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Broken for Supernatural Service
All the passages below are taken from Charles Stanley’s book “The Blessing of Brokenness,” published in 1977.
The path from where we are to where God wants us to be---which is a position of total surrender to him and total wholeness---is one that we call spiritual growth. Its end result or goal is spiritual maturity. God breaks us to mature us.
Spiritual growth has three aspects: change, growth, and brokenness.
First, change is part of the process of maturity. If we are not willing to change, not willing to grow, then we will not grow spiritually. We can't hold onto old ways, old ideas, old feelings, or old erroneous concepts about God, the Holy Spirit, or the Christian life, and still grow into the people that God desires us to be. Maturity requires change and a willingness to embrace positive and beneficial changes.
A second aspect to the maturing process, closely related to change, is growth. Not all change results in growth, but certainly all growth is marked by change. Spiritual maturity means a "growing up" until we are fully Christlike in all of our decisions, thoughts, feelings, and actions. As we read in 2 Peter 3:18, "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Everything that grows in the natural world, grows in what scientists call a "growth medium." In scientific laboratories, that growth medium is sometimes soil, sometimes water, sometimes certain chemicals. The growth medium for spiritual maturity is love. We grow spiritually as we love one another. The apostle Paul said,
Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:15-16 NIV)
Our growth is not a growth that moves toward independence. That's a pattern in the natural physical world---children grow up to live independently of their parents. Spiritual growth is marked by increasing dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimate spiritual maturity is a state of total dependence upon the Holy Spirit to govern, guide, and guard our lives.
A third aspect of spiritual growth is brokenness. If we are to change and to grow, we must be willing to move away from what has been holding us back, pushing us down, or keeping us from being in a position to receive God's best. We must be willing to give up our hold on the things to which we have been clinging with all our might.
THE BREAKING OF MOSES
Each of these three aspects of maturity is evident in the life of Moses. The story of Moses in the Bible actually begins with the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. Through a sequence of dramatic and difficult circumstances, God intervened, and Joseph rose from being a slave to being prime minister of Egypt.
In his position of national leadership, Joseph was able to spare the nation from the ravages of seven years of famine. This famine was so widespread it extended as far as Canaan, where Joseph's family lived. Joseph's brothers sought food in Egypt, and their quest led to a family reunion. Joseph's family, some seventy people at that time, came down to Egypt and were saved from the famine.
By the time Moses was born, this group of Hebrews had grown into a population of two-and-a-half to three million people. After Joseph died, a king came to power in Egypt who didn't have regard for the Hebrews. He said, "The Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country" (Exodus 1:9-10 NIV). He put slave masters over the Hebrews to oppress them with forced labor. Even so, the Bible says, "The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly" (Exodus 1:12-13 NIV). To quell the growth of the Hebrews, Pharaoh finally ordered that the boy babies born to the Israelites be killed.
Moses was born after this edict had been given. His mother, however, would not destroy her son. She built a little ark, placed Moses in it, and sent him floating in the Nile River, with his older sister Miriam watching secretly nearby. Pharaoh's daughter, by the providential hand of God, found little Moses in the floating basket and decided to adopt him as her own. When Miriam suggested that she knew a woman who might be a nurse to Moses, Pharaoh's daughter agreed to her idea, and thus, Moses' own mother had the privilege of caring for him in his early years.
Once Moses was grown, he went out one day to where the Hebrews were being forced into hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, and he killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. He thought no one saw him. To his dismay, when he tried to stop two Hebrews from fighting the next day, one of them said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" (Exodus 2:14 NIV). Moses realized that his crime had been witnessed and he immediately fled to Midian. For forty long years, Moses worked for his father-in-law Jethro as a shepherd in the desert.
Moses went from Pharaoh's palace, where he lived as a son of Pharaoh, to being an exile and a lowly shepherd in the desert. Surely, Moses was being broken!
What in the life of Moses needed to be broken? Here was a man who was very skilled, who had a tremendous background and credentials, who had prestige and power, promise and position, and virtually inexhaustible resources available to him. He had been given a position by Pharaoh. Surely if we were to choose a person qualified and capable of leading God's children out of the bondage of Egypt and back to the land of Canaan, Moses would have to be one of the leading candidates. He had everything it took, from a human standpoint, to be the leader of his people. Why forty years in the desert?
