When I first started my church in Melbourne, God said that the season would last three years. At first I thought it wasn’t God. Surely he wouldn’t say such a thing! Why would God tell me the week I started that soon I would be leaving??
God is a future thinking God. He knows the end from the beginning; “from ancient times what is to come…” (Isaiah 46:10). His plans are sovereign, detailed and stunningly strategic and he loves to make them known to us.
We were promised this. When Jesus returned to heaven, he sent his Holy Spirit so that we would see the world through his eyes. We would be able to prophesy and have dreams and visions (Acts 2:17). We would see glimpses of the future and he would tell us; “great and unsearchable things we don’t know” (Jeremiah 33:3). This is the privilege of every New Covenant Christian… the honour of personally knowing a supernatural God – and it’s a wonderful blessing.
But in sharing his heart for our futures, God takes a risk. Can we be trusted with that kind of foreknowledge? It’s not always easy.
Knowing about the future leadership of my church meant keeping my mouth shut and using wisdom in conversations with others. It meant exercising great discipline to keep my heart living in the present.
Last week I had the opportunity to be interviewed on the “Sunday Night” program of ABC Radio. Our topic was the theology of faith and experience in the Pentecostal Churches, but we covered much more than that. (You can listen to the full program here). One caller rang in to share his perspective: “From what I know of Pentecostal churches, you’re supposed to check your intellect in at the door if you’ve got one… (But you all sound fairly reasonable people…)”
The other panelists and I laughed hard… Glad we came across as being ‘reasonable’! But in some ways his comments are not surprising. Apart from the somewhat distorted image Pentecostal churches have in our Australian media, his comments reflect a bit of a tension some see between faith and reason; between rationalism and the supernatural.
The modern Pentecostal church started as a working class movement with a hunger to see First Century miracles repeated in their day. It was almost a reaction against highly educated leaders who had rationalized supernatural phenomena away reducing them to metaphors and myths. Miracle stories were seen to be important for teaching and perhaps confirmation of Jesus’ divinity back then, but certainly not to be taken seriously as a pattern of what God could and should do today.
There are two stories being written over our lives. The story everyone sees and the story only you and God see.
The story that everyone sees is the one that is written on bios and resumes. It’s the one we tell at parties and interviews. She planted a church, worked in missions, has a Masters level qualification, speaks in churches around the world…
But there is another story. One that is equally dramatic, but far more hidden. One that is rarely told on stages or recorded on public memos. One that is usually only whispered in quiet moments, revealed in tucked away café corners and sometimes never told – even to ourselves.
Yet it is the one that matters most.
It’s the story of our dreams, our fears and our unspoken struggles. The internal journey of our thoughts and prayers. A plot line that is often more difficult to write, but which defines who we are and all that we do. If we ignore it, it will soon write its own story… and ultimately it will be the story that everybody sees.
It was the story beneath Joseph’s life that really mattered. His rollercoaster ride of failure and promotion from slave to Prime Minister would make headlines, but it was the internal drama of faith and loyalty that wrote the final climax.