This has been a very difficult past couple of weeks for me. I have emotionally, mentally, and physically felt the attack of the enemy. Thoughts of doubt and confusion have consistently crept into my thoughts - I have been afraid to voice this to my friends, and at times to my own wife because of fear that it will confirm the doubts and confusion. This has created a since of despair and at times discouragement. At times I have even questioned the character of God.
The evil one had me right where he wanted me - discouraged, ineffective. Then I picked up a book that I read a year ago or so - The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus (If you plan to read it, just stop here . . . . . I plan to paraphrase so much that it might ruin it for you).
My understanding of the character of God had been civilized. We have this incorrect understanding of Christianity that tells us that when we accept Jesus our life becomes easier. Things start to fall together, God begins to move and you see it reflected in the easiness of life (and I'm not just talking about the prosperity doctrine, even though that is a major misconception of the character of God).
McManus uses the example of John the Baptist (my favorite person in the Bible - except Jesus of course!). While in prison, John sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he was "the one." The question is then raised, why would John the Baptist question the deity of Jesus at this time? When they met each other for the first time, in their mother's wombs, John leapt for joy. When John saw Jesus coming to be baptized by him, at first he refused, saying (my paraphrase) "why would I baptize you, you are the chosen one, you are God." Then, after baptizing him, John saw the Spirit of the Lord descend on him like lightening. I'm pretty sure this was all confirming to him. Why then would John question that Jesus was "the one"? Well, first off, he was in prison and preparing to get his head chopped off and served on a platter to Herod, so anyone's confidence would be slightly shaken. John must have been sitting in prison waiting for the jail doors to swing open, or for another dimension to open up a hole in the side of the prison walls to allow him to just walk out. He must have been thinking "OK Jesus, if you are "the one" now is the time to show up, now is the time to work."
Jesus answers John's question by telling his disciples, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." (Matthew 11:4-6) Basically, Jesus was telling John "look, you know who I am, but I'm not coming through for you, I'm not busting you out of prison."
This shakes the common understanding of the character of God. Is Jesus telling us "look I'm not coming through for you, this journey is going to be tough, you may not get enough support, you may break down, you may even be in danger, but I'm still who I am, and I'm still with you." Most people, including myself to a certain extent, would say that if the house doesn't sell, and the road is tough, that God is telling us not to go. This is not the character of God.
Many disciples have chosen this path, many have walked it with great "success." Hebrews 11 is the Hall of Fame of faith. The life these individuals chose is what McManus calls "the Barbarian Way." The passage cites people such as Abel, Enoch, Abraham and Sarah. Jacob, Moses, and Joseph, eventually the author says that he doesn't have enough time to write about them all.
This is where it gets interesting.
"Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:35-40)
The author doesn't even name these men and women - probably too many to count. God is not telling us to stop pressing in, to stop driving forward if we meet resistance, believing the lie that if it is tough God must be telling us no. The character of God tells us to listen to His voice, hear your calling and then wildly chase after that call - that, is the barbarian way.
Please keep praying for me - as many of you know, my writing is me processing - nothing I ever write has been completely processed, I need the Lord to continue to show me His character, continue to show me that He loves me, and continue to prove to me that we are in His will.