re asking for? “To whom much is given, much is required.” Luke 12:48 But we don’t admit that we’re not ready or equipped to handle what we’re believing is of God. We say “This must not be God’s will. Nothing is happening. Nothing is thriving. I’m not seeing growth and results.” And we give up. We’re measuring with worldly eyes, not spiritual eyes.
James 4:3 (NIV) “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
I like the way The Message describes this:
James 4:3 (The Message) “You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way. “
“Spoiled Children” explains it all. We are still spiritual babies craving milk, not seeing what is more important. Not seeing the truth that what we want “in God’s name” is for ourselves. I went through that with my music. I laid it down, surrendered it to Him, even though I thought I had for many years. And I came to the place where it didn’t matter to me anymore if it meant I would put it in front of desiring God. I told Him to do what He wanted with it, or nothing at all, and I was finally “Free from the chains that bind me.” And when I did that, God decided to do a miracle in my life, and make something out of nothing. I’m not worried now about where any of this is heading, but just know that anything I do with it now is hinging on His permission. I don’t worry about being accepted or rejected. Because I know that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it. Philippians 1:6
There are some seeds that take many years before a single sprout appears above ground. They have to go through a process before they can become what they are intended to be. Take that seed out of the ground too soon, and it will never grow into the towering tall tree one day. Take gold out of the fire before it’s processed and it still contains impurities and has not been properly refined. Help a butterfly out of its cocoon and it will not develop properly or know the strength of the struggle to emerge and fly away freely. Put an untrained runner in a 26 mile marathon and he will gasp for breath and fall on the roadside like a cripple after a few miles. To run a marathon race, you can’t expect to run a mile or two as training and then realistically finish 26 miles. You’re not in the right condition to finish that race. A true runner knows you don’t run 26 miles when you first start out running. You have to build up to it and condition yourself with proper training, eating right, and building strength for the long run ahead. And when you finally do all those things, even then it’s hard to run that marathon. You feel like puking sometimes. And you have to keep replenishing your energy and fluids along the road. Too many people start out with big ideas about serving God, doing big things for God with full excitement. They see the finish line before they’ve even started the training. And a lot of them might make it the first ten miles, completely beaten down, but many quit, they don’t persevere. They don’t want to go through the training. They don’t want to run the mini-marathons first. They don’t want the pain. But those who succeed and finish the race have done all that. They’ve pushed themselves to the limit many times over, past points they never thought they could bear, they pushed through the pain. They learned the hard lessons and faced their own limitations and weaknesses. In life, these people who have succeeded have gone through many testings and trials. They’ve trained and conditioned. They’ve probably lost a few mini marathons. But it’s all part of being refined in the fire.
If you truly want to follow this call God has placed on your life, you need to understand what it will take. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not a walk in the park. It is going to drain the life out of you. And by that I mean you need to die to self. This is what needs to happen to be fully usable by God. He’s going to refine you, test you, condition and train you, and you’re going to want to quit because you keep looking to your own strength and ability instead of His. But stay on the path, keep persevering and finish the race. There is much to be missed if you quit now. Not only things you will experience and come to know, but things that others will miss because you gave up to soon. Everything we do makes an impact, influences others, whether good or bad, everything makes a difference. Doing nothing makes a difference, and doing everything you can makes a difference. So you need to decide, are you all talk? Or are you going to backup that talk and do whatever it takes to finish the race? It will take time, perseverance, and patience…and pain, yes pain! There will be times when things look favorable and not favorable. Don’t bail when things don’t look good. This is God refining you for what is to come. This is God cleansing you from your flesh and into His likeness. By giving up, you’re giving in to yourself. You’re putting yourself above God, instead of trusting Him to see you through what you’re facing at this time. That’s a hard pill to swallow…admitting you are putting yourself before God by giving up, making excuses, and whining like a baby. But it’s the truth. When we search the inner-most depths of our souls, we know it’s the truth. Stay in the fire. Stay in the race. This is the will of God.
“ In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:1-7 (NRSV)
“Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 (NRSV)
I wrote a worship song several years ago. I hope to be able to share it with others in the future should God provide a way. Its tentative title is “Perfect Love” and it speaks about being put through the fire, being refined until I can shine like gold. It is a very intimate and personal one for me because I’ve prayed these prayers many times, but now going through all God has taught me through trial, I know what these words truly mean now.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” I John 4:18
Perfect love casts out all fear, it casts out all that is not of God. I want the one who IS perfect love to refine me. Many times my own fears keep me from staying in the fire until I’m purified of the things that keep me from being able to look into the face of God, keep me from embracing my horrible truth and letting God have His way. I’m learning to submit to Him and what He’s allowing me to go through in order to be refined. It hurts. But it’s a good hurt. Fire Me up God! And make me well done.