Because Moses needed to be changed. God needed to take Moses from a position of self-reliance to a position of total reliance upon him.
The Hebrews as a whole had been Egyptianized, just as Moses had been. They had adopted much of the Egyptian culture and had even begun to worship the gods of Egypt. After all, they had lived in Egypt for four hundred years by the time Moses came on the scene.
God had to deal with the Egyptianization of Moses so that when God delivered his people from Egypt, God alone would be glorified, and God alone would receive the credit. Then, and only then, could the Hebrews begin to see that they must put their trust solely in God. God's purpose in breaking Moses was with a much larger intent of breaking the Israelites so that he might refashion them once again to be his people.
In breaking Moses, God stripped him of everything he had known as a child and young man. In the process of being driven into the desert, Moses lost his family, his palatial home, his privileges, his prominence, his prestige, his power, his pride. He lost everything.
Moses had known what it meant to be dressed in the finest of clothing, ride in the finest of chariots, be served by the finest of servants, and receive the homage of others. Within a matter of days he found himself on the backside of nowhere tending sheep in humble shepherd's apparel, walking on foot, with no servants and nothing but sheep for company. His home was a tent, not a palace. He worked at common physical labor. In many ways, he was brought into full identification with the rest of the Hebrew people.
Over the years, God also changed much about the spirit and soul of Moses. Moses moved from being self-centered to being God-centered. Moses learned about God's ways and about God's definition of success. He learned that it's better to be somebody in God's eyes and nobody in the eyes of the world, than to be somebody in the eyes of the masses and nobody in the eyes of God.
A STRIPPING AWAY OF EVERYTHING NOT OF GOD
You may be thinking, Does God do that to everybody he plans to use? On the one hand, you're not Pharaoh's son, so I wouldn't worry about the details of Moses' life being applied to yours. On the other hand, God does use this same principle in breaking each one of us for his use and purposes. God's purpose in our lives is not to make us famous, prominent, prestigious, or wealthy. His purpose in our lives is to bring us to the position of absolute nothingness so that we will recognize that all we have of value in this life is God and God alone.
Now, God may ultimately put you in a position of wealth. He may give you prominence. But, if that happens, it will be God's doing and for God's purposes. And if you are totally dependent on God, if God gives you wealth and prominence, you won't even care that you're wealthy and prominent! It will be of virtually no account to you. It will have no real meaning to you. You will be able to use the wealth and prominence God has given you solely for God's purposes, and not for your own aggrandizement.
The Bible doesn't tell us why it took forty years for God to accomplish the breaking in Moses' life. What we can count on is that God will break and keep on breaking us until all resentment, hostility, anger, and self-importance have been broken out of our lives. God isn't concerned about how long the process takes, but whether the process is effective. It may have taken forty years for God to weed out of Moses' life all the traits that kept him from being totally and completely useful to God.
It may also have required forty years for certain situations in Egypt to come to a head, or for the Hebrew people themselves to be so sick and tired of slavery that they were willing to follow the leader God was going to give them. There is a fullness to God's timing. Again and again in the Scriptures, we read that "when the fullness of time had come," God moved to act in certain ways or God raised up certain people to implement his will. God's timetable is not our timetable. He uses time like a tool to accomplish eternal purposes. In the context of eternity, forty years is nothing!
Virtually nothing about the breaking of Moses would any of us like to experience. This was an extremely difficult, painful, and life-stripping time for Moses. For four decades, Moses was in the process of being shredded, crushed back down into the potter's wheel, pruned, and chiseled until Moses probably didn't recognize himself. The man he used to be and the man he was at the end of forty years in the desert no doubt seemed like two different people to him. And that was the point. The Moses whom God sent back to Pharaoh to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt was not the man who fled from Pharaoh.
BROKENNESS IS COUNTERCULTURAL
So much of brokenness goes against what we are taught in our culture. We are taught to be self-confident, to make our plans and set our goals, to refuse to move or budge from our purposes. Everything in our culture speaks to us in the same way that Moses' upbringing in Pharaoh's court spoke to him. God's "school" of growth for Moses was much different. In the desert, Moses had to learn to be God-reliant, to let God set the agenda for his life, and to do whatever God asked him to do.
Jesus, of course, is the epitome of reliance upon God. He said to his disciples, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. ... The words that I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me" (John 14:9-11 NIV).
