I have been reading The Insanity of God, subtitled, A True Story of Faith Resurrected, by Nick Ripken. The book outlines how the spiritual life of Ripken was revitalised by the testimony of persecuted believers throughout the world.
This volume unveils a pattern that can renew our own often comfortable spirituality.
At the end of years serving God in a dangerous anti-Christian environment Ripken felt deflated. With a sense of personal worth tied to how many “souls” he had seen come to the Lord a lack of conversions had plunged him into spiritual depression. His mind was tormented as to whether the historical events of scripture retained their impact today.
Was the resurrection power of Christ still accessible? In search of an answer he travelled the globe interviewing persecuted believers and discovered a deep spiritual truth about how God forms Christ-likeness in us.
The writer of Hebrews possesses brilliant insights into the way the Father matured Jesus.
Speaking of Gethsemane he says, “...Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews chapter 5 verses 7-9). Suffering to complete the will of God was the only way Jesus could become absolutely dependent on his Father. Most of all he had to persevere through the cross when he had no sense of being a successful Son. His deflated cry, ““...why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark chapter 14 verse 36) was the pathway to a glorious resurrection.
Learning from Jesus teaches us that feelings of failure are an essential spiritual preparation for depending on God alone (Hebrews chapter 12 verse 2). As the Lord had to endure the darkness of the cross (Mark chapter 15 verse 33) we too must experience a “dark night of the soul” designed to strip us of any sense of personal worth outside of Christ. This is the lesson of the persecuted Church.
Valley and Mountain
Throughout Ripken’s global interviews one testimony unified all he heard; “Jesus is worth it!” Whatever degradations and deprivations had been suffered for Jesus not one confessing Christian regretted following the Lord, no matter what the cost.
To the natural eye persecuted believers are powerless and pathetic (2 Corinthians chapter 4 verses 7-12) but in the eyes of God “the world was not worthy of them” (Hebrews chapter 11 verse 38). In the Spirit such suffering unites us with the crucified and raised Lamb who is worthy to be worshipped as King by angels, humans and all creation (Revelation chapter 5).
To present our “bodies as living sacrifices” in the sphere of suffering service is an act of “spiritual worship” (Romans chapter 12 verse 1). It is more than a preparation or rehearsal for eternity; it is a participation in eternity NOW. Believers who have descended into the valley of suffering have received a revelation of Christ’s worthiness ushering them into the mountain of his presence.
Since biblical worship is about giving God his worth the worship reputation of the Australian Church is ill-deserved. Singing does not provide evidence of a heart of spiritual worship. The only practical evidence of authentic worship i.e. giving God his worth, is a willingness to suffer for Jesus. The challenge for each of us is whether anyone of us is willing to follow Christ through the valley of spiritual depression to share with the worthiness of the mountain of his presence?
May God’s Spirit draw our hearts away from the comfort of following the crowd and give us an experience of suffering service we will never regret. This is the sure path of spiritual renewal; lives that testify that Jesus Christ is Insanely Worthy.
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 6 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.
John Yates’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-yates.html