Recently i was reading Darren Wilson’s book ‘Igniting Furious Love’ and came across a paragraph which made me stop reading and start praying instead. Ever had one of those moments? The paragraph was in a chapter on evangelism by Heidi Baker. She responds to the suggestion that people we come across may not be hungry for Jesus and says, “‘What if nobody is hungry?’ you ask. If you get into the presence, into the intimate presence of God, if you get into the holy place, if you’re connected with Jesus, in love with Jesus, breathing, eating, dreaming with Jesus – then fresh bread, the bread of presence is in your hands and even the rich cannot resist fresh, fresh bread.” And that got me thinking. So many of us get caught up in the latest strategy for evangelism. We listen to multiple sermons on how to reach the lost and how to be more effective at preaching the Gospel. But i think Heidi Baker may be onto something here! The reality is, even if you feel full, if you walk into a bakery where fresh bread is being made, the wonderful aroma is enough to make you start salivating. Just a moment ago you were thinking about how full you felt, but in the presence of the smell of fresh bread even the most self-controlled individual begins to melt. I feel provoked to be someone who carries fresh bread. It’s not good enough for me to describe bread to people – that will not ignite hunger – i have to be carrying the real deal so that the fragrance will create hunger in them, even where hunger was previously thought to be absent. Sharing the gospel is not about me following some tick-list of things to say and do, but is about coming to the bread of life, soaking up His presence, learning to carry and host His presence, so that i become the fragrance of Jesus to a lost world – the aroma of fresh bread really is irresistible.
I think it was a sermon from Graham Cooke that i was listening to – he said the devil doesn’t have the Holy Spirit in him and so it’s impossible for him to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit so he cannot be patient. It then follows, that in whatever situation that you’re in, if you’re in the place that God’s put you and the devil’s trying to come against you, if you just keep going, you can out-patience him. It’s like he’s playing a game of supernatural ‘chicken’ with you – coming at you head on – and he’s betting that you’ll be the one to flinch and change your course first. But what if you don’t? What if you’re the one who stays on course for longer? What if you refuse to change the subject causing him to lose patience and move first? I was mulling over all this when my amazing friend Sarah (of the aforementioned costa coffee experience) told me of some research she’d heard that shows that couples who are unhappy and wanting a divorce, if they just decide not to divorce (that’s all they have to decide – no change in behaviour, no new marriage strategy), in the vast majority of cases they’ll testify to being happy together in 5 years time. Just a simple decision to not change the subject, to keep going forward, to refuse to quit and voila, they’ve out-patienced the devil who loves to bring division and breakdown of relationships. It’s easy to assent to this idea of out-patiencing the devil from a distance, but harder when you’re the one going through the difficulties. When all that is around you is crumbling and the temptation to point the finger at God and say ‘Why aren’t you answering my prayers?! Don’t you see? Don’t you hear? Don’t you care?’ pulls you like an overwhelming current. I had just such an experience in this last month. Suffering a personal loss and feeling the effects of it in my own body with things seemingly going downhill even after much prayer. After a month of no recovery, i started to grow impatient. Impatient with the situation, impatient with God. And just as i was about to push Him away and give up i remembered Graham Cooke’s advice to out-patience the devil. And so, there was only one thing for it. I decided to write all my disappointments and hurts on a piece of paper then stand on that piece of paper and worship until i connected with God and had a good attitude. It may have taken a couple of hours (i’m a slow learner), but i tell you the sense of wonder when God touched my heart and all that felt like ash slowly turned beautiful in my heart was incredible. He really is able to turn mourning into dancing (Psalm 30) and out-patiencing the devil has turned out to be one of the best things i’ve done in a long time. Keep going. Keep pushing. Once you’ve heard God’s opinion, refuse to change the subject and you’ll see just around the corner, eventually, sometimes oh so gradually, the glimmer of heaven breaking in on the seams of earth.
This morning I had the best coffee ever. I’m serious. My amazing friend Sarah suggested we meet at 7am at our local Costa coffee shop so that we could have an hour of catching up time before she caught a flight to the States and before i got on with work for the day. I thought the early start (i love my sleep!) was a big sacrifice but oh. my. goodness. was it worth it. We talked about everything from our marriages to out-patiencing the devil (more on that another time!) and from our extended families to the Kingdom of God breaking out in our everyday lives so that we’re no longer just trying to get through the day but we’re allowing God to use our normality to be the doorway for His outrageous goodness to transform our realities. Pretty awesome stuff for 7am. It occurred to me that slowly but surely Jesus is helping me renew my mind so that i really believe Him. Not believe the theoretical possibility of His life in me, but really believing Him for all that is true of heaven and His presence to make its home in me and to radiate from me to others. I’m realising more and more that i can put my full weight on Him. My full weight. Not holding onto something incase He should give way, but sitting on His truth like i’m sitting on the chair i’m in right now – not even the tiniest concern that it’s going to give way. I know it’s sturdy. I know it’s secure. And so i’m completely at rest in it. Psalm 9:10 says that those who know His name trust in Him. I’m loving the adventure of getting to know His trustworthy name all the more and so slowly relinquishing my hold on my ‘plan b’s’. Lots of food for thought… and all this from just a morning coffee with a friend – think i may do that again!