Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Friday, January 10, 2014

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

Soft heart, thick skin, Friend.

I recently had the privilege of taking part in a conference at a church in Peru. What joy to see God at work! The services were wonderful, and the fellowship was priceless. It seemed apparent that the Lord had an appointment prepared for us. The only “negative” was that it became very clear that I am not as young as I used to be. The altitude of the Andes really got to me. It was a physical battle every day. It was hard to breathe, eat, or sleep. As I labored to inhale, I watched the folks who live at that altitude. They functioned with no problem. Their bodies had adapted to the conditions. I was assured that if I stayed long enough, I would also adapt and become oblivious to the lack of oxygen. This prompted two thoughts:

1. On the positive side, I was reminded that when we are where God wants us to be, He provides grace to do the job. As a kid, I was so terrified of public speaking that I actually passed out. In addition, my musical skills were so limited that the children’s choir director asked me to please lip-sync the words so as not to throw off the kids who could actually sing. In spite of these natural handicaps, I have somehow managed to preach and lead worship in several thousand services. I still get nervous before the service, but the Holy Spirit always makes up the difference. God is absolutely faithful to provide the ability if we will step up to obey.

2. On the negative side of the coin, I was struck by our capacity to get comfortable with things that initially cause us distress. We accommodate to the environment. Just like our hands become calloused when we use them for labor, our hearts can become inured to things around us. We are bombarded today with images of things that would have horrified us just a few years ago. I regularly talk to folks who think I am a little goofy because I don’t go to most movies or watch many television programs. The blasphemous language along with the graphic violence and sexual behavior are just too much for me. I know that I would probably get used to it, but I don’t want to get used to it! By the same token, I believe we often get used to enduring things that God has delivered us from: never tolerate sickness or lack or discord or sin. It is not your natural state. Don’t let it become your accustomed habitat.

Somebody Said: Men become accustomed to poison by degrees. Victor Hugo

Scripture Reading: Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (Php 4:11-13 MSG)

My friend who lives in the high altitudes told me that when he travels down to the coast for a few days he can feel the altitude for a day or so after he returns home. As Christians living in a fallen world, we have to have times of retreat to the presence of a holy God where our hearts are restored to their pristine condition. Then we can go back out into the battle with a clear memory of what holiness feels like.


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