“Spirit of freedom. Joy carrier,” Two more very specific sentences followed elaborating on unique things I was created to do and be. The description fit me like a tailored garment, with one apparent exception that I’ll get to below.
As I reflected on it I was riveted because the people who gave me this message had never met me and I was not even in the city when they wrote it. They had a list of 300 or so people to blindly pray for and if they felt like God spoke when they prayed, they would write it down next to the name on the list.
This was about the tenth time something like this had happened to me at Bethel Cleveland. Unlike the first few times when I scoffed and felt sorry for them and “their well-meaning naiveté,” this time I took it seriously and did the checks:
- Did what they said conform completely to The Bible? Yes.
- Did their words line up with what was going on in my life and correlate with what God had been up to with me? Yes.
- I spoke to the person who knows me best, my wife, and asked her if any part of the message was askew. We pretended like it was for our friends and acquaintances and asked ourselves if it would have generically fit them too. It didn’t, not even close.
- I talked with God about the message and felt he confirmed it.
“OK then. So where does that leave me?” I asked myself.
“Jesus replied, ‘But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’” (Luke 11:28)
"Well," I decided, "I have what I feel is a word from God about who I am and my life mission, so I better learn how to do this mission and live it out on a daily basis. When I make decisions, I better make them with this message in mind. I better keep it where I’ll see it daily so I don’t forget this moment.” I put it in my wallet where I ran into it every time I paid for something, and for five years I’ve been reading it and praying about it.
There’s a reason why I value God’s messages so highly. When I was in my early 20’s I thought the Bible was garbage. I read it to expose its fallacies but in the process I was blindsided by it’s wisdom and overcome by the heart of Jesus. I won’t elaborate on that here, but check this message out if you want to hear the story: Leveling Up!
In those early times with God, he taught me three things I could live by and measure all of life by. He seemed to say:
- David, I am real.
- I am good.
- Nothing else is good.
I could write for days on those three truths, but for now I’ll just say that regarding number three, when our minds and hearts begin to realize that truly nothing is good other than God, we get a lot less thirsty for the world and it’s promises and we begin to cherish and safeguard the things God shares with us.
Of course The Bible is first and foremost. God spoke through it and his words will never fade away or stop being a source of truth and life. Nothing earthly is equal to the Bible and man’s “wisdom” can not compare to it.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16)
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
God speaks when we’re reading the Bible in many ways. He may highlight a passage or put insight or conviction into our hearts. But God doesn’t stop there. He also speaks as we’re praying, when we’re out living life for Jesus, when we’re slipping into damaging behaviors, and sometimes even just driving our regular commute. Those insights will never equal scripture, but they can still be insights directly from our maker to us, crafted specifically for that moment, that season of life, or for an upcoming season of life. And they are insights capable of supernatural impact, the very tools for radical breakthrough. They are invaluable like the proverbial pearl of great price:
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.
When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
I think before we learn God speaks like this we spend a lot of time wondering why God is refusing to help us. We ask, ask, ask, say “In Jesus’s name, amen!” and race out the door to do life at a speed so fast we don’t even notice the people around us, much less the invisible Holy Spirit and whispers of our maker.
“For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)
So there we are bitter at God because he seems absent, meanwhile he’s there all along offering us the words to heal relationships, the insights to create new ways of doing business or church, and sharing pictures of what it looks like to serve as Jesus did, in ways that blindside humanity with humility, warmth, and honor while still living out the truth. He’s there if we’re willing to encounter him on his terms and be open to methods that are opposite to what we might presume:
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)
In the first paragraph I mentioned the message they gave me fit me like a tailored garment, but with one apparent exception. The apparent exception was that I was 39 years old and had been haunted by depression since I was in second grade! In the early years it was bad enough that I attempted suicide three times. “How could a person like that be destined to be a ‘joy carrier?’” I asked myself.
Good question. And there is an even better answer that we'll get to next time, so stay tuned.
“The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward,” (Matthew 10:41)
- David Barton
Worship Director @ Maple Grove Christian Church