Publication: One-to-One, Spring 2012
…ESCAPING THE TRAP OF SELF AND LAUNCHING INTO SPIRIT-EMPOWERED MISSION
It is a terrible thing to be trapped in a deteriorating situation. On September 11, 2001, many people died because they had no way out of burning buildings. The same thing happened on December 7, 1941, when many US sailors were trapped in sinking ships. The recent cruise ship disaster in Italy is another example. These are tragic stories of people who could not find an exit, and perished.
While it may not seem so dramatic, millions of people are dying slowly each day because they see no way out of a bad situation. I recently read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It is the story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic runner and army ﬂyer whose plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean in 1943. He and his pilot, Allen Phillips, drifted 2000 miles and for 48 days into Japanese waters, spending many months in prison camps. It is a riveting story of survival and miracles. They somehow found a way out.
Many people develop a “boxed in” mentality in lesser situations and become paralyzed. Here is Good News: the Lord is oﬀering a way out! The key to our exit is hearing the voice of God Who is calling us out of our circumstance into a great release. His voice is the key to getting out and not only surviving, but giving us success and producing successors. If we find His way out, we can look back with gratitude, lessons learned, and pass them on as Zamperini did.
The Lord has given me three words that represent three steps out of our challenging circumstances. I want to discuss them with you.
Step One: Unity
We cannot do it alone; we need support. In Zamperini’s case, he and Phillips worked together. Sadly, the Church and many Christians are living in division and actually working against one another. This assures failure. Working together is a matter of survival. This will mean forgiveness and reconciliation. It definitely means recognizing our common danger.
I remember how, after 9/11, there was momentary unity. Even people in airports were friendly to one another. Sadly, it didn’t last long. Our nation has reverted to its old adversarial ways. This has also happened in the Church. Somehow, we must take steps toward unity at every level. We will not always agree, but must remember that there are threats against us that are mutual, and we will all suﬀer if we do not come together.
Psalm 133 tells us that where there is unity, God commands a blessing. Divided families and churches will not experience the necessary blessing of God that oﬀers a way out. We cannot do His part and He will not do ours. If we take steps to forgive and reconcile, He will bless us like the anointing oil that ﬂowed from Aaron’s head all the way down to Aaron’s garments. If we will…then God will.
Prior to the Cross, the disciples were divided and debating positions. After the Cross, they worked it all out and were in one accord at Pentecost. The Church needs to visit the Cross again and die to ourselves. At Pentecost, the Lord anointed the Church.
A divided Church is oblivious to the real issues and powerless to deal with them. A united Church that is Cross-centered and Christ-centered, will experience great power. That should motivate us to swallow our pride and come together for His glory. Remember, we— like Zamperini and Phillips—are on the same raft; the ocean is wide, and the sharks are hungry. Take step one: forgive and work together to find the way out.
Step Two: The Power of God
Jesus commanded the disciples to wait and pray together in Jerusalem so that they would receive spiritual power (see Acts 1:4-5). They did so, and received a very powerful baptism in the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine that group changing history without the power of God? Never! Nor can we. Peter stated that the same promise is unto us (see Acts 2:39). If we find each other, we will find greater power; God will be pleased to pour out His Spirit. If we forgive, He will also. If we show mercy; He will also.
I remember the days in 1964, when I realized that I could not go on without the power of God. I was trapped in my own weakness and temperament. I remember the moment that the Holy Spirit came in power through the prayer of my friend and pastor, Ken Sumrall. I’ll be eternally grateful to him. (Note: as I write this, Ken is 85 years old and physically weakened. Please pray for him.)
During those days, a great revival came to me, to our church, and to the nation. It was not by a human might or power, but by His Spirit (see Zechariah 4:6). When the power of God came, the things we desired but could not accomplish in our own strength came also. People repented, many came to Christ, healings and deliverance came, strongholds were broken, and resources ﬂowed. People volunteered freely in the day of His power (see Psalm 110:3).
