Humble Pie – What to do when No One Shows Up - Purity 921
Purity 921 12/22/2022 Purity 921 Podcast
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Today’s photo of the silhouette of a man with his hands open and turned to heaven under the red clouds of sunset comes to us from the furthest recesses of my phone’s photo archives and an unknown source. I will gladly add a photo credit to this if I receive the source information but am using it today to set it “free” and to encourage people in need to surrender to the Lord and seek His wisdom and strength all the days of their lives. So I am hopeful, and pray that the artist behind this image won’t object to its use.
According to my phone, I saved this image back on December 23, 2011, 11 years ago in the very early days of my Christian walk and although much has changed between now and then, I am still repeatedly reminded to humbly surrender to the Lord’s will for my life and can relate to the sometime “desperate moments” where we suffer trials or take a misstep on the path of Christian Discipleship, when we “get a feeling” to do something for the Lord and we learn from the results that we may have intercepted an enemy message that was intended to deceive us and lead us into frustration or despair, or we may have heard rightly but the Lord decided to use our failure to teach us a lesson in humility and the need to depend on Him only.
Yesterday, I hosted a Zoom meeting for an audience of one. I invited Freedom in Christ course graduates from this year, on short notice, for an impromptu opportunity to “check in” and I implied that we could possibly meet monthly in 2023, and I added “unless no one shows up”. And no one did. So although I had a sudden “feeling” to send out this invite a couple of days ago during prayer, because God is sovereign, we know that the “idea” to haphazardly plan this meeting was either “my idea”, the enemy’s, or God’s.
Because no one attended besides, me, myself, and I it is pretty easy to credit the inspiration for this meeting, and possible monthly ministry, to me and my foolishness– I have a full plate already for 2023 and actually “hoped” after sending the impromptu invitiation that no one would show up because it might have stretched me beyond my limits – if that “hope” was a prayer, it was answered! I would have loved to have seen some of the guys to check in but in retrospect, I think I was setting myself up to be stretched too thin, and surprisingly the Lord didn’t “bless” this mighty work that I had spontaneously planned to do for Him.
The other possibility is that the spiritual forces of darkness, shot this “dart” of an idea into my head, hoping the lack luster results would discourage me or bring me to despair. Let’s face it “throwing a party” and having no one show up, can be pretty depressing and the enemy loves to influence Christians to do things that may seem “good” – most sins start off with good, or at least “good for me” – intentions – but will result in shame, guilt, or other feelings that will lead us to condemn ourselves.
The third possibility, which actually would encompass all of these possibilities, is that it was God’s idea to have me to set up this meeting to humble me. Scripture and our life experience reveals that God will allow us to do things against His will and can even use bad things for good. God is THE GOOD FATHER and He alone knows best and as confusing as life can be for us, He knows what will happen and He can use every aspect of our experience for His purposes.
The story of Job teaches us that God will “allow it”. God will allow the enemy access to tempt us and to make us suffer. God will allow us to choose our path through life and suffer the negative consequences from doing things in our own strength or according to our limited knowledge. In the story of Job, sure the enemy orchestrates the initial disasters that bring Job low but after that it is the “foolishness” of men’s wisdom that takes center stage as Job and his “friends” seek to make sense of it all. In their spiritual discussions there is a mixture of error and truth as we only know “in part” the wisdom of the Lord. They yammer on for 37 chapters insulting and chastising one another about the ways of God until the Lord decides He has heard enough and wants to speak for Himself. Possibly in response to Job’s friend Elihu’s statement that “As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him…” , God comes on the scene.
Job 38:1-2 (NKJV)
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
2 "Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge?
God then proceeds to put Job and his friends in their place and affirms that Job is his faithful servant and He commands that Job’s friends repent sacrifices lest they suffer for their “folly”. God then restores to Job everything that was taken from him.
So what can we learn from Job’s story and the embarrassment of my unattended Zoom meeting?
God is the only one who knows His ways perfectly and even though we may think we have a great idea of “something we can do for the Lord.” It may not be according to His will, or it will not be according to His will “as we think it will be.”
My old pastor told a story once about how in the early days of his church he was enjoying the success of a young thriving congregation that seemed to be “on fire” for the Lord. So he called an impromptu “prayer meeting” where he and his church could call on God, to do His will right, only to feel the sting of embarrassment and the bitter taste of humble pie, when not a single person from his church came out to pray.
I too in the past have gone to recovery ministry and discipleship ministry only to end up as the only person attending.
So what do you do when “no one shows up”? When your “great idea” has zero results? Do you give up? Do you stop?
In some cases, YES! Some ministries just die. We can press on and keep on pressing in but after an extended period of decline and no one showing up it might be time to call it quits.
