These thoughts are from the book Loving God, (Charles Colson, 1983) and its accompanying study guide. It is interesting thatColson wrote this book in 1983 and he began by describing our culture as self absorbed and isolated, with even Christians caught up in a “what’s in it for me” kind of faith. How much more so does that ring true 20 years later, without us even realizing it! Colson told of how he was grappling for a faith that was more concerned with how to put more into his faith as opposed to how to get more out of it.
In his early faith journey, Charles asked people what they thought it meant to love God. No one seemed to have a distinct answer, and while some stammered and fumbled with an answer, others defined what it meant by measuring church attendance or tithing. Many explained loving God as a feeling in their hearts, “as if it were something akin to a romantic encounter” (pg. 15). Colson turned to a lecture series on the holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, which was what God used to open his eyes to God’s absolute holiness, the majesty of God and God’s call to discipleship.
On pg. 16, Colson commented on what Lenin did for Marx, publishing a book What is to Be Done? in which he spelled out the absolute of action to take Marx’s theories and apply them to life. Turning to individual Christians and the church he asked “What would happen if we were actually to apply God’s truth for the glory of His kingdom?” Good question…
Later, on pg. 24-25, Charles told of his prison experience as a result of Watergate, and wrote “My life of success was not what made this morning so glorious–all of my achievements meant nothing in God’s economy. No, the real legacy of my life was my biggest failure–that I was an ex-convict. My greatest humiliation–being sent to prison–was the beginning of God’s greatest use of my life. He chose the one experience in which I could not glory for His glory.”
He continues, “It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn’t want our success. He wants us. He doesn’t demand our achievements. He demands our obedience.” Can you picture that in a graduation speech?
I try to cover up my failures and run from them, and God does the opposite–He uses them. Wouldn’t He be more glorified by me not messing up or being inadequate? Apparently not. He uses our weakness, and picks the things we can’t glory in for His upside down kingdom–one where victory comes through defeat, gaining our lives through losing them, being first by being last, finding self by losing self…
In Judges 7:2 God told Gideon why He wanted the Israelite army trimmed from 30,000 to 300: “In order that Israel may not boast and say that her own strength saved her.” Oh, we may not say that, but we think it and rely on it, until God uses a prison experience to radically change and turn our lives upside down. We fight so desperately to keep it right side up!
Colson didn’t set a year goal or a five year goal to have his life radically changed by being sent to prison. Nor can we, because that is God’s business to ordain. Our job is to give Him our hearts, minds and souls. To seek His kingdom first, to obey and apply and give up our lives to find them in the end all for the sake of Jesus.
David Platt wrote in his book Radical: “We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves vs. abandoning ourselves. In direct contrast to the American dream, God actually exalts in our inability. He intentionally puts us in situations where we come face to face with our need for Him…We can dare to ask what the consequences might be if we really obeyed Him, rather than twisting Jesus into a version we’re comfortable with–one that doesn’t mind materialism, who wants us to be balanced and avoid dangerous extremes.”
May we pray with Paul in Philippians 3:10-12 “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, becoming like Him in His death and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead. I press on to take a hold of that for which Christ Jesus took a hold of me.”