Check Before You Step Forward
I wonder how many times you've got yourself ready to do something important and then all of a sudden circumstances suddenly change and you find yourself unable to do it?
A couple of years ago I was on fire for the Gospel and rushed around the place doing, it seemed, ten men's work. I exhilarated in it. I loved being able to achieve so much. And then suddenly, I met with an accident -- a heavy fall, followed by a bad case of pneumonia -- which not only forced me to lie in bed for two weeks but which has slowed me down to the pace of half a man. I was even warned in a vision that if I did not "stop" that I would die.
King David wrote: "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord" (Psalm 37:23) but has it ever occurred to us that some of the steps we have planned have been deliberately hindered by the Lord? And have we appreciated what at first seems like a negative action on His behalf?
When I was a boy I remember well the words shouted in slow succession: "Ready...Steady....GO!" at the beginning of races (variations include "On your marks...get set....GO!" or "Ready...Set...GO!"). But have you ever been running at top speed and heard the signal: "Ready...Steady....STOP!"?
The Lord Says "Stop!"
I have mentioned one example above but actually I have had many such experiences. I remember once, as a pastor, how I was pursuing a difficult case of rebellion in our congregation as one of the members was really deviating from the Path. Determined to do all I could to prevent this person from falling, I was about to press matters to a climax when I saw a vision of an open hand, palm facing, suddenly appear and advance towards me at great speed. And though I heard no audible words, I knew the Lord was saying, "Stop!" I did, and though I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't, I can report that the person concerned is an active member of the congregation today.
These last few years the Lord has, I believe, deliberately slowed me up for one reason -- so that I can listen to Him more. Listening is one of those gifts that few people actually possess, even though most people think they possess it. We are so confident of our rightness that in the majority of situations we don't bother to consult the Lord and get the divine perspective.
When Zeal Outpaces Wisdom
When I was a student a Christian once said to me: "Chris, if you listened half as much as you talked, you would be able to do a great service for God." Those words struck to the depths of my soul and I have never forgotten them. Impulsive, confident in our own wisdom, and reluctant to seek counsel from others, we often launch ourselves zealously into projects whose outcome can either be a dead-end or have catastrophic consequences.
The Lord's "Strange" Way
A good many years ago I flew to another country to see someone I had offended some years before in order to clear my conscience. I had wronged her and I wanted her to know that I accepted responsibility for my actions and wanted to apologise. The night before I was to visit her I saw a vision which told me that my intention, though honourable, would be futile. I didn't listen. I went to her home to apologise and received a fiery rebuttal. It just wasn't the right time.
A few years ago we lost a member of our congregation. It was personally a very painful experience because I felt so close to this man in the Spirit, had been led to him by miraculous circumstances, and been told by the Lord that we would share a close ministry together. I could not believe that he was leaving our Church. On this occasion I was wise, however. I did not pursue him but left the door open for his return. After several years he picked up the telephone and expressed the wish to be a part of us again. I understood, as I listened to his story, that it was indeed the Lord's will that we be separated for this time and that he had, in some respects, other, more important, things to do for the Lord.
A Life-Threatening Illness
During Holy Week I faced a dilemma for I was due to fly to another city with my son for a computer science conference, something I had been looking forward to for a very long time; my employer had paid out alot of money for me and I had paid out alot for my son. But four days previously I suddenly got an abscess in my tooth which has been causing me days of excruciating agony. I went to see the dentist and on the second visit he gave me an injection which was so painful that I yelled at the top of my voice and writhed in agony. He then cut open a blood vessel in my mouth with a scalpel to release the pressure which had been causing me so much pain. I came home, feeling relieved though exhausted and in some discomfort, hoping that I would be OK for my trip the next day, but the pain returned.
Now I'm a pretty determined person. When I set my mind to a task I do it come what may. I don't give up easily. I knew my son was looking forward to this trip and I don't want to disappoint him either. So what should I do? I had the determination to go even though I felt ill, but was it right?
The day before my mother telephoned me from England and said that she had had a tooth abscess and just had a tooth removed, and that an old friend of ours had had exactly the same thing too at the same time. Three miserable souls. What was I to make of this? Was this a "Ready...Steady...STOP!" situation, a "Ready...Steady.....GO!" situation, or just a remarkable coincidence??
In the end I was forced to stay in bed and cancel my trip but I sent my son off alone without me. It was a "Ready...Steady....STOP!" situation. But what was I made to stop for?
The pain was so bad one day that I thought I would die and I took a medicine I was told to be very careful of. In a moment I lost faith that I would get well again and put my trust in the medicine. The pain was relieved briefly but immediately afterwards I felt desperately ill. I saw a vision of myself in a coffin and other signs relating to death and knew that I was close to death again, as I had been two years previously at the same time of year when I caught pneumonia.
After the dentist's scalpel the Lord spoke to me audibly, something I have not experienced very often, less than a dozen times in my life. He told me, bluntly: "You are lacking in wisdom." From that point on I did alot of soul-searching and reached a clear understanding through studying the Word and through listening to my dreams and inner conscience that the time had come for me to leave the present "me" behind and start afresh. It was a "Ready...Steady...STOP!" situation alright and absolutely necessary for my continuing salvation.
I had a dream. In the dream I saw a brown Ford which I owned until recently when I crashed it and wrote it off. It looked OK in the dream but I understood that it represented my "old life". There were some suitcases in the boot (trunk). A little further off was a brand-new blue car, glistening. I understood that this was my new life and that I was to transfer the luggage from the old car to the new one. But I could see that where it was parked there was floodwater and that it was slowly rising. I had to make the transfer quickly and get out.
The meaning of the dream was immediately obvious to me. This moment in time, when the Lord was stopping me, was the transfer time. The old life, in its totality, was over; I had either to accept that and move on or reject it and perish.
A Life Reorientation
Our quest for Zion will be nothing less than a total life-reorientation. Not a few changes here and there, but a total change in our habits, the way we live and relate to one another, the way we organise and plan our lives, the way we do things, the way we love and forgive...everything. I believe each member is being offered that new life now. Let's not miss it.
This page was created on 30 May 1998
Last updated on 30 May 1998
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