THE WALK OF SORROW
I must be honest with you that I was convicted writing about the power of prayer. We can talk about being a Christian all day long, but there is no greater character development than to learn (and demonstrate) the “responsibility” of prayer. We have heard the scripture that talks about those who literally give their life for others, but I believe that we can also “lay down our life” as a sacrifice to stand in the gap – as a fruit of agape love. “Greater LOVE hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) The weakness of most professing Christians is they are willing to participate in many religious activities but have never been taught how to pray. We hear about being a soldier and putting on the whole armor of God, but until the mud covered foxholes of prayer become a lifestyle, we will not understand divine reality. It is in the uncomfortable trenches of intercession, where faithful servants are developed. It is within the closets of secrecy that tears of agony become the incense of beauty that moves heaven and earth. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
To be religious only, is to live a carnal mockery of true spirituality. When we were growing up, we heard people pray in church and at the dinner table and we tried to incorporate this into our spiritual experience. However, we may have never really grown in our comprehension of holy communication or our passion to build upon this foundation. This may sound elementary but one of the most crucial aspects of the Christian life is the need to ask God to give us the desire to live for Him. For example, if we really want to witness to the lost, we must ask God to “arrange” for us the opportunities. If we choose to “have an ear”, we may hear Him say that we need to be more prepared before we run into the lions den. Likewise, if we are curious about learning how to pray and desire to enter into the realm of intercession, first we must ask Him to give us the burden to pray. I promise, if you dare to ask – you will receive.
When we look closely at the life of a prayer warrior, we notice they are very serious minded. One reason for this state of mind is how they see the destiny of souls as a life or death reality. Intercessors do not take divine reality lightly! How can anyone pour their life into something and not be possessed with living for it and dying for it? They have allowed the flame of their zeal to grow stronger until it is a raging fire unto God. Within the flames, emerges something seldom seen but is commonly referred to as a – burden. Even the word itself is so distant and archaic, that it is rare indeed. However, the burden is a very real component of being a disciple of Christ. It is a heaviness of heart, a weight of concern that reduces haughtiness into humility. It is a place where agape love emerges as a spiritual sorrow that is so intense that the person can hardly concentrate on anything else. Jesus was called the man of sorrows, not because He was emotionally sad all the time, but rather because He could discern with the eyes of His heart, the eternal “needs” of all people. Only in the power of His deity could He survive the great agony of knowing the nature of man, and what it would take to save him. He came to earth because His burden was heavier than His dread to be tortured. He willingly carried the weight of the world’s sin and endured the sacrifice of His flesh, because His love was stronger than His shame. Selah. Do you believe He ever stopped thinking about how lost we were? Do you feel He tried to entertain Himself with other thoughts because the stress was more discouraging than He could bear? No, He lived, dreamed and died to be a bridge to heaven, for ALL of us who desperately needed redemption.
Having a burden can be seen as a form of spiritual labor pains. The birthing of miracles involving salvation, deliverance, restoration and healing for example, many times do not fall out of the air as most presume, but rather have been “developing” in the secret place of travail until God’s time of delivery. When we see others with a heart of compassion, we begin to realize how much they need God and how little they know about what life is all about. This in itself causes those who are spiritually sensitive to be broken hearted. This renewed state of mind allows us to look beyond their faults and see their needs. The calloused, cold heart wants to blame people for their condition and are not willing to separate a person’s spirit from their failures. In everyone that God has saved, He his unconditional mercy has reached out with forgiveness and grace even though no one deserved it. This “holy wisdom” examines ones own heart “before” they condemn, judge or criticize others.
The burden is one of heavens mysteries and is coordinated by The Lord as an extension of His perfect will. If we begin to receive His instructions and “unction’s” from His Holy Spirit, we will sense Him laying certain individuals on our conscience. We may not always be in charge for whom we have burdens for because we are not the only intercessors out there and The Father may have someone else praying for them. Many times, we can talk too much in front of the world and actually hinder our reputation as a follower of Christ, but the intercessor is more like a secret agent that becomes very concerned with accomplishing their “secret” mission. To realize that God is constantly operating in the Spirit realm is to live soberly to say the least. This growing in spiritual discernment begins to increase our awareness of God’s presence and this takes our relationship into the deepest level of intimacy. This has been His vision all along, that His people would be in the position to hear His voice and be ready to respond to His will. The coach of the Kentucky basketball team, John Calipari, said something very interesting the other day. He said, “The young players need to realize they must be constantly aware of what they are doing, what I am saying and what their opponent is doing every second. They cannot afford to be distracted and if they lose focus – they will not succeed.” Is this not the perfect picture of how to think and walk in the steadfastness of God’s presence?