However, this is really up to God so we have to talk to Him about what He wants us to do and be open for His answers.
As for me, I guess I won’t be doing Zoom meetings on Wednesday nights in 2023. That’s okay, Tuesdays and Thursdays will be full and I think I’ll use Wednesdays to rest or study, or to be available for whatever the Lord puts before me.
But sometimes we have to stick with it and keep going. Many ministers have had “dry seasons” that they had to walk through before a surge of enthusiasm and success came to their doorstep.
So in your individual walk, don’t be discouraged if “no one shows up”, because guess what? That’s just not true. God is always there and He will use all the things we go through for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.
So keep walking and talking with God and be sure to LISTEN when you get negative feedback. The Lord may want you to stop, go in another direction, or simply to take a rest. Our lives are a gift from Him, so let’s listen to and follow Him and learn along the way.
As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.
Today we continue sharing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Discipleship”, also known as “The Cost of Discipleship”
As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work. This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.
The Church of Jesus Christ and Discipleship
The Saints, continues
Sanctification is the fulfillment of the will of God, who says: “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” and “I, the Lord, I who sanctify you, am holy.” This fulfillment is brought about by God the Holy Spirit, and in it God’s work in us finds its completion. The work of the Holy Spirit is the “seal” with which believers are being marked as God’s own possession until the day of salvation. Just as before they had been held in bondage under the law as in a locked prison (Gal. 3:23), so now the believers are locked “in Christ,” marked with God’s own seal, the Holy Spirit. No one may break this seal. It has been secured by God, and the key is in God’s hand. This means that God has now taken complete possession of those whom God has gained in Christ. The circle has been closed. In the Holy Spirit we have become God’s own. Secured from the world by an unbreakable seal, the community of saints awaits its final deliverance. The church-community moves through the world like a sealed train passing through foreign territory. Just as Noah’s ark had to be covered “inside and out with pitch” (Gen. 6:14) in order to be preserved throughout the flood, so does the journey of the sealed church-community resemble the passage of the ark through the floodwaters. The goal of this sealing-off is redemption, deliverance, salvation (Eph. 4:30; 1:14; 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Peter 1:5 et passim) on the day of Christ’s second coming. Those who have been sealed are being assured of reaching their goal by a pledge, which is none other than the Holy Spirit, “… so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12–14).
The sanctification of the church-community consists in its being separated by God from that which is unholy, from sin. Its sanctification consists in having become God’s own chosen people through being sealed off, in having become God’s earthly dwelling place, the place from which judgment and reconciliation go forth to all the world. Sanctification means that Christians now are completely oriented toward and preserved unto the day of Christ’s future coming, toward which they travel.
For the community of saints this implies three things. First, its sanctification will manifest itself in a clear separation from the world. Its sanctification will, second, prove itself through conduct that is worthy of God’s realm of holiness. And, third, its sanctification will be hidden in waiting for the day of Jesus Christ.
Sanctification is therefore possible only within the visible church-community. That is the first point. The visibility of the church-community is a decisive characteristic of sanctification. The church-community’s claim to a space of its own within this world, and the concomitant separation from the space of the world, attests that the church-community is in the state of sanctification. For the seal of the Holy Spirit seals off the church-community from the world. By the power of this seal, God’s church-community must insist on God’s claim to the whole world. At the same time, it must claim a specific space for itself within the world, thus drawing a clear dividing line between itself and the world. Since the church-community is the city on the hill, the ‘polis’ (Matt. 5:14), established on this earth by God and marked with a seal as God’s own, its “political” character is an inseparable aspect of its sanctification. The “political ethics” of the church-community is grounded solely in its sanctification, the goal of which is that world be world and community be community, and that, nevertheless, God’s word goes out from the church-community to all the world, as the proclamation that the earth and all it contains is the Lord’s. That is the ‘political’ character of the church-community. A merely personal sanctification which seeks to bypass this openly visible separation of the church-community from the world confuses the pious desires of the religious flesh with the sanctification of the church-community, which has been accomplished in Christ’s death and is being actualized by the seal of God. It is the deceptive pride and the false spiritual desire of the old, sinful being that seeks to be holy apart from the visible community of Christians. Contempt for the body of Christ as the visible community of justified sinners is what is really hiding behind the apparent humility of this kind of inwardness. It is indeed contempt for the body of Christ, since Christ was pleased visibly to assume my flesh and to carry it to the cross. It is contempt for the community, since I seek to be holy apart from other Christians. It is contempt for sinners, since in self-bestowed holiness I withdraw from my church in its sinful form. Sanctification apart from the visible church-community is mere self-proclaimed holiness.
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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 260–262.