Jesus was living out God's divine plan. And that is what God desired for Moses. It's also what God desires for you and me.
Someone once said, "A soul is converted in a moment of time, but to become a saint takes a lifetime." Conversion happens instantly. Maturity takes many years.
So often I see Christians struggling to get to what they perceive to be the top---not only of their professions or of the social ladder, but of what they perceive to be the Christian life. They gather and gain and accumulate and assimilate and arrange and amass---all the while building their spiritual resumes and their long list of accomplishments---board memberships, committee assignments, and honors---perhaps with the hope that they will one day be able to hand their resume to God and say, "See what I've done for you."
God's work through brokenness calls us not to accumulate, but to discard. He calls us to get rid of this, get rid of that, rid ourselves of this trait and that habit, give up that desire and that goal, and finally strip ourselves of all self until we say, "All that I am and all that I have is God's. He is in me and I am in him, and that's all that matters."
THE PROCESS OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY IN YOUR LIFE
God may not deal with you in the same way that he dealt with Moses, but he will deal with you in similar ways.
What is it that God is stripping away from your life?
What is it that comes to your mind when you think of being broken?
What is it that you have put between you and total surrender to God? What is it that you trust more than you trust God? What is it that you love more than you love God?
Every person I know has an intuitive understanding of what it is that God is desiring to remove from their lives. They may not be able to express it in that terminology, but they usually can identify what it is that they are afraid to do without, or what it is that they most fear they will lose.
We are to love one another. We are to value one another. But never more than we love God or value our relationship with him.
We are to work diligently and to do good work. But we are never to value our work---not even the work that we would define as "work for God"---more than we value our relationship with God.
We are to serve others and share Christ with others. But we are never to value our ministry more than we value our relationship with God.
God will break us ... change us ... and cause us to grow until we reach spiritual maturity, no matter how long it takes or how difficult the process may be for us.
PREPARATION FOR SUPERNATURAL MINISTRY
God uses brokenness to prepare a person for supernatural ministry. This function is reserved for the spiritually mature.
Don't let the word ministry confuse you. Every Christian is called to ministry, which is simply service to others. This does not necessarily mean full-time work in a church or religious organization.
A woman once said to me, "All of my friends seem to be called into ministry. I'm just a wife and mother." She said this with a laugh, as if dismissing or diminishing her role as a homemaker.
I said, "You have one of the most noble ministries of all!"
She looked at me with surprise. I said, "Can you name for me any greater responsibility in all of life than raising children to love and serve God? Can you name a ministry that requires more of God's wisdom, faith, patience, and love?"
"I never thought of it like that," she admitted. And then she brightened. "I guess I do have a ministry," she said.
Indeed. Just think of all the attributes necessary for children to grow up with a heart for God. Think of the sacrifice, the time, the skill, the knowledge, and the understanding that a mother must have to raise godly children. We must never belittle the responsibility or the role of ministry that mothers have. Suppose Moses' mother had said," I don't have a ministry." Her ministry was one of the greatest in all history---to provide for the survival of her son and to raise him up to care for his own Hebrew people. She ingrained in him the basic faith in God that never left him and that God himself fanned into a roaring blaze many years later.
Each one of us has a ministry. God has a specific avenue of service designed specifically for the full use of our individual talents, gifts, and skills. He has placed us in a unique time, place, and among specific people to accomplish his ministry. We grow spiritually so that we might minister to others with depth, spontaneity, and gracious generosity.
God caused Moses to mature spiritually so that he could liberate his people from bondage and lead them to a land where they could live in the fullness of God's promises to them. He gave Moses a supernatural ministry. And we too are called to supernatural ministry.
You may have noted that I used the word supernatural to describe ministry. That's because if ministry is real, it must be supernatural---God-inspired and God-empowered. Ministry means "service." Anybody can minister to another person's needs. But for a person to be engaged in supernatural ministry means that he or she ministers to others under the direct intervention and involvement of God. Supernatural ministry requires the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, supernatural ministry doesn't necessarily mean working great miracles or healings. Caring for your business from a foundation of spiritual principles, raising a godly family, preaching the gospel, singing in the church choir, playing in the city orchestra, teaching school, working in a hospital---any number of activities we can name can be done as a supernatural ministry as long as what we do is done to the glory of God and as long as we invite the Holy Spirit to work through us in serving others.
Several aspects of supernatural ministry are important to note.
