“Christianity is the divine power of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, filling a man’s soul and body, flashing through his nature like a holy flame, accomplishing the will of God” John G. Lakes
Recently we were in a Middle Eastern nation ministering to a group of Christian workers who were grappling with many serious, sometimes life and death matters. Their lives illustrate some of the greatest complexities and challenges in taking Christ to the nations. I (Norm) wish every person preparing for missions could meet and hear from them. During our fellowship times with them, I asked this question, “What is the most important thing needed in preparation for what you are doing?” Many of them responded saying, “Learn how to deal with spiritual strongholds.” Personal spiritual strongholds are one of the main topics we presented to them. It has been a core in the training we provide.
In preparation for serving the Lord overseas, what is the most important thing we must know and experience? How can we prevent the high dropout rate among many who seek to serve the Lord? Some years ago we had two opportunities to host a well-known author of one of the most highly esteemed books on cross-cultural communication. When we hosted him, he was well into his seventies or even eighties. During a conversation, I asked him what he felt was the most important knowledge needed to prepare for missions. His answer astounded me. He referred to the children of Israel and their departure from Egypt. They were instructed to ask their Egyptian neighbors for gold, and their neighbors gladly complied. But the question arises, “What good is gold in a desert?” The gold of Egypt is not necessarily bad though it does represent worldly power. The world trusts in the power of wealth. What could gold buy in the desert? In the end, they used this power to make an idol that they worshipped in place of the Lord.
What can be compared to Egypt’s gold?
- Knowledge – Knowledge is good, but knowledge alone does not accomplish the work. Because we live in a time where there is such an abundance of knowledge from so many sources, nearly all the world has the ability to know. If power came through knowledge, we would already be spiritual giants. We are trying to impart knowledge in this book, so it is good. The Scriptures talk about seeking knowledge, but knowledge requires response and application. I suggest that many of us have far more knowledge than we have been able to apply. In India I gained the title “The Practical Preacher” because all of my teaching was applicable. If you can’t use it, you will lose it like the manna in the desert. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1)
- Technology – An interesting fact coming out of the war in Iraq is that with all the highly sophisticated technology of the allied force, they have not been able to defeat the simple plots of the insurgents. A radical dedication and covert activity has subverted the high-tech weapons of the west. In our work, e-mail communication is important but not essential. Power point illustration help, but it is the Holy Spirit who speaks. I am writing to you with the help of technology, but I know that the value of these words is not in your receiving it but in the Holy Spirit revealing it. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)
- Strategic gatherings – Much has been done to bring people together to plan. I have been to many “networking” meetings that amounted to little. That doesn’t mean they are unnecessary. A book published in the 80’s talked about the steps of highly effective people. The principles were good, and many sounded like they were Biblically based. Yet if dependence is not put on the Lord and seeking His face and His strategy, much time can be wasted. The late Leonard Ravenhill wrote that in the early church, men met in the upper room to pray; now men meet in the conference room to pay. The subtle reasoning is that if we have strategy and wealth, we can do the work. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
- Finances – Nearly every work that we know struggles to be financially supported. During twenty-five years of missions work, there have been things we desired, but our effectiveness was never dependent on how much we had. In India we know of Christ’s servants who literally have only the clothing they wear and a Bible, but who are much more effective than many well resourced Christians. In the Elijah Company, we have maintained a faith lifestyle and though we are not rich by worldly standards, we have had all that we need. Money is a necessity in this world but not what we depend on. “So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.'” (Zechariah 4:6)
Are these things wrong? No, but what is wrong is the use of them without the power that God supplies. What was the real resource that God gave Israel when they came out of Egypt? I believe it is found in Exodus 33-34. Moses found favor in God’s sight, received a revelation of God and a promise of His presence. What can we do to prioritize knowing God and His presence and finding His favor?
Ways to Prioritize Knowing God’s Presence and Power
- Live in love and unity – We are not lone-rangers but are connected to the entire body. Where love and unity are being practiced, there will also be power. Strife puts out the Spirit’s power. The founder of McDonald’s restaurants is quoted as saying, “None of us is as good as all of us.” Without unity, the Lord’s presence is diminished. The Lord dwells in the midst of loving fellowship. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that is from heaven is first of all pure, then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:13-18)
- Hunger for God’s manifest presence – Moses said, “If you don’t go with us, don’t send us.” This is nurtured through prayer and fasting. I asked a missionary working in a difficult place if there are many other workers who spend an hour a day in prayer. His response was that he does not know of any, not even himself. We need time to be still in His presence as the Word says in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” And as the small monk, Brother Lawrence wrote, “We must practice the presence of God“. He is with us, but are we continually aware of it? Sign up for Intercessors Arise to learn more about prayer and practicing God’s presence by sending a blank e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit – Jesus said that He would not leave His followers as orphans but would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit. John 14:17-18, 26. Historically, there have been divisive views about the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. These views have resulted in grievous divisions and lack of power and witness. What is the proper way to think of the Holy Spirit? In the late eighties, I was asked to do a teaching on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. I was impressed with the idea that the Father was in Heaven, the Son was seated at His right hand and that God the Holy Spirit was resident in us, the Church. Because of this I sought to know the Holy Spirit better. As a result my ministry began to have a more powerful outcome.
The most important things is to know the Lord and walk in His presence. Technology, organizing, networking, finances are all good tools but we need to seek God first and the tools later. The motto of my alma mater is “To know Him and to make Him know.” Recently in talking with a long-term worker from the Middle East, I asked him this question, “How much knowledge does a person need to prepare for overseas work?” His response to the question about knowledge to prepare was, “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a worker for the Lord. The important thing is to know the Lord.”
“It must be perfectly obvious to anyone that what the whole church needs from top to bottom is a deeper conversion, a profounder experience of the power of the Holy Spirit. Awakenings in history have never come from regular ecclesiastics getting together to ‘do something’. It has come from inspired nobodies whom the church first ignored, then condemned, then (if they got powerful) took over and finally domesticated. Let us look to see where the Holy Spirit is at work now. Maybe we can learn something” Samuel Shoemaker
For additional training in the presence of God, read the book called Go Forth in Power (Book 2) by Norman and Debbie Przybylski