Tokens or Devotion?
There have been a few times when something has lain heavily upon my chest. For the last few months, I have had trouble writing. The words come in starts and spurts. And a dark cloud seemed to stay between me and the Lord. I would get a word but before I could sit down with my thoughts, it was gone. I still may not be able to articulate it properly, but something is marinating in my head and in my heart.
It seems the world is spinning out of control and upside down. We know these times are spoken of in the Bible. It’s considered one of the “end of times” signs. You might say, people have talked about the end of times for generations. But nothing has pointed to the end events as we are experiencing today. You might decide to quit reading about now. But this stirring of my heart isn’t really about the end of times. It’s about the people of the early church, what they experienced with Jesus and my desire to see it again in my lifetime.
I must confess a couple of things to you. One thing is I am a bit jealous of those who walked with Jesus. They saw miraculous things. They heard Jesus speak with such authority that it caused quite a stir with the religious folks. But the true kicker that made everything come alive for them was the resurrection of Jesus. Everything changed for the disciples with that event.
I know. We have it so much better today because we have the Spirit of Jesus living in us if we are truly saved. The ancient ones would be jealous of us if they had known the Spirit of the Living God could dwell in them like we have it today. They would want to experience these things first hand. Some had the Spirit for such a time, but it was not like what we have today.
However, the Spirit of Jesus seemed to do more in the early church than what is experienced today. Why is that? If it’s the same Spirit (and it is), shouldn’t the Spirit still be working through the Church today? I would say yes. But I fail to see Him work these days like He once did in biblical times. I read about the wonders that happened with the early church through Peter and Paul and the other disciples. People came to know Jesus by the thousands by the words of the Spirit spoken by these disciples.
One thing that has come up for me is the word devoted. The early church was devoted to meeting together, reading God’s word and taking the Lord’s communion. They were devoted to prayer and fasting. The work of the Spirit was powerful in that day because of the devotion of the early church.
My second confession is this: maybe the reason I see nothing happening with the Spirit is because I am not devoted to the things that pleases God. I think the second thing that is brewing in my heart is the need for fervent prayer. We should all be devoted to prayer – not these light weight prayers but ones that shake the heavens because of the mighty forces we stir in Jesus’ name.
In Francis Chan’s new book Letters to the Church, he wrote about his daughter’s birthday. He asked his daughter if they threw a party and just offered cake would anyone show up to celebrate her birthday. She said a couple would. Francis asked if he provided unlimited tokens, food and prizes at a local kids place; how many would show up? She said the whole school would be there.
Church in this day and age is more on the “unlimited tokens and cake” page than the “devotion to things that please God” page. How many would show up if our gatherings were like the early church, just reading the word of God and prayer? Prayer has become more of an opener or a closer to the worship experience instead of a fervency to bring heaven to earth.
If we want to experience change in our culture, in our communities and in our families; it’s going to take fervent prayer. Another confession, it’s been a real long time since I’ve prayed fervently. I haven’t experienced a Holy Spirit filled moment in church or in my quiet time in years. I have drifted away from the devoted things in this last season of my life. It’s been a tough season. Maybe it’s because of my lack of devotion to the things that please God. Maybe it’s time to change my focus again. Maybe it’s time to learn how to pray effectively with fervency once again.
If we are truly at the end of times, then we don’t have time to lose. If there are prayers that need to move heaven and earth, it has to come from us – the church body. There is no one else that can do it and we can’t do it alone. We need each other to be united in focus – to the things that please God. No more tokens for me. I want the real deal. I want the Holy Spirit to move like never before. How about you?
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21