By Drew Benac ** revision from a recent post
Since the beginning of time, God’s people have always been broken. They repeatedly disown him, often neglect His commands and instead seek to walk in their own. Throughout history, they have known great struggle yet continue to experience God’s mercy and His blessing. Ezekiel tells the story:
“Thus says the Lord God, it is not for your sake that I am about to act but for the sake of my holy name…. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules….Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 36:22, 27-28, 36)
The same can be said of God’s people today, the global church. The end game for Israel then and for the Christian today is not our happiness but the holiness and Lordship of God’s name. His renown is more important than our reputation, His accomplishments overshadow our accolades and His plans superceed our precious ambition. This tension between my flesh and the fame of our Father has been on full display during our time in Kenya and I have found Pslam 51 particularly convicting.
“Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your way, and sinners will return to you.” (Psalm 51:10-13)
I hope that our time in Kenya so far has been characterized by “teaching transgressors” God’s ways while watching “sinners returning” to Him and in many ways I think it has. But I’ve been reminded more than ever lately that I came here both to teach and be taught, to see others return to Him but also to repent myself, to be blessed but be reminded in new ways of my own brokenness.
In coming, I see now all the ways I needed a cleansed heart, a less wayward spirit and a newfound understanding of the joy that comes from being saved by Christ. The order of this passage in Psalms is no mistake. Sharing the great news of God’s saving grace, what missions is thought to be all about, is most effectively done once a few prerequisites have been firmly established.
God knew my heart in coming here, how often it is divided and distracted by my personal desires rather than His best for my life. My spirit is shaky most days and far from steadfast. God’s presence is frequently an afterthought rather than my first thought. My attitude is one of self-pity instead of set on selfless service and my obedience is usually nonexistent or begrudging at best. The work God is doing has been slow and painful, yet good. “Creating” a new heart, “renewing” a broken sprit and “restoring” joy where discontentment once ruled is a God-sized undertaking and one that is taking some time.
“C.S. Lewis’ writing on God’s faithfulness in trials has meant a great deal to me lately in light of my struggles. Here are a few of his words from the book, The Problem with Pain.
“To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because he already loves us He must labor to make us lovable.”(pages 40-41)
I am thankful more than ever that He is working to make me more lovable and more like Him. I am deeply honored that he would go through the trouble of bringing me to Africa, a country of blessing and brokenness itself, so He could mold my character, create in me a clean heart, and not leave my in the imperfect place I inhabited just a few months ago.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to grow more like Him and humbled by God’s limitless love. It is my prayer that during this time of growth and great learning that He would continue to save and sanctity those around me despite my shortcomings. “Then they will know that [you] are the LORD.” May it be so!