Dear Father in Heaven,
Last Wednesday was a day full of experiences. You taught me so much, Lord, and in spite of the necessary pain, I believe it was my best day at ARISE. I went to bed with my heart full and grateful.
It was early morning, and I was preparing for the preaching practicum. It was hard; the message just didn't feel right. Kneeling there, in the darkness of the classroom, I pleaded that You would take it and do whatever You needed to. Then it underwent major surgery. This is what I had been waiting for! The message seemed clearer, concise, and better than anything I had prepared before. Yet there was still one thing…
During my preparation, I prayed specifically that You would make me humble and do the speaking through me. You reminded me that living the message was most important, so I prayed that You would put it in my heart and enable me to live the message as I shared it. I left the room confident that it would be according to Your will.
Breakfast came and went. The moment slowly approached. 1, 2, 3… 7 sermons preached and critiqued. Then, it was my turn. Sending up a prayer, I walked up to the front, and when the 10 minute timer started, I launched in.
That was probably the worst sermon I have ever preached.
The content was good, but that was about it. David said that he had expected a 10 from me and got a 7; he was disappointed. Some parts were not clear enough. Most importantly, I needed to spice it up and throw my weight into it—because he didn't believe me. He only believed I was sincere after knowing me for 4 months, but anyone else couldn't have believed me. He knew there was some enthusiasm lurking in me somewhere; he had seen it before.
Content: solid. Delivery: passable.
What David didn't know was that I had been intending to make it more relevant to our class. I had been intending to write on the board the very points he said he missed. But it all went down the drain.
After more critical remarks from David, Jeffrey added his two cents (which wasn't very much at all). I felt like the man in the Operation game—and it hurt! But I saw my weakness in speaking and took the pointers bravely. I knew it would help me in the future.
As I sat down, however, I found it hard to pay attention to the rest of the sermons. I began to question why it hadn't gone well. Why couldn't David believe me? In silent prayer, I realized that I hadn't been passionate about the message. Of course the audience couldn't believe me.
But why wasn't I passionate about the message? The very message itself, which was "Lift up Christ, lift up Christ. He must increase, and I must decrease"—this message was not active in my heart. I was a complete hypocrite. I had fooled myself into thinking I was trusting God, when I had been trusting myself. Then I remembered my prayer that morning: "Lord, please make me humble." Ironically, You knew this was the only way to answer it. You showed me what was inside myself. You made me fall upon the Rock and be broken.
I realized that I had been holding You back by my pride. You couldn't use me to the fullest extent because I would have trusted myself, instead of You. I had fooled myself for so long, thinking I was trusting You when I really wasn't.
It reminds me of what I read in Jeremiah 17. There is the man "who trusts in man, and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD" (vs. 5). Then there is the man "who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD" (vs. 7). The first is cursed, the second blessed. But then it reads, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…" (vs. 9). I had deceived myself into thinking I trusted in You, when I actually trusted in myself. God alone searches the heart and tests the mind, and He knows better than we the extent of our self-trust.
Before, my spiritual walk had been locked; it wasn't going anywhere very quickly. But when You let me fall on the Rock, it unlocked the barrier of my pride, and my relationship with You was freed. You brought me to my knees at the cross, and I beheld the Lamb of God anew. This broke me further still. Though I deserved nothing, You declared me worth everything, including Your own life; and still I had been blind and selfish enough to put myself in front of the cross. How could I do such a thing? Yet in the cross, You promised me freedom—freedom from this thing called self and this enemy called pride, which I hated and feared. But You told me to fear no more. Christ won the victory. I have no need to fear the enemy within.
You tried to teach me this before, but You had to wait until this opportunity to stop me in my selfish tracks and humble me before the cross. It was the wrong message, and it lacked the right heart; therefore, it cost me the chance to share a last, meaningful message with my class. But You knew that was what it would take to break me. Though it hurt, I thank You. I can honestly look back and say the cost was worth it. And that's exactly what You said on the cross as You thought of me—selfish, prideful me. You said I was worth it! What wondrous love is this!
Later that day, as I savoured our last classes and visited our contacts for the last time, I rejoiced that You were able to speak to my heart and through my mouth in deeper ways than before.
I just needed to be broken first.
I'm sorry it took so long. Let me never forget.
Thank You, Father.
In Jesus' precious name,