This article originally appeared on tonycooke.org, November 2014.
I recently had the thought, “ISIS has a purpose. Ebola has a purpose. Do believers have a purpose?” Clearly, ISIS and Ebola have a purpose to bring death and destruction, and both seem resolute and persistent in their endeavors. But what about believers? What about the church? Are we as resolute and persistent in our pursuits? They bring death, but we bring life. We have a holy calling to be salt and light in the world, and I believe that we should be the most determined, zealous, and purposeful people on earth.
This is not a time for the church to be passive, dormant, or timid. Instead of bemoaning the decay of the world system around us, the Word of God admonishes us to, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).
I know that some believers are certainly on-fire, but I recently asked the Lord, “What will it take for the Church-world to awaken from its lethargy and complacency, for believers to shake free from their sense of self-interest, and become consumed with a passionate and compelling purpose—the purpose for which we were born?” In contemplating this, I’ve been reminded of the sacred fire that burned in the hearts of various spiritual leaders throughout history. It was individuals who were aflame with a sense of divine calling and destiny who radically affected the course of human events. May we have such holy awakenings again! We are at a time when “going through the motions” or “business as usual” won’t produce the results we need to see from the Church.
In David’s day we read that, “…a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath” (1 Samuel 17:4). Hell has always had its champions, and we see spiritual wickedness raising its ugly head in our day as well. While others cowered in fear, David arose in confidence. When he was criticized by his brothers for his proactive faith, he responded, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29). David’s literal statement was, “Is it not a word?”Perhaps, as some commentators suggest, David was merely saying that he was only asking a question. However, it seems obvious that David did, in fact, have a significant sense of purpose (or cause) operating in his life, and he had been radically empowered by the Word of God. God had birthed in David a covenant-based faith, and it propelled David into doing great exploits for God.
So great was his burden for Judah that Jeremiah was called “the Weeping Prophet.” He prophesied during the years leading up to the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Heavily persecuted, Jeremiah said (20:9, NLT), “But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!” As preachers, we shouldn’t step into the pulpit because we have to say something, but because we have something to say. Jeremiah spoke penetrating words from the heart and mind of God… they were live coals off the altar.
Nehemiah held a respectable position in the administration of the Persian King, Artaxerxes, but God had a greater assignment for him. Many years after the destruction of Jerusalem, he encountered some individuals who had recently been to the city as it was being resettled. Nehemiah 1:2-4 (NLT) says, “…I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem. They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.” Rebuilding the broken walls was not just a good idea to Nehemiah; it was a God idea! The yearning, burning desire for the reconstruction of those walls became part of the fabric of his very being.
When Peter and John were threatened to speak no more in the name of Jesus, they responded, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard”(Acts 4:20). Where did such boldness come from? They had not been lulled into complacency by the world. They were not preoccupied with anything this world had to offer. A.W. Tozer wrote, “The Early Church was in wonderment at Christ. He dazzled them and stirred within such feelings of amazement that they could never get over Christ. All they talked about was Christ. All they thought about, from morning to night, was Christ. Christ was their only reason for living, and they were more than willing to die for Him.”
Before his conversion, Saul of Tarsus was ravenous in his determination to destroy Christians. When his life was transformed by the Lord Jesus, those destructive desires were replaced by holy ambition and sanctified resolve. There was nothing casual or lax about his commitment. Paul was 100% in! His consecration is clearly seen as he spoke of those of his own race who did not know Jesus. He said, “With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ! —if that would save them” (Romans 9:1-3, NLT). Where do we hear such words today? How many people are satisfied as long as they and their loved ones are saved? Who is crying out for the lost?
Scotland’s leading reformer once knelt in a garden to pray. He was overheard by another as he cried out, “God, give me Scotland, or I die.” He declared the gospel with boldness, and his nation was changed. When Knox died, the King of Scotland said, “Here lies a man that never feared the faces of men.” Tozer—who I quoted earlier—also said, “Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they found Him, the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
The great civil rights leader said, “Even if they try to kill you, you develop the inner conviction that there are some things so precious, some things so eternally true that they are worth dying for. And if a person has not found something to die for, that person isn’t fit to live!” Martin Luther King Jr. was “all in.” A line had been drawn in the sand, and he crossed it. A consuming, burning vision governed him, guided him, and compelled him to move forward in the face of horrific opposition. The man who said, “I have a dream” truly did, and the momentum he achieved as he applied himself to see that dream fulfilled changed a nation.
As we’ve looked at these individuals, I want to make sure I’m not leaving the impression that this is an issue of mere emotionalism; it is not. F.B. Meyer said,“Consecration is not the act of our feelings but of our will.”
Perhaps this is a good time for many in the church—many of us—to take inventory and to ask ourselves some hard questions.
- Do we passionately love Jesus and others the way we used to (see Revelation 2:4) or have we somehow regressed and reverted to somehow just “going through the motions”?
- Do we need to—with the help of the Holy Spirit—eradicate complacency, lethargy, religious boredom, or apathy from our lives?
- Are we preoccupied with earthly, temporal things… just “hanging out” spiritually and looking forward to heaven when we die?
- Have we become numb and de-sensitized to vital and essential spiritual things because of the pressures of the world?
- Do we have a yearning, burning, compelling, passionate desire to see the lost saved, the saved discipled, the church thriving, and the plan of God fulfilled in the earth?
Let’s do what Paul admonished Timothy to do. “…stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you…” (2 Timothy 2:6, AMP). This was a hard word, but Jesus told the church in Sardis, “Rouse yourselves and keep awake, and strengthen and invigorate what remains and is on the point of dying; for I have not found a thing that you have done [any work of yours] meeting the requirements of My God or perfect in His sight”(Revelation 3:2, AMP). The Message Version renders the next verse (Revelation 3:3),“Think of the gift you once had in your hands, the Message you heard with your ears—grasp it again and turn back to God.”
I am excited about the future, and I see great days ahead for the Church. Isn’t it time for us to experience what Andrew Murray described? He said, “A true revival means nothing less than a revolution, casting out the spirit of worldliness and selfishness, and making God and His love triumph in the heart and life.” Leonard Ravenhill said, “As long as we are content to live without revival, we will.” My prayer is that a great host of believers, in this day, will rise to the fulness of our calling and will respond to God’s yearnings to fully express Himself in the earth.