In youth it seems so easy to make bold declarations in the name of the Lord. “Thus says the Lord……” and then follows great and grand announcements of the will and mind of God- what He is going to do, when and how He is going to do it; and then we put all kinds of designations to it such as the voice of the Lord, prophetic utterance, revelation, insight, etc..
Obviously I do believe God speaks- He is not mute; He is not a “silent watcher in the stands”. I am not addressing that issue. I am merely pointing out that the way we relate to the “speaking of God” in youth is often quite different from how we relate to the voice of God in age- or the better term is maturity. The Bible refers to zeal without knowledge- and I would suggest this reality relates more to our youth.
In speaking of youth, I am not confining the definition to age, but am addressing our first experiences in a thing. In other words I am looking at being young in a particular experience- being young in a particular involvement or area of activity.
For instance, this year I begin my thirty sixth year of Christian ministry, but with respect to the area of foreign missions ministry I am only in my youth. This has nothing to do with age- it has to do with experience.
Regarding all of the details of life it would be wonderful if age in itself equalled maturity. The only thing required for maturity would be birthdays. But I do not need to look beyond the image in the mirror to understand that this is not the recipe for maturity.
When we are in the youth stage of a thing there is a tendency to be swept along with enthusiastic zeal- the mere romance of the new. But with maturity there tends to come wisdom- and while that wisdom must never be viewed as the absence of zeal, it must be understood to be the ability to govern or administrate zeal, to the end of producing the maximum measure of quality fruit in which Christ is glorified.
Part of the wisdom that comes with maturity regarding this whole business of speaking in the name of the Lord is, what I call, a sobering sense of responsibility. Many of the Old Testament writings of the prophets refer to ‘the burden of the word of the Lord.’ I have not researched this in depth, but just off the cuff, I would suggest that part of the burden of the word of the Lord is that deep sense of sober responsibility of speaking in the name of the Lord- and declaring, ‘Thus and so’ to be the word (the mind, the will, the direction) of the Lord.
By “sober responsibility” I do not mean that negative tormenting fear that holds us back from speaking in the name of the Lord when we ought to be speaking. Rather, I am referring to the reverential fear of the Lord, the discipline of which keeps us from a certain unhealthy casualness that results in a careless and shallow handling of the voice of the Spirit.
Perhaps this is some of what James was referring to when he wrote, ‘Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgement.’ (James 3:1)
And then he proceeds to show us the incredible power of the tongue. But what he writes about the tongue must not be disconnected from the subject of the context, and that contextual reality is the responsibility of teaching the word of the Lord and of speaking in His name.
I have shared these thoughts in order to come to this- I am about to open my heart to you, to speak in the name of the Lord, and to insist that I believe the Holy Spirit has laid in my spirit a particular word regarding the year that is beginning this very day. It is a word designed to set the attitude of our hearts, the focus of our anticipation, and the determination of our faith and hope regarding the year in front of us.
I do this in the fear of the Lord, and with a deep sense of sober responsibility.
Before doing so, let me back up to the word God shared with us at the beginning of last year. It was a word regarding foundations. I can tell you that when I was presenting that word I thought I had some understanding of what it meant. One year later, I can now tell you that in fact I had no clue of what it meant. But I can also tell you this- that word has come to past and continues to come to past in my life. I have never had a year in which the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit has penetrated my soul at the foundational levels it has during 2005.
I think the same is true of this fellowship corporately. I am not speaking for Pastor Dave or Marilyn, nor for the leadership in this house; this is my observation only.
A few weeks ago, Duane Harder spoke to some of us regarding the paramount necessity of core values- and of identifying those core values, of clearly understanding what they are, and of not compromising them in the journey. Core values are the same as what I refer to as foundational realities.
The discovery and refining of core values is quite a journey in its own rite. But once they are established by the Spirit they become the dynamic centre of all that we do. Without this there is no real security or confidence in anything we do, because without a true centre everything flies apart.
But there is a negative perception that often comes with this. The perception is that we have lost sensitivity and compassion when our core values will not allow us to accommodate everything that comes to us.
All of that to simply point out that, in my opinion, the Lord definitely spoke to us last year, and the ongoing work of that word has brought about some fundamental changes in our lives individually, and in the life of the fellowship corporately.
So what about this year of which this day is the very first day? What is the Spirit saying regarding 2006? I understand that God is speaking many things, in many ways, and in many places. That I cannot address, but I can speak with confidence regarding what I am hearing.
First I am hearing the single word ‘redemption’. Secondly, I am hearing these words, ‘The corner is turned.’ I am not reluctant to speak to you, that in this coming year many of you are going to experience the turning of a corner that you have been in the process of turning for a very long time- a corner which the enemy has told you you would never finally get around. But in the turning of this corner you are going to discover one central wonder and reality and that reality is redemption; there is going to come a revelation of redemption that is going to enable you to interpret all of your sins, your brokenness, your failures- all the wrongs done to you and all the wrongs you have done- you will be able to interpret it all in relation to that redemption. And progressively the negative power of your past will not be able to hold you down. Rather, that past will become the mere backdrop against which the wonder of this great and glorious redemption will be showcased.
All of this I will present in a series of messages around the life of Samson. For this service today I am going to do something I have not done in thirty six years of ministry. Most places I would not feel free to do it. I shared what I was feeling with pastor Bill in Nova Scotia and he agreed that in Kingston Christian Fellowship there would be no problem with this.
Are you nervous and wondering what daring thing I am about to do? Well, here it is- the reading of the entire story of Samson.
Judges 13, 14, 15.
But the final word in the story of Samson is not in the Old Testament. It is in a most unlikely New Testament setting. It is found in a list of sixteen names, which have one thing in common- they all pleased God through their faith. In fact the church has for centuries referred to this list of names as the heroes of the faith.
In Heb.11:32 Samson shows up as a hero among the heroes of the faith. There’s the final note on the life of Samson. So regardless of how we view that very messy part of the story recorded in the Old Testament that view must ultimately be filtered through this single New Testament reference- and when it is there can be but one conclusion: God redeemed the mess.
That will be the central value to which we return time and again during this series of messages. Life is not about the mess- it’s about the redemptive heart of God in relation to the mess.