Depressed heart. Convicted heart. Broken heart. Healed heart.
I am not one who typically gets overly revealing about my emotions, especially emotions that often embarrass me. I am a proud man. I am someone who will ask for help, but most often does not. I internalize a lot of my emotions the best that I can. Angel knows when I am doing this, she can see right through me, but for most people I can put on a good show and hide what I am feeling. For the past few weeks, I have really struggled with despondent, almost depressive thoughts about raising support.
God has been amazingly abundant to us in His provisions. We are over 50% supported! That is amazing and I should be constantly thanking Him for his goodness to me. But when new support slowed, when we leveled off, my sinful heart began to run the show. I began to work harder, I started to send more emails, write more letters and make more phone calls. But nothing happened. Then the sinful chorus in my heart added some harmony; the Enemy, the Master of lies joined in and I retreated into dark place. I sought out excuses, I looked for anything that would be more important than following the call that I had been given.
That is where my heart was when I entered church Sunday. That morning, I told at least three people that I was doing great, that thinks were going great…what a lie! In a place where I serve as an officer, in a place where I am surrounded by brothers and sisters, in a place that I love, I became afraid; I became afraid to show how much of a failure I felt myself to be. But in God’s immense mercy and grace He met me through the wonderful message offered by a member of our church, Simon Seow. He was filling in for our pastor and was continuing a sermon series entitled “Follow Me” by preaching out of Luke 5: 27-32.
Jesus Calls Levi
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
During the sermon, Simon showed an excerpt from the Jesus Film. The portion where Jesus gives the call to Levi (29:40 minute mark of the film). The way that the filmmakers portrayed Levi getting up and leaving the tax money and his corrupt cut was impactful. He left the basket and never looked back. It was not the call that he focused on, it was the caller; it was Jesus that held his gaze. Levi’s amazement that Jesus would call him, a sinner and outcast in his Jewish society was impactful. Why would Levi leave his life of luxury and wealth? Not to walk around the countryside and lose his place of influence, but to be in the company of Jesus. His gaze was fixed on Jesus!
Simon then proceeded to have a handout passed out. The information that was included showed the difference in motivations and responses when we are focused on the call and not the Caller.
In that moment, I was confronted with my sin. I was convicted of my sinful heart and my sinful actions. I was convicted of listening to the lies of Satan and not the promises of the Lord. I was living under the oppression of shame. The guilt that I had been feeling as I watched other missionaries leave for the field or near their support goals disappeared. My shame was replaced by a wonderful sense of brokenness! How wonderful it is to be convicted!
As the Spirit continued to move in my heart, I saw how I had fallen into a cycle of sin management. I saw how I had focused completely on myself and what I needed to do to get us to the field. I had most certainly become driven by fear ( a fear of being left here in the states while all of my fellow classmates deployed to the field) and pride (the successes that I have enjoyed were based off of my accomplishments and not Christ’s). Unlike Levi, I have been holding onto my basket of wealth…
To close his sermon, Simon asked us all to bow our heads and while we prayed to contemplate two questions. Jesus is calling me, 1) what do I hear him saying and 2) what do I not hear him saying? It has been along time, maybe the first time, that I have felt such an overwhelming presence of the Spirit. I HEARD Him! I FELT Him! I know that He spoke to me.
In that moment, the Lord said to “Trust Me”. That was it, no long explanation, nothing additional. My broken heart, my depressed heart was healed immediately by the Lord’s palpable presence. When I wrote down that answer in my notes, I also wrote down what I did not hear the Lord say to me. At no time did He tell me to work harder…He told me to trust in Him. We then had the opportunity to immediately go the the Lord’s table, to confess these sins to the Lord and to receive a tangible sign of Christ’s grace, mercy and forgiveness. To remember that His body was broken for me, that His blood was spilled for me, to remember that my sins required a sacrifice and that my God freely paid for it with His blood, was such a blessing!
This was later reinforced again with one of the songs that we sang in adoration to the Lord, the Stand by Hillsong. In that song there is a stanza that says:
“You stood before my failure-Carried the Cross for my shame-My sin weighed upon your shoulders- My soul now to stand…So I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned- In awe of the One who gave it all- So I’ll stand, my soul Lord to You surrender- All I am is Yours.”
So why am I sharing this? Part of my reason is to document what the Lord did for me so I can recall it better later. I also am sharing this as a form of public confession. So many of you have been wonderful to us in your support, your encouragement and your prayers. I apologize to you for not being open and transparent. Please forgive me for not being honest and sharing my struggles with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ. I also hope that in my openness I may also be of some encouragement to others struggling with these same sins.
Simon ended with this wonderful passage as an encouragement to us and likewise, I will close this with the same passage.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 (ESV)