Absence always poses a challenge to us, and mostly we try to avoid it or fill it up with any rubbish to hand. The promise of twelve more “spaces” every New Year rings out over the world…Resolutions are made, and agendas filled…but do we really know how to deal correctly with such opportunity?
Jesus final words to his disciples in John 16 are all about preparing his people to accept absence and space in the right way.
“But I tell you the truth: it is for your good that I am going away.” v.7
Parting is indeed, “such sweet sorrow”. But where is the sweetness in absence? What do I fill the gaps with?
“Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”v.7
Like the disciples, we must learn the art of waiting on the Counselor, our friend of truth, the Holy Spirit. When He comes, He will fill up 2 major spaces – one in me and the other in the environment around and before me. He brings both personal illumination and general conviction.
Jesus explained the external work by talking about how the Holy Spirit of truth would work as an ally to our endeavours, convicting the world of “sin”, “righteousness” and “judgement.” We never have to fill all the “ministry space” ourselves. We simply need to recognise the opportunities He has prepared. Do you indeed have faith that He has gone ahead into your own very situation and environment? Do you expect Him to work and are you waiting on the spaces to seize the amazing opportunity?
Theologians have rightly debated and studied the conviction statements and come to a vast array of insightful conclusions. However, the key is not just in the correctness of interpretation but in the revelation of the fact that we have a Holy Counselor who goes ahead of us into the world to prepare the scenario for our lives, and in the practical experience of this. We also need to vastly expand the horizon of “sin”, righteousness” and “judgement” to see far more involved than just religious doctrine. He goes ahead, in true “misseo dei”, to prepare a way, build the scenery and guarantee answer. His vibrant life is pulsating through history, infusing the future and preparing the answer to our divine dreams, both in the humble stables and glittering palaces of this world. Holiness wins!
He is also filling my inner space…there are at least three consequences of such filling.
1. “…he will guide you into all truth.”v.13
Without question this includes revealed knowledge from the Scriptures, but “all” seems to promise a journey into the fullest realm of veracity. Honest relationships, encountering the Creator in the truth and beauty of His works, discerning the creative cries of truth in art, literature and the world’s cultures.
Jesus, the way, the life and the truth, is waiting to be discovered.
2. “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” v.23
Prayer is the gift of the Counselor to us. His indwelling presence expresses Himself in the glorious groaning that words cannot always encompass. Prayer is unlimited influence with God. It is the confidence of provision, a key to heaven which unlocks the door to a smiling Father ever willing to give good gifts to His children.
A group of people engaging the possibilities of their corporate space together in prayer may be another way of seeing the beauty of the Bride as she makes herself ready.
And last but not least…
3. “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.”
God is longing to enlarge the space of our inner tent. He wants to give us “heart enlargement” so that we can indeed capture a large enough vision of what He is willing and able to do in the world.
His law of faithful provision already covers most of our “tiny” prayers, and He is almost daring us to come up with a prayer that is worthy of an all-powerful, all loving God. Can we expand our vision and expectancy to encompass the generous immensity of our King? Or will we, like Israel in Isaiah 49:6, frustrate Him with our “too small things.”?
“Ask of me!” pleads God, “And I will give you nations!” (Psalm 2:8)
In my early innocent days of mission, our young team would be encouraged to pray “Wild prayers!” Big, crazy, God sized prayers, beyond all we could hope or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) Years have cast the insipid shadow of reason over that chaste simplicity, but I am longing that as I start a new season in 2013 the Counselor will woo me back to a walk on the wild side. I think I should be asking for 50 people to be added to our new little church endeavour in our first year – will you join me in this “crazy” prayer?
Wildness brings joy!
“Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” v.24
“We are straightened in our own hearts, not in God.” A.B. Bruce
So expect an illumination of truth, prevailing prayer and enlarged vision for all your spaces…and your joy will be complete.