Hope deferred… makes the heart sick!
Isn’t it true. Isn’t it so. Don’t we know the truth of this profound proverb in our soul? While we long to experience the truth of God, we find a different truth in our experience. It is all too common in our experience, in fact I would submit it is this delay in our experience of God that has caused most either not to believe or to fall away. It is, after all, hard.
The Hebrew word for “sick” can also be translated afflicted, severely wounded, grieved, even incurable. It is a serious word.
Paul wrote of these days, even though they are days so far off from the day that he had them penned that he could not have conceived of them.
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” 2 Tim.3:1-5
Does our society even hold to a “form of godliness”? We, in this country, are poisoned 24/7 by the prince of the power of the “air”. The evil poured out over the air waves in the form of “news” and “entertainment” that would be incomprehensible to a 19th century human. In 100 years we have managed to develop technology that allows for the poisoning of our people from cradle to grave, through every strata of our society. Our heart is indeed sick, but not because we grieve the lack of God’s manifest Presence among us, quite the contrary.
There is a sense that there must be a breaking point, a critical mass, wherein the axis of the world cannot sustain the weight of the garbage we continue to produce. The landfills, the seas, even space is littered with the refuse of a society, and a world, gone mad. The natural things speak of the spiritual. We see it. Our solution… environmentalism. Laws and regulation to curb our wasteful ways, never touching the “heart” of the matter or the “spirit” of our culture.
“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6
Israel’s political reality in those days is a picture of our heart reality today. We have no king, because after all we are far too wise, far too sophisticated, far too urbane, educated and enlightened to believe in a God who is over all. And, if we do believe, does that belief result in mere moral goodness or does it actually produce an experience in God that matches up with the New Testament believer’s experience?
I readily acknowledge my own deficit of experience. Where are the dreams and visions promised by Joel and referenced in Acts? Where are the signs and wonders that are to follow the preaching of the good news? Where are the healings? The miracles?
Yes, I know, they are occurring in third world countries. They are occurring at this revival or in the that ministry and God’s people chase around after them like cloud bursts in a drought. There are thousands of testimonials on YouTube. There are more cable ministry programs and networks to serve this country and the world than ever before. That’s good, maybe that’s great. BUT, I have been a believer for 40+ years, have been to many churches, seminars, conferences, countries… and while I have witnessed that which would necessarily be considered super-natural, yet those instances and experiences are a rarity, an exception as opposed to the rule. For years there has been talk of another Great Awakening, a great revival. Where is it? And, unless and until it visits the common people, sincere believers in Christ who are not “the gifted” then don’t bother trying to convince me of revival. Better yet, until there is an awakening such that our culture is changed there should be no talk or report of real revival. Every time there is another such “revival” reported in the Christian world, one which glows for a short time and then fades away, is it not as much an indictment as it is a blessing?
Proverbs 13:12 is probably most recited and recognized by the first phrase, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. But, the writer of wisdom completed the thought, “desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Where is God and where are His people? I wait. Heart sick. Grieving. Afflicted in spirit. Affected in soul. David could not find a place where God was not present, I cannot find a place where His Presence is a constant, not just as a theological proposition, but as an experience.
Perhaps I am the minority. Perhaps I am not committed enough. Don’t pray hard enough or long enough. Don’t give enough of my time, energy or money. For years I labored under the harsh taskmaster of religious piety and was easily persuaded that the lack was mine. I honestly don’t believe that’s the case. After 40+ years of touring Christendom I don’t know any Christians, personally, whose experience differs much from mine. I don’t know any whose experience matches that of the first century church.
To those who would argue that they have seen and do know, I ask where is the evidence of same in our society, better yet, in our churches? Sorry, I don’t see it. Ask the world they will tell you what they think of the church. We can blame them, criticize them, argue that they are blind and therefore cannot see, but I know many unbelieving folks who are not ignorant, unkind, or uncaring who see the church as a caricature of what it claims to be, the Body of Christ.
If Jesus were to walk into your church next Sunday would that shake things up a bit? Well, we have the mind of Christ, we have the Spirit of Christ, we have the Word of Christ, we are ambassadors of Christ, we have the gifts of the Spirit, we have been given the power to be His witnesses to the uttermost parts of the world. Where two or three are gathered in His name He is there, in our midst. So what part of Jesus are we missing? Why is there such a distinction between Him walking bodily into our congregation and we being His body?
Where is God? Where are His people?