Chapter 1: the quest for fulfillment



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Sweet Smell of Defeat


The secret of an earth-shaking ministry is to by-pass our limitations and tap directly into the power of the One who holds the stars. We’re in union with the Creator of sapphires and seraphim, molecules and galaxies. In him is all power, all wisdom, all love. Why, then, do we act like those who have no God? Empowered by him, our accomplishments should excel anything godless humanity could contemplate. Yet the more content we are to draw solely upon human resources, the more ‘God’s work’ is riddled with human frailty.

Love and good intentions are never enough. It was love for Jesus that caused Peter to blurt out words that had such the opposite effect to Peter’s wishes that Jesus retorted, ‘Get behind me Satan.’a Job’s counselors seemed to have been motivated by deep concern for Job and genuine love for God when they unwittingly became Job’s tormenters and sinned against the God they thought they were defending.b

We could be like little children redecorating the house for Daddy without waiting for instructions or help. Daddy might not even want the television painted. Sadly, our loving, enthusiastic efforts could prove worse than nothing. Oh, we may think we have done a marvelous job – until we meet Father face to face.

A disastrous failure could therefore be a great blessing. There is nothing like it for excising the tendency to draw upon human, rather than divine resources. If allowed to spread, that cancer would destroy an otherwise healthy ministry.

Any hurt that causes me to cling more firmly to Christ is a hurt for which I will be forever thankful. Any ‘defeat’ that has this result is a victory. What seems an obstacle to service ends up an essential stepping stone. Brought to God, a string of failures becomes a rainbow, at the end of which lies golden success.c

If the following lines mirror your feelings, you’re headed for glory.


I need the Lord, my Maker,
As rivers need to flow;
As flowers need the sunlight;
And seedlings need to grow;
As marksmen need a target,
And arrows need a bow.
I’ve feigned my independence,
But failed to improvise.
I need the One I’m made for,
As eagles need the skies.
You’re my breath and my light,
My food and my wine.
I’m the brush, you’re the artist,
I’m the string and you’re the harpist.
Tune me for your glory.
I need the Lord, my Maker,
As falcons need to see;
As the clay needs a sculptor,
And a lock needs a key.
As a ship needs a rudder;
And coral needs the sea.
I’m done with empty living;
Success that’s make-believe.
I need the One I’m made for,
As creatures need to breathe.
You’re my strength and my hope,
My peace and my shield.
I’m the hands, you’re the healer,
I’m the sword and you’re the victor.
Wield me for your glory.
I need the Lord, my Maker,
As an arm needs a hand;
As a babe needs its mother;
And a dove needs to land;
As a car needs a driver
And a glove needs a hand.
I’m tired of ‘great achievements’,
Of life that’s just a game.
I need the One I’m made for,
As deserts need the rain.
You’re my life and my joy,
My truth and my guide.
I’m the song, you’re the Singer,
I’m a well and you’re the water.
Fill me for your glory.
Blessed are they who know their labors have failed, for they shall learn to serve God his way. But woe to them who vainly imagine God approves of their labors. They have their reward already.

False confidence leads to chaos.a


He Turns Your Rust Into Gold


The horror of unemployment is that it can corrode competent, dynamic people into sloppy, dithering wrecks. Unless we willfully resist the Lord, however, such decay is either an illusion or reversible.

I’ve been turned down so often, I look like a concertina. For years my motivation and confidence have seemed to be plummeting. Closer examination, however, reveals the opposite.

Deny yourself food and at a certain point beyond your normal mealtime, your appetite may briefly wane. Eventually, however, desiring food for its sensory enjoyment is replaced by a craving for its life-giving attributes. Motives are purged and, finally, intensified.

We often fail to appreciate things until deprived of them. Aspects of service that would once have seemed mundane, perhaps even arduous, have rocketed in my estimation to a wondrous privilege. My potential joy in service is actually growing. What was dwindling was selfish motivation. I’m no longer expecting ego boosts.

Even my battered self-confidence has taken an unexpected turn. Until commencing this book, I was certain I could never compose the simplest poem. Then I was asked to help write a musical. I nearly refused, convinced I could not possibly contribute. Nonetheless, I wrote the lyrics. So sure am I that God had surpassed my native abilities that I now find it absurd to maintain I could not be used of God to do equally impossible things.

After years on heaven’s dole, confidence in my ability had dived. It can drown, for all I care. What has risen from the depths is not self-confidence, but a heightened awareness of the lengths the Lord of glory will go to share his infinite abilities with me. And this is no longer a theoretical concept. I can now point to those lyrics as concrete proof. Had my self-esteem not been so mangled by slammed doors, I might have interpreted such achievements as the product of my own ability. If so, instead of the lyrics being a spring-board to new heights in God, I would have remained floundering at the level of my own mediocrity, grounded by thinking my abilities set the ceiling on any vocation I could have.

For the person who understands God’s ways, brokenness holds no terror. Being reduced to insignificance in our own eyes is a sure way of wooing divine attention. ‘You may easily be too big for God to use,’ remarked Dwight Moody, ‘but you can never be too small.’72 Peter Sumner has distilled an amazing truth from the way Christ fed the multitudes: whatever God breaks, he blesses; whatever he blesses, he uses; whatever he uses, he multiplies.a For Sumner, this is truth pounded out on the steel anvil of life. He was permanently blinded in a freak accident while giving up his vacation to help renovate a building for Christian use. From this broken life grew the Christian Foundation for the Blind.73

Don’t be too hasty is despising what you imagine to be your flaws and weaknesses.

The Mocker glares at you. ‘Cracked pot!’ he snarls. You shrink inside, unable to hear the adoration of people in the age to come. ‘Exquisite vessel, perfectly formed to touch our lives!’ they cry to you. ‘Through that crack God’s oil flowed out to us.’

We seem the object of ridicule, yet we’re the focus of infinite love. We’re fruit growing sweeter, wine gaining value; not milk going sour. We’re not cardboard caving, colors fading, under the weight of time; we’re concrete drying stronger, trees growing higher, dawn glowing brighter.

If your life is on ‘hold’, the hands holding you bear love-prints and they’re nestling you close to the Father’s heart.

Glorious things are ahead.


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