So I stepped up the pace, laid down some things, and focused more on God’s will. I thought it would be better, more ethereal and powerful. Instead, I felt worse. More of my faults were exposed. I felt chastised. What happened to the “O Happy Day” that is supposed to show up when you pray, fast, and surrender?
The fact is, when you bear fruit He purges you so that you will bear more fruit. (John 15:2) That is difficult to understand. You expect a reward for more praying, more fasting, and laying down frivolous things, thereby being more available to God. That’s a bit like expecting some award or commendation for showing up to become a Navy Seal. The hard work is not showing up for duty, but being prepared for duty.
We should keep in mind that presenting our bodies a living sacrifices is merely “reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1-2) Therefore, simply deciding to do what we should have been doing all along, what God has been convicting us to do for quite some time, is not an occasion for an award. It is simply surrender to be equipped for what He called us to do. Equipping involves purging to be prepared to receive more knowledge, wisdom, and power.
Besides all that, there is another factor that is as much a deterrent to some professing Christians as it is an attraction to other ones. Is there any famous person that you would want to meet? How would you feel if you met them? Nervous? Subordinate? I know that if I had ever met A. W. Tozer or Leonard Ravenhill, I would have been uncomfortable and a man of few words. When I spoke, I would have been conscious that anything I said would probably have been considered shallow to them.
Imagine coming nearer to the completely holy and awesome God. Many times when I have felt like I entered the Holiest of All, I felt very unclean and unworthy. I can empathize with Isaiah. (Isaiah 6:5) However, if you linger there long enough you will not wish to leave. Once His glory flushes out of you all the besetting weights and other baggage, there is no greater experience and no better place to be.
The same can be said about the post-purging experience. Have you ever prayed like David, “Purge me with the hyssop and I will be clean!”? (Psalm 51:7, in fact the entire chapter.) The hyssop was a rough plant that was used for cleaning out bottles and other vessels. It is like having a spiritual wire brush plunged into your spirit. But afterwards, you wonder, “How could I have ever allowed myself to become so unclean.” No matter how righteous you felt before that process, you will recognize it as self-righteousness afterwards.
The post-purging process is a condition that makes it all worthwhile. Years ago, I remember after one such experience walking in the mall with my wife. I don’t even know what we were shopping for, but it was something for one of our daughters. Very clearly, the Father spoke to my spirit through the Holy Spirit and asked, “What do you want in here?” I looked around and saw the expensive shoes on one side, suits on the other, casual clothing just down the way, and we had even passed an automobile displayed in the center of the wide aisle. I replied, “Nothing, Lord. I don’t want anything in here. I just want more of You.”
That experience set me on a journey to expose in me anything that was not submissive to Him, and to continuously be in submission to the Holy Spirit so that I could be conformed to His perfect will. The truth is, when we reach the twilight of life, we will not take comfort in our memories of any accomplishments beyond what we know was truly accomplished for God and God alone. We will rejoice more in our surrender, times of purging, and the joyous afterglow. God is light with no shadow of turning. (James 1:17) The more you shine, the more you blend.
If our constant prayer is, “For Your glory, O Lord, I must decrease and You must increase!”, then as unpleasant as it is, we will submit to the purging process again and again. If you want your words to be powerful, to bear fruit, to defeat ego and pride, to see people as God sees them, to love beyond the human level and degree, to be spontaneously obedient, to have a pure heart with pure motives, and much more, then submit to the purging process.
Spend some time in prayer and submit the toys, the frivolous activities, and all else that you have been convicted about. Endure the initial feelings of rejection, of unworthiness, and maintain a determination to keep your vows. Let me know how it turns out. Like everyone else, I would cherish the encouragement in this dark hour of Christian apostasy.