Every great revival began when people humbled themselves and sought God’s power. The Great Shantung Revival in China began when a missionary wrote back to the United States and asked forgiveness for stealing 25 cents. Forgiveness triggered reconciliation and resulted in an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 59:1 tells us that God’s hand is not short nor His ear heavy that He cannot hear, but our iniquities separate us from His power.
The Holy Spirit is calling us to seek God, take steps of humility and repentance, and ask Him to pour out His Spirit upon us. The ocean is vast, the sun is hot upon us, and the sharks are hungry. The economy is bad; the enemies are numerous. Do not get “boxed in”. Hear His voice, forgive, seek unity, and pray for His power. We cannot do His part and He will not do ours.
Step 3: Mission
Mission takes us out of where we are, and when the Spirit moves, He moves us to mission. We may kid ourselves about the experience we had in church, but if it did not lead us out, then we are still in.
Jesus was clear with His disciples. “When the Spirit comes, you shall be My witness—everywhere, to the ends of the earth.” A person without a mission is a person boxed in. It is a person who needs the power of God and the Holy Spirit, Who always sends us on a mission (see John 20:21).
I am greatly distressed that so many Christians are content to be entertained, inspired, and blessed, but seemingly have no sense of mission. There is a lack of militancy in our worship and in our preaching. The main mission seems to be self-improvement rather than service and outreach. Only a sense of mission will get us “out of the box”. While we may serve the church, and we should, the field is in the world.
Every Christian needs two things: an assignment beyond the church walls and accountability to be sure that assignment is being carried out. When assignments are carried out, testimonies will follow and inspire others.
STEP 1: Unity— positions us.
STEP 2: Power—fuels us.
STEP 3: Mission—launches us.
We have a lot of “Rockets” that haven’t launched in many years. Until they do, they will never know the joys of exploration. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.” He had just led a wicked woman into faith and life (see John 4:34). He thrived on mission; so can we.
A friend recently asked me how I survived and remained so active after my dear wife went to be with the Lord. I answered in one sentence: “I don’t think about that. I only think about what God has called me to do with the rest of my life.” In a word, it is mission that keeps me sane and happy.
Last year, David Wilkerson passed away. David made a great diﬀerence in many lives. He was an Assembly of God pastor in a small church.
The Lord sent him to New York to work with gangs. He wrote his story in the best-selling book, The Cross and the Switchblade. Hundreds of thousands of copies went across the world and inspired many to mission. One of those that he led to Christ was Nicky Cruz, a gang leader. Nicky wrote Run, Baby, Run. Again, many thousands of copies were sold, inspiring still others.
When the Holy Spirit convicts us and sends us on a mission, lives are aﬀected. When we do not have a mission, other forces aﬀect lives. We know that the tragedy of 9/11 awakened many mi around the world. In New York City, Evangelical churches have grown by more than one-third and violent crime has dropped. For many, the issue is church growth, but I believe that the real issue is obedience. When we go out, others will come in. The fields are ready for harvest.
Praying for You
So here is my sincere prayer for God’s people: I pray that unity will come to the body of Christ. I pray that we will enter a season of forgiveness and reconciliation so that God will forgive us and bring healing among our nations.
Secondly, I pray for the outpouring of spiritual power, so that we can cease laboring in our own strength. The sooner we see our own weakness, the sooner the Lord will give us strength.
Third, I pray that every Christian will hear the Lord’s call to some mission in the world. Is that too much to ask of God? No. When the Spirit comes so will the sense of urgency to obey.
These are my prayers for us. I urge all of us to ask the Lord, “What would you have me to do?” There is an army waiting to be mobilized; Jesus is not our chief entrepreneur; He is the Captain of the Lord’s armies. If we take those three steps, He will lead us out; otherwise, we and our children will perish, if we do not find the exit.
Scripture Reference: Psalm 133; Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2:39; Psalm110:3; Isaiah 59:1; John 20:21; John 4:34;