Trusting God’s Methods
Is it not amazing: though we know the power of the Holy Spirit can be ours, we still ape the world’s wisdom, trust its forms of publicity and its noise, and imitate its ways of manipulating men! If we try to influence the world by using its methods, we are doing the Lord’s work in the flesh. If we put activity, even good activity, at the center rather than trusting God, then there may be the power of the world, but we will lack the power of the Holy Spirit.
The key question is this: As we work for God in this fallen world, what are we trusting in? To trust in particular methods is to copy the world and to remove ourselves from the tremendous promise that we have something different—the power of the Holy Spirit rather than the power of human technique.
Under the leadership of Moses and Joshua, the Jews marched when the ark marched and they stood still when the ark stood still. They did not rush ahead if God did not order the ark (which represented Himself) to be moved. Sometimes they stayed in one place for long periods. We Christians, individually and corporately, must learn to wait like this. Tongues of fire are not for us if we are so busy doing the clever thing that we never wait quietly to find out whether the ark of the Lord has gone ahead or stayed.
Once after I had given a message like this, a man told me, “You have opened a door for me. What you say is true. I am on many Christian boards, and I have large holdings in cotton mills. So I am in one kind of business meeting at one time and another kind of business meeting at another. And sometimes in the midst of a meeting I will suddenly look up and say, Which meeting am I in?” He could see no difference whatsoever; in both cases just the clever thing was being done. This is not the way to have spiritual power. The Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s way.
The Battle in the Heavenlies
The real battle is not fought by Christians just against forces in this world, whether theological, cultural, or moral. The real battle is in the heavenlies. The Scripture, therefore, insists that we cannot win our portion of the engagement with earthly weapons.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians contains the classic expression:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against the spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. (Ephesians 6:10–18)
There is nothing in this list that the world accepts as a way of working, but there are no other ways to fight the spiritual battle. Imagine the Devil or a demon entering your room right now. You have a sword by your side; so when you see him you rush at him and stab him. But the sword passes straight through and doesn’t faze him! The most awesome modern weapon you could think of could not destroy him. Whenever we do the Lord’s work in the flesh, our strokes “pass right through” because we do not battle earthly forces; the battle is spiritual and requires spiritual weapons.
We cannot know much about walking in the Spirit until we realize and implement the washing of feet and the humility of the cross.
Besides, if we fight the world with copies of its own weapons, we will fail, because the Devil will honor these with his own, but our Lord will not honor these with us, for that does not give Him the glory. They may bring some results—activism does have its results—but they will not be the ones the Lord wants. Our hands will be empty of honor from God because He will not be getting the glory. We must not try to serve the Lord with our own kind of humanism and egoism.
In this war, if Christians win a battle by using worldly means, they have really lost. On the other hand, when we seem to lose a battle while waiting on God, in reality we have won. The world may mistakenly say, “They have lost.” But if God’s people seem to be beaten in a specific battle, not because of sin or lack of commitment or lack of prayer or lack of paying a price, but because they have waited on God and refused to resort to the flesh, then they have won.
Getting Things Done
Let us not think that waiting on the Lord will mean getting less done. The truth is that by doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way we will accomplish more, not less. You need not fear that if you wait for God’s Spirit you will not get as much done as if you charge ahead in the flesh. After all, who can do the most, you or the God of heaven and earth?
Nor should we think that our role will be passive. The moving of the Holy Spirit should not be contrasted with either proper self-fulfillment or tiredness. To the contrary, both the Scriptures and the history of the church teach that if the Holy Spirit is working, the whole man will be involved and there will be much cost to the Christian. The more the Holy Spirit works, the more Christians will be used in battle, and the more they are used, the more there will be personal cost and tiredness. It is quite the opposite of what we might first think. People often cry out for the work of the Holy Spirit and yet forget that when the Holy Spirit works, there is always tremendous cost to the people of God—weariness and tears and battles.
The Lord brings the real contrast into focus in Galatians: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. . . . If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:16, 25–26). In these verses, walking in the Spirit (that is, doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way) is not contrasted with tiredness and cost but with vainglory. We cannot have God’s power and deliberately place the Me in the center of our lives. We cannot know much about walking in the Spirit until we realize and implement the washing of feet and the humility of the cross. As long as vainglory exists, it will have destructive results, such as “provoking one another, envying one another.”
If we do not want to waste our lives after we have become Christians, then we must understand the importance of having a humble, quiet heart and the power of the Holy Spirit.
This article is adapted from No Little People by Francis Schaeffer.
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