The challenge of walking with the God who knows me  

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If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17

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Isaiah 45:1-5

“This is what the Lord says to his anointed to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armour, ... though you do not acknowledge me.”

Thinking about the car crash prompted me to rethink an issue of evangelism that I had previously faced in Southampton.  At that time I had come to a realisation that our success or failure was not based on superior or inferior methods.  So, evangelism was not successful based on our having the right method for the ‘target group’.  It had seemed that the key was to “Remain in Christ” John 15:5, that with remaining in Christ would come fruitfulness.  We had restructured the ministry in Southampton around remaining in Christ.  The outworking was a less well trained group of students, but one that loved Jesus deeply.  Though I had not given up on God and endeavouring to remain in Him, I must confess to having been disappointed that the numbers becoming Christians had fallen at that time.

Here however the reason for success by Israel was not their deep devotion to God, but rather that God loved them.  This change in perspective upset my whole theology of evangelism.

Taking our normal view of evangelism, we are in the world to reach the world.  God is in heaven, suffering mortal agony because of all the lost who are dying in sin.  It is up to us to reach them with the gospel.  To that end we have to learn the techniques so as to be effective and be close to God in order that he can use us.  Looking at Israel’s history as an equivalent: Here is God, needing his people to take Palestine.  So, he needs the people of Israel to be holy and effective in warfare in order that he can use them to achieve his purposes.  Yet the text says that it was not by their sword, but by God’s hand.  Fair enough so far, but the reason given: Because he loved them.  God gives his blessings to those he loves!  This does not negate the value of either devotion or methods.  They are indeed important, rather it says, don’t expect them to ‘work’.  Success is a gift of God as an expression of his love, not a function of who we are, either spiritually through our devotion and holy lives, or though our effectiveness through technique and methodology.  Indeed, if God could use a pagan like Cyrus to fulfil his will and could give him success, then he could use anybody.

This lesson came at a time when I had been looking for God to do something significant in Portugal, and he was setting about giving a knock to my expectations.  I was feeling a complete failure, like I had let him down with my failure of single minded devotion.  It seemed that God’s attitude was, that out of his intense love for me, he was going to take away the prospect of outward success, for success would have kept me at the same level of relationship with him.  It would have been a distraction that would have taken my eyes off him and our relationship.  Instead of success, he would move us along in our relationship and deepen that.  It was amazing to me that the depth of our relationship was more important than numbers of people having faith.  That could be done through others, and he would do it too.  He would not lose out, just that I was not to be instrumental.