SUPERNATURAL MINISTRY HAS AN OBJECTIVE
God always has an objective in mind when he calls us to a specific supernatural ministry. God spoke to Moses in the burning bush: "I want you to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go." This was the objective of Moses' ministry.
SUPERNATURAL MINISTRY REQUIRES ACTIVE TRUST
The mission that God called Moses to undertake was staggering. Moses immediately sought a way out. He said, in essence, "You've got the wrong fellow." He told God he couldn't speak in public, couldn't accomplish the goal, and asked God to find somebody else. Finally, however, Moses surrendered not only to God, but to the supernatural ministry God had laid before him.
In all of Scripture you won't find a more concise statement of humility: "I can't do it, God." This is where God desires us to be---we can't do it, but as we trust in him, God can.
Bear not a single care thyself.
One is too much for thee.
The work is mine and mine alone.
Thy work to rest in me.
God calls us to this attitude, to this "faith position."
God never released Moses from actively trusting him. He didn't say, "Well, Moses, you trusted me once, so now I know you will always trust me." To the contrary. Moses' faith was challenged again and again. The more intense the plagues became, the greater the trust Moses needed to have in God. The more difficult the challenges as the Israelites left Egypt, the greater the trust required of Moses. The longer the years wore on in the wilderness, the greater the need for trust.
We never get to the position in supernatural ministry where our faith is no longer challenged. We are called again and again and again to a position of total surrender, total trust, total yielding, total commitment.
SUPERNATURAL MINISTRY Is EMPOWERED BY GOD
Can you imagine how Moses must have felt when he heard God's ministry objective for his life? Me? A shepherd? Go into Pharaoh's court---the seat of power that has sought my life for murdering an Egyptian---and tell them to let all of their slaves go? Organize a group of nearly three million people to leave the only home they've ever known to go to a land they've never visited? God's objective for Moses' ministry was vast and complicated.
No matter what supernatural ministry God calls you to undertake, it will likely seem monumental to you. That's part of God's plan. He wants us to rely on him totally for the accomplishment of his objective. If we could do the ministry in our own strength and according to our own wisdom, we wouldn't need God and the ministry wouldn't be supernatural.
God clearly told Moses, "I'm going to free them." Moses was to do the telling to Pharaoh, but God was going to do the freeing.
God sent Moses to Pharaoh with only one thing---a shepherd's staff. That staff was a symbol of the presence of God. Moses had been completely stripped of any other "qualifications." He had been reduced to a position of total trust upon God. If God didn't work as God promised he would work, then nothing would happen. The rod in Moses' hand was supernatural because God made it supernatural; the wonders that unfolded when Moses stretched forth the rod had nothing to do with Moses, other than that Moses was obedient in doing what God told him to do with the rod.
Moses didn't convince Pharaoh. He didn't open the Red Sea. He didn't provide food. He didn't provide water. He didn't map out the route through the wilderness. God did. God assumed full responsibility for all the consequences of his actions and all the needs of his people. Moses only had to obey what God told him to do.
Ministry inevitably follows that pattern.
We may plant the seed. But God grows it.
We may provide bandages and medicines. But God does the healing.
We may pray earnestly. But God does the miracle.
We do our part, but then God does the part that only God can do!
The logistics of leading such a large group of people from Egypt to Canaan were staggering. Moses needed to motivate them to go. And then, what about food, water, and supply lines needed for the long march across the desert? What about transporting their baggage? What about crowd control? What about the sick? The stragglers? The reluctant? The rebels? No doubt the life of a shepherd in the desert looked more appealing to Moses the more he thought about what it was that God had called him to do. But God said, "I will be with you. I will cause the elders of Israel to listen to you. I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, Pharaoh will let you go. I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you go, you will not go empty-handed." (See Exodus 3:12-22 NIV)
God says the same thing to us anytime he calls us to supernatural ministry. He says, "I'm the one who will do it. I will accomplish the task. You do what I tell you to do, and I will cause it to come to pass." The provision and the power for accomplishing what God calls us to do resides with God. He imparts his power through us to accomplish his objective.
SUPERNATURAL MINISTRY AFFECTS OTHERS
Only God could mature Moses spiritually. The same held true for the lives of the Israelites as a whole. Only God could de-Egyptianize his people. Toward that end, he gave the law, taught them the law, led them through the wilderness, protected them against their enemies, and fed them with manna. He invaded every area of their lives---breaking them and rebreaking them as a people so they might become a peculiar people, a different people, a specially chosen people for himself.
