I was looking back at a blog I wrote earlier this year called ‘Presence’, where I challenged myself (and you!) to ‘keep the main thing the main thing’. In other words, to pursue intimacy (with God) more than activity (for God). To be honest (always good for a church leader!), my success in this quest in recent months has been, at best, patchy.
Recently, I have been reading a book called ‘Take Your Glory Lord’. It is about the life and ministry of William Duma, a Zulu man ‘who lived in agreement with the Holy Spirit’. Through his life and example, I sensed the Lord was challenging me again about the same issue.
Duma recalls the growth of his church with packed services in which they had conversions, healing and miracles. This led to busyness and more demands on his time within the church, and from further afield. He recalls “Through the years, at 4am, by appointment with my Lord, I had been fed by the hand of God. The busyness of preparation ate into my early morning appointment with God. Less and less time was spent in deep communion with God. I told myself I was praying earnestly for the campaigns. Vaguely at first, I realised that my personal communion, consisting of listening, renewal, revelation, rebuke, guidance and much else, had tailed off. The super abundant harvest of those early mornings with God was replaced by severe spiritual kwashiokor (malnutrition)! I tried to justify myself, ‘Time taken up for campaigning is not only legitimate but imperative’. To this my troubled conscience whispered, ‘Not at the perilous neglect of the sweet, fresh hours with Him at dawn’. My spirit became a scorched desert. I began reading books to use what other preachers had written. I became physically tired, whereas previously the Lord had sustained and resuscitated my body and spirit through long periods of tremendous strain. I was a deteriorating man, body, soul and spirit. Being tired, I made flimsy excuses to God but even my prejudiced eyes saw my ministry was failing. Healing power was not as it was formerly. Where were the seeking souls at the altar? The high powered action of the Holy Spirit on the work was frighteningly reduced”.
Duma recalls the continuing downward spiral of creeping pride, resentment towards another local pastor and then a dangerous illness that the doctors feared might be a stroke. Close to death, in hopital and desolate, Duma read the story of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38. He continues his story, “Reading of Hezekiah’s reprieve, I was comforted. The tears I wept and wept into my pillows cleansed my attitude toward the young pastor. I mourned like a dove in Lebanon for the resentment I had allowed to make a travesty of my ministry. I grieved for the spiritual capital which had drained away because my first eager communion with God at daybreak had been shortened, if not replaced, by campaign planning. Those recollections broke my heart and I wept into the pillows”.
The book records, “Broken in spirit but restored to the Lord through repentance, Duma heard God speak to him telling him to discharge himself from the hospital. Healed, he returned to his church and his beloved people, not the same Duma”.
I am reminded of Jesus’ words, “I am the vine; you are the branches…No branch can bear fruit by itself; it MUST remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me…Remain in me and I will remain in you…If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do NOTHING” (John 15:4,5).
I long for more – much more – and certainly not less of conversions, healing and miracles. What better way for God’s love and power to be demonstrated among us and through us! I am passionate about being a facilitator of God’s powerful presence, aren’t you? I must therefore ‘remain in Him’, making it a priority daily and at length to plug into the power source or, using a different analogy, to drink from the river of His Spirit.
I suppose I am writing this to record what God has said to me (in the hope that it stays with me firmly!), to allow you to hold me accountable in this and may be for it to challenge you too! I think we all know that programmes are not the answer – His presence is.
PS The book about Duma is published by Sovereign World Ltd and is available on Amazon.