River of God | Day 7
2 Samuel 18:19-33, Philippians 3: 7-14, 1 Corinthians 9:24,
Hebrews 12:1, Revelation 3:16
On our journey of repentance toward revival, we need to be able to look back at our mistakes and missteps without condemnation. No one is perfect, and we all have blind spots. Not only do we get off course as individuals, but movements and organizations do as well. We are very human.
It is important to remember this as we move forward in studying our missteps (as the Church) in recent movements, specifically the charismatic and Jesus movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s. There were five failures of these movements which short-circuited the move of God in revival. It caused them to fall short of all He wanted to do through them. Not only will we learn from them corporately, but each of these apply to our personal lives as well.
We study these five failures on a deeper level, not for the sake of condemnation, but as an example. . There was merit in what these movements brought to the Church and the world around them. These shortcomings don’t detract from the value of it. Studying these five failures will show us the pitfalls and traps that we’re to avoid in our pursuit of the river.
The first failure was haste without heart. This concept is best seen in the story of Ahimaaz in 2 Samuel 18. Absalom, who has stolen the throne from his father (David), has been killed. Ahimaaz asks to be the one to bring King David the news that his enemies are dead, but Joab refuses. Instead, he sends the Cushite to tell David. Ahimaaz persists, persuading Joab to let him go as well.
Ahimaaz eventually outruns the the Cushite and reaches David to deliver the news. This is where we enter the story.
“Ahimaaz called and said to the king, "All is well." And he prostrated himself before the king with his face to the ground. And he said, "Blessed is the Lord your God, who has delivered up the men who lifted their hands against my lord the king." The king said, "Is it well with the young man Absalom?" And Ahimaaz answered, "When Joab sent the king's servant, and your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was." Then the king said, "Turn aside and stand here." So he turned aside and stood still.
Behold, the Cushite arrived, and the Cushite said, "Let my lord the king receive good news, for the Lord has freed you this day from the hand of all those who rose up against you." Then the king said to the Cushite, "Is it well with the young man Absalom?" And the Cushite answered, "Let the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up against you for evil, be as that young man!"
The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”” (2 Samuel 18:28-33).
As this story shows, Ahimaaz did not have the entire message for David. Why? Because he didn’t identify with the king’s heart. Although the death of Absalom meant that David’s enemy was defeated, it also meant that he’d lost his son. Ahimaaz watched in defeat as the Cushite was able to deliver the complete message. He wanted to be the one to deliver the good news, the one people would remember, and in his haste, he didn’t see the whole picture.
Our message will always be in some way deficient if it isn’t connected to the King’s heart. The pleasure of the Father is - and must remain - the ultimate goal of our running.
When considering haste without heart, we see that the real question is our motives for service. Ahimaaz wanted to be seen. Some people are motivated by the needs of others. Others run for the pure excitement of running. But vision must never be our starting place - vision born of God’s heart must be where we always begin.
We have failed in this area. We have a generation who believes that gifting qualifies a person for ministry. We bypass character and other heart issues in these movements to create "success". If any part of our vision is born of ambition rather than God’s heart, it will quickly shift us into running for self, instead of for the King. We must remember that we win only when we accomplish His purpose.
The second failure we will study is speed without seasoned skill. Where haste without heart examines our motives, this one examines our maturity. God’s pattern of service is always in this order:
1. He matures us into His character.
2. He entrusts us with His heart.
3. He directs us with His vision.
4. He enables us with His anointing and provision.
5. He releases us to minister our gifts to accomplish and fulfill.
Why is this important? Let’s look at 2 Samuel 2 and the story of Asahel to better understand this pattern.
“Now the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab and Abishai and Asahel; and Asahel was as swift-footed as one of the gazelles which is in the field. Asahel pursued Abner and did not turn to the right or to the left from following Abner. Then Abner looked behind him and said, "Is that you, Asahel?"
And he answered, "It is I." So Abner said to him, "Turn to your right or to your left, and take hold of one of the young men for yourself, and take for yourself his spoil." But Asahel was not willing to turn aside from following him.
Abner repeated again to Asahel, "Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I lift up my face to your brother Joab?" However, he refused to turn aside; therefore Abner struck him in the belly with the butt end of the spear, so that the spear came out at his back. And he fell there and died on the spot.
And it came about that all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still” (2 Samuel 2:18-23).
While Ahimaaz ran for the wrong reasons, Asahel was guilty of running prematurely. In running the spiritual race of life, zeal alone is not enough. Zeal often generates, but seldom sustains. Good intentions are not enough - it’s not simply the thought that counts.
What happens when we ignore the importance of maturity and allow gifting to replace it? We find people attempting to operate at higher levels without the sacrifices necessary to obtain it. We are gift-focused, but haven’t required the character, maturity, or motives to achieve it.
Maturity was valuable to the early church. In these progressive levels of maturity, a person was not considered qualified until reaching the fourth position, huios. At this point there was a huiothesia, the placing (thesia) into sonship (huios).
The huiothesia usually took place when a person was about 30 years of age. This is what Christ’s baptism was about. In a huiothesia ceremony, the instructor, called in that day a pedagogue, presented the mature son to the father. The father would then publicly announce, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Not a child, but now a son. When Christ was baptized, the Father publicly spoke those words (see Matt. 3:17).
This is the example we must follow. We currently (and incorrectly) choose and release our leaders based on gifting. But instead, we should do so based on maturity, character, and depth. But let us press on to maturity as we prepare for this great river outpouring.
Finally, we have failed by embracing sensationalism without substance. "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God” (Revelation 3:1,2).
Where haste without heart speaks of our motives, and speed without seasoned skill speaks of our maturity, this one speaks of our methods. It represents the foundation on which we build.
We are living in an age of “placebo Christianity”. The outside looks good, but the inside lacks substance. It looks alive, but is dead. It standardizes mediocrity. Like King David trying to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel, we have produced thousands of “new carts” in our attempts to bring back the glory. They come disguised in many forms - from church growth seminars to the most innovative and brilliant schemes imaginable.
But it’s important to remember the truth in light of methods such as these. An overemphasis on power, miracles, and emotional stirrings always leads to sensationalism. Ultimately, it will result in a decrease in power.
The world is crying out to us for substance. We can’t reach them using insufficient methods. We must stop trying to use pride and ambition to reach them. Instead, let's embrace genuine humility and servanthood.
Let’s shake off the shackles of perverted theology and its dead religion! Let’s raise the standard back to the biblical level. Let’s insist on the real thing. Let’s allow the river to flow.