Opening the Lock Gates
Last Sunday morning as we were getting ready for church, the Lord called to mind a fun experience we had in France a few years ago.
The trip was probably our best trip ever and we look forward to doing it again. The first week of our trip, we rented a canal boat that we piloted ourselves. My husband received an intensive 10 minutes of instruction in piloting and they also mentioned that there would be more than 20 locks on our route but that most of them were “automated”.
Well automated meant that someone got off the boat and pulled a blue rope and that started the process of the lock gate opening. Simple. Some of them were manned and they did it all for you. Even better. At this point we had been through about 18 locks and had seen it done and even pulled the rope, but everything had been done for us.
But then, one night we came to a place that we decided to stay for the night. After we tied up, an English speaking couple approached us. They asked whether we had been through the next lock yet? We said no and they told us that it was fully manual and that they had been stuck there for 2 days because they were afraid to try it out and didn’t feel confident that they could do it. Could we help them get through? We said yes and invited them in for some wine and cheese.
As we got to hear about them, we discovered that they were both very well educated. He was a professor and she was a research scientist. She showed us the plans that she had drawn up of the lock system and a diagram of how they thought it worked, but they just weren’t sure. We had a grand time with them and breakfasted with them the next morning too.
When it was time to go, we tried to explain to them what to do. They looked at us nervously, and we all decided they should just go through and we would operate it for them. Gabi (our friend traveling with us) and I got out and inspected the gate system. We tinkered a bit, figured out which dials release the water (since we were traveling down river) and which ones opened the gates. Pretty quickly, though we were all a bit nervous, it was mission accomplished! The water level went down, the gates opened and they were through! Then we had to do it all again for us. We got through too and when we got back beside them we all celebrated and then we tied both boats up a bit farther down the river.
They said we “made that look so easy. How many times had we done it before?” My husband answered, “‘Counting this time? One”. They stood staring amazed that we had done this without hesitation.
Like the couple in the boat, in our western churches, often we have had tremendous teaching and have acquired much knowledge about the gospel and about how to step out in faith. Many of us have attended Bible study for years! We are so fortunate to have free access to so much knowledge.
In many churches, we get to see the supernatural gifts demonstrated by those who flow easily in their gifting, but like the couple in the boat, most believers here in the West are not willing to test their faith outside the walls of the church. The lock gate is closed and we have studied the instruction manual and drawn the diagram, but we have not tried to go through! For all our knowledge we have not moved forward.
The simplest obedience always takes a leap of faith to act. Fear comes in: What if you are wrong and it’s not God speaking? Perhaps our fear should be, what if it is God speaking and you decide not to risk it?
It can be anything: perhaps the Lord tells you to go and offer a homeless person your own lunch, or maybe, to give money to someone who doesn’t appear to need it? What if it is simply forwarding your daily devotional to someone who is not a believer? What if the Lord gives you a word of knowledge about a person and tells you lay hands on them and pray for healing. In all of these situations there is a risk of appearing foolish. I can tell you from experience, appearing foolish is a certainty some of the time.
In all of these situations questions or certainties are stirred in our minds:
Will I look foolish? (I will look foolish.) How can I approach them without making it awkward? (There is no way to approach this without it being awkward!) What if I don’t do it right? (I’m probably going to do it wrong.) What if they say no to what I’m offering? Maybe I don’t really have the formula down…. On and on and on.
Well the good news is that it’s easy to get over these concerns with a few simple realizations:
- It’s not about you
- You don’t have enough knowledge
- There IS NO formula and
- It will definitely be awkward
All of which makes you the perfect candidate to be an obedient servant, just like the Lord’s disciples!
In my family we often speak things the Lord gives us to say, or pray for healing, or give hugs to waiters, sales people, baristas, doctors, friends and strangers, and we have for several years. To this day I get a little nervous before I speak or act.
When Jesus sent out the 70 (or 72) to do what they had only seen done before, no one was more surprised than they were that they had success! Sick people were healed and demons were cast out!
Jesus told them not to marvel at their success, but to rejoice because their names are written in Heaven. To paraphrase, he said, “Look, ‘I saw satan fall like lighting!’ My Father kicked him out of heaven and it was no big deal. So you should expect similar results when using your authority in obedience. Of course you will be successful when you are obedient!” (Luke 10:17-20) Then Jesus thanked His Father for revealing this authority to the childlike. Why? Because a very little child doesn’t doubt, they don’t count themselves out before they try, they just obey.
It is awkward to approach someone and do what the Lord says to do, and yet we must do it anyway.
Consider how Phillip felt before speaking to the Ethiopian eunuch. First, he was just told to go south along a road. No reason why, just go. Next, when he saw the chariot, he was told to go and walk alongside it. He probably didn’t really know why he was there or what he was to say. Only after he had been obedient twice to simple things that probably didn’t make much sense, did he gain an understanding of why he was there.(Acts 8:26-40)
The why of your assignment is often not apparent when you are told the what. The specifics of what to say are very often only given once you step into obedience and start talking. You nervously open your mouth to share the little piece you have been given, and THEN the rest comes flowing out. But the fruit is worth it! In Phillip’s case, the eunuch believed and was baptized in joy! Sometimes that will happen for you too. Other times you just brought a smile to someone’s face, encouraged them that God loves them. Sometimes you see no fruit at all. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any fruit or that there won’t be some fruit later.
Here’s an interesting thought: When the 70 (72*) did those things in obedience, they weren’t saved yet! That event took place before the cross. Jesus had given them authority to do those things. How much more authority do we have now that He has overcome the curse, it is finished! Now as believers, the Holy Spirit lives in us and will never leave us! We’re not doing this stuff on our own or in our own strength. We must simply be obedient to the voice of our shepherd and the world will begin to see the power of the love of God. It’s not about us.
Come on Church! It’s time for us to rise up again in the authority that Jesus has given us and step out in obedience. In this way we will see the church strengthened, encouraged and growing in boldness for proclaiming the truth of God’s love. We will see people healed, set free, restored to relationship with the Father and the world turned upside down. This is the food that Jesus ate that his buddies knew nothing about then, but that is our privilege to eat from now.
Like Jesus we must be sure of our identity as the beloved of the Father. Out of that place of knowing that we are His precious children with whom He is well pleased, we move to the rhythm of His Spirit. We say only what He says and do only what we see Him doing. The more often we move in obedience, the more certain we will be to hear his voice and recognize it. Spend time in the Word to grow in your intimacy with God and in sureness of your identity in Christ. But THEN….walk out your faith in obedience to what He speaks to you, not caring if you look a fool for Christ. In this way, we will be sure to turn the world upside down! The lock gate will be opened and you and those with you can move ahead to the more.
*(some versions say 70 and others say 72)