I have heard many parents say that God has taught them many things through their children. Likewise I have always been glad that I am not the daughter of a pastor for fear of constantly becoming sermon illustrations. While I do not have children, I do have a dependent that servers a similar purpose. God has often used my dog Colby to demonstrate to me various lessons he has tried to teach me as evidenced my the many times I’ve mentioned him in my blogging. I’d like to begin today with another lesson in which Colby was the involuntary object lesson. Sorry Colby, it comes with the package!
I was told repeatedly from the start that Jack Russells are very smart dogs. So I tried my hand at training him. Indeed, he mastered the basic tricks effortlessly. Then I tried to get Colby to come when I called him. I went across the room, held up a treat, and called his name. He came bounding towards me and snatched the treat. After doing that several times and always associating his name with the treat, I chose a time when he was comfortably napping in the living room. I snuck into the kitchen to get a treat and hid in the bathroom. Once I was safely out of sight, I called, “Colby!” After two seconds of silence, I heard him scampering down the hall and come to a screeching halt when he saw me in the bathroom. Excited I gave him the treat and praised him enthusiastically. Since then however, I have tried to train him to come whenever I call him, regardless if I have a treat in my hand. So I would sometimes call him and he would get no treat, only praise when he came. After doing that a few times with only occasional treats, I began to see more hesitancy on his part. Sometimes I would be sitting only a few feet away from him and call him. If he didn’t see a treat, he didn’t budge. Sometimes I hid the treat behind my back and wouldn’t let him see it until he came. He had to believe that I had the treat, act on it by coming to me, and then he would (usually) get the treat. That was the lesson God showed me today.
Right before starting this entry, I was coming to the end of chapter 4 in Watchman Nee’s book The Normal Christian Life. Instead of finishing the chapter first as a normal person would do, I had to stop and write this entry partly because of my ADD nature, but mostly because I have just learned a valuable lesson that I must report before moving on. First though I must backtrack a bit.
Yesterday I got mad at Watchman Nee. My anger began brewing towards the end of chapter 3 and burned most of the way through the first part of chapter four. Two-thirds into chapter 4, I slammed the book shut and threw it on the table. “See, I knew God doesn’t want anything to do with me!” I fumed. What caused my anger? I thought God was reserving the truth of his cross for a select few and was determined to hide it from me. How did I get that from what I read in Nee’s book? In chapter 3 Nee was talking about knowing that we died with Christ. He showed how important it is for us to know that since we were in Christ when he died, we shared his experience on the cross because we were in him. Although not mentioned in his book I kind of got the idea that it’s like a baby in a mother’s womb would go where she goes and wherever she is the baby is also there. Since we were in Christ when he died, his death was our death too. Okay, so far so good. I was even beginning to get a bit excited. Then something caught fire and began to stir conflict within me. Nee shared how this truth does not come from him saying it, or even the Bible saying it, but from divine revelation. He showed us how God has to open our eyes to the truth. Well, at that point I didn’t really consider myself to have “gotten it” yet. Sure I understood what he was trying to say, and I could repeat it back to him just like I did above, but light hadn’t dawn on me. I was still like, “Okay… what does that mean? I still want to know why I keep sinning if I’m supposed to be dead.” Even though Nee did explain that God got rid of the sinner not the sin, I still didn’t get it. I was truly starting to feel pretty dumb and that flame of anger was now a raging fire pit, not because I didn’t get it, but because Nee seemed to say that it was God’s responsibility to show me and help me see it. Since I didn’t see it, I thought that must mean that God didn’t want to show me. What made me slam the book down on the table and almost severed my relationship with God was this one sentence halfway through chapter 4, “To faith it is true, to doubt or mere mental assent apart from spiritual illumination it is not true” (Nee, 75). I took that to mean that apart from God’s divine revelation, the best that I could do would be to give mental assent to the facts and it still wouldn’t be good enough.
After the experience last night which I wrote about in my last entry, I decided to give Nee another try. I continued reading and didn’t get further than two pages when I finally saw the flaw in my understanding. It came through Nee’s illustration of being sick. To summarize his illustration, he was once very sick and God gave him a promise in Scripture. After receiving the promise, his symptoms actually got worse, and the enemy began taunting him about God’s promises and his faith. Then he realized that God’s word was true and the enemy a liar. He began to believe God’s word and call everything else a lie. Suddenly, his symptoms and sickness went away. The light suddenly turned on. I realized that the problem wasn’t God, it was me. I was refusing to believe anything until I see it. That is not faith. Just like Nee talked about, faith is what makes the real facts real to me. I was saying, “God why aren’t you opening my eyes to see this?” God was saying, “You will see it when you believe it.” To confirm this lesson in my heart, I felt God ask me, “What made you sing last night?” To which I responded, “Because you told me to.”
“How did you know it was me and not your own imagination?”
“I just knew.”
“How? Did I come down with a giant name tag that said, ‘This is God speaking.’”
“No, I just believed it was you.”
“Exactly. You believed, you acted on it, and you and everyone around you were blessed.”
(Just a note about the above conversation. I believed it was God because God’s Word tells us to worship him. Not everything I hear in my heart is God, because not everything lines up with his Word. I knew what I heard last night was God because it was in line with what his Word says. God will never contradict himself.)
So back to my misunderstanding. The examples that Nee gave in chapter 3 of people seeing the truth and being changed by it were because they first believed it, then they saw it. So this morning, as I finished that section in chapter 4, I said with a smile, “Lord, I believe you, and everything that does not line up with the truth in your word I declare are lies.” Unlike my experience with Colby, God always rewards our acting in faith. I have so much yet to learn, and I trust the Master Teacher to teach me with all patience and diligence. I am eager to learn and will be just as eager to report to you my discoveries. So stay tuned!