In breaking the Hebrews, God separated them from all the pagan, heathen, adulterous people around them---just as he had separated Moses. He called them to a different set of customs, a different mode of dress, a different ritual of worship, a different pattern of behavior. He further commanded the Israelites not to intermarry or have fellowship with those who didn't serve the one true and living God. God gave them their own economy, their own lifestyle, their own set of commandments and laws.
It is no accident that Moses lived in the desert for forty years and then that the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Just as God had de-Egyptianized Moses and turned Moses into his chosen leader of the Hebrew people, so God was de-Egyptianizing his people and turning them into his chosen people.
God gave his people a sign of his presence, just as he had given a sign to Moses---in their case, it was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
When the children of Israel finally arrived in the land God had promised to them, they saw God's total provision for them in defeating their enemies. The wall of Jericho fell at the sound of trumpet blasts and shouts from the people. God brought about the victory in a way that gave full glory to God.
And yet there's more. Why did God want to bring his people to spiritual maturity? Again, for supernatural ministry. God had told Abraham that through his family, all the nations of the world would come to know God. They were to be a "light to the nations." (See Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6 NIV)
What a tremendous goal God had set for the Hebrews! Again, just as in the life of Moses, he set before his people a phenomenal objective. He says, "If you do what I tell you to do---if you are totally obedient to me---I will bless you ... and make you a blessing."
God's purpose for breaking you and bringing you to a place of wholeness and spiritual maturity is so that he might use you as his tool in bringing still others to wholeness and spiritual maturity.
He teaches us so that we might teach others.
He imparts his insights to us so that we might share them with others.
He comforts and encourages us so that we might provide comfort and encouragement to others.
He gives us spiritual gifts so that we might use them to help others.
He gives us financial prosperity so that we might benefit others and provide the means for the Gospel to reach them.
SUPERNATURAL MINISTRY REQUIRES TOTAL SACRIFICE
Those who are broken come to a place of total self-sacrifice. This position of sacrifice is critical to our ability to minister. True supernatural ministry is not halfhearted or superficial. It requires great depth of giving, a total commitment, an overflowing abundance of unending love.
Again and again, the Israelites rebelled against Moses, which was actually a rebellion against God. On several occasions, Moses said in near desperation, "What am I to do with this hard-hearted, stiff-necked people?" God, however, never gave up on them, never gave up on Moses, and gave Moses the strength never to give up on his own people.
We can't have supernatural ministry at work in our lives if we aren't willing to be poured out to others. Supernatural ministry calls for a total giving of one's love, time, compassion, gifts, and loyalty. It means being in a position where nothing is held back.
God's desire is for us to serve, not for us to be served. Jesus clearly taught that the servant is the one who is the greatest of all. Service is to be our life.
It's a matter of being a vase or a bucket. You can have a beautiful vase that's worth thousands of dollars and set it in a prominent place in your home so that you and others can walk by and say, "Isn't that pretty?" Or you can have an old five-gallon bucket and use it to carry water to refresh a lot of people who are thirsty. The same is true for us in ministry. Some folks desire solely to be pretty, looked at, and admired for their "worth." Others are willing to be old buckets, full of God and emptied of self, in order to be of service to others.
We must be willing to get dirty.
We must be willing to roll up our sleeves and work.
We must be willing to sacrifice.
We must be willing to go through stormy times.
We must be willing to suffer on behalf of others.
We can't get to spiritual maturity without suffering and pain, and we can't engage in supernatural ministry without being willing to endure even more suffering and pain. The joy set before us, however, is the joy of knowing that God is with us, that God is working in us and through us, and that God is pleased with us. And friend, there's no greater joy than that.
Moses' ministry was not easy. It took great courage for him to go repeatedly into Pharaoh's court and announce yet another round of doom upon the Egyptians. It took great faith for Moses to lead God's people right up to the edge of the Red Sea---knowing that Pharaoh's armies were rapidly approaching from the rear and they had no obvious way to get across the body of water in front of them. It took great patience for Moses to endure the grumbling and complaining of the people.
If Moses had not been fully broken before God, he could not have endured the supernatural ministry put before him.
You and I cannot survive the supernatural ministry that God