People are hiding from the Lord just like Adam and Eve did when God was calling them in the garden. It is an ancient story featuring temptation, disobedience, faithfulness, deception and consequences, (sounds like a modern movie script). This young couple was given a perfect environment and were blessed beyond the imagination – but made a “willing” decision to disobey. I am sure their conscience felt the separation and the emptiness that occurred in their relationship with God, however let me ask the question, has anything really changed within the heart and mind of humanity concerning the way we feel and act about Him? If we look carefully, we will notice the simplicity behind the actions of people when it pertains to their spirituality. If someone is just playing religious games, they will usually avoid the realities of suffering and discipline. Why? Because everybody wants the “good stuff”, the blessings, healings, happiness, and of course the security of heaven but have never “signed up” to pay for them. Going behind the veil of suffering to draw closer to God is not the most popular spiritual teaching. The idea of salvation being “free” is a great selling point and words like grace, abundance, heaven, ransom, redeemed, rescued, forgiven, saved and unconditional love only helps the promotion. These are the “feel good” people who are always on the lookout for a comforting message that will give them the fuzzy feelings of security. Unfortunately, this variety of Christian is usually very shallow in their study of God’s word, intimate worship and the burden to intercede. The Bible calls those who hear the word but are not doers of the word, deceived, and those who put a limited amount of effort into going to church but do not have a constant, personal relationship with God are referred to as “lukewarm”. I scribbled down a basic thought the other day, “Lukewarm people love lukewarm sermons”. This nugget of truth rings loud in my spirit because I look around and see a great falling away of the commitment and faithfulness from those who proclaim God’s Word. People do not want to hear how God really feels toward their attitude because it is not popular to digest the disheartening words of rejection that comes with being vomited out of the mouth of God, (which is why this message is usually found at the back of the filing cabinet.) It is odd that people get excited about going to Africa to hand out tracts, but never think about ministering down their street. People will send offerings to missionaries to spread the gospel but have actually never shared their faith with anyone in their life. A great way to get people running and hiding from God is to point out the life changing responsibility that comes with being purchased or taking up their cross. Most people are eager to believe their ticket to an eternal paradise has been bought and paid for but would rather not consider the requirements that all of this is going to cost them, (but I thought you said salvation was free).
The salvation message of the gospel has been a great instrument that has caught many “fish” but much of the church world has failed to “clean” them with the explanation of true discipleship. Pastors are under pressure to baby-sit the carnal, religious spectators that financially support the organization. Most churches function as a corporate community that follows its own ideas and desires instead of God’s vision. Many pastors are just paid to fill a traditional position but actually have very little spiritual influence on the congregation to relay the direction of God to the people. These religious “daycares” are very disappointing to Him because he wants to see the manifestations of His power and glory. He wants to see tears of repentance, healing, His gifts and the revelation of His Word being demonstrated to the hungry hearts of those seeking Him with everything they have. Instead, He walks away from the dead programs that promote fleshly entertainment, half-truths, compromise, legalism, meaningless rituals, fabricated ceremonies and false teachings. I have written many songs about going deeper with God and have taught about pulling away from the world by reducing television and computer time and spending that time in prayer. Though most Christians agree this is a positive step in developing a closer relationship with God, the general idea does not get a lot of amen’s. Why is this? Because people do not want to surrender their carnality! Most people draw the line when it becomes uncomfortable. They only want to watch God until it hurts and then they will flip the channel. Human nature hates the things of God and this is why people shun fasting. They realize that if they draw near to God that He has many things He would like to tell them and they KNOW it is going to come with a price tag and they have already made up their mind – they are NOT willing to pay. This is what running and hiding from Godly sorrow is all about. It is the exact reason why most people do not lose weight even though they would like to look good – it hurts. Cutting out all of the delicious foods that you crave and exercising (on top of that) is the last thing most of us want to deal with.
Denying the flesh so that we can become more spiritually mature is what God is saying and whether anyone obeys or not, it will never discredit the reality of this truth. We choose each moment how much of God we want! Will His standard allow Him to accept just anything we decide to offer? Will He tolerate our attitude of just going through the motions of asking Him to bless us? Will our decisions be accepted just because He understands how weak we are? We must go further and ask ourselves, how can we stay focused on the mind of Christ? We will need to become so “filled” with His Holy Spirit, there is no room left for carnality. The reason why we cannot be consistent is that we are not consumed with God to the point that He saturates our thoughts. There is a eternal difference between being religious and being saved! It is not some of Him and some of me – it must be ALL of Him and none of me. Selah.
So, allow me to ask you some closing questions: Do you believe that your prayers can change situations that desperately need God’s intervention? Does God move and recognize the interceding of His children when they develop a burden for another person’s soul and their well-being? Do you believe that if we made a list of every person in our network that we have a burden for, and we became fervent in our prayers for them, that we would definitely see God’s miracle power change their lives? If our answer is yes, then our destiny will be a living sacrifice as we live in the Godly sorrow of a broken and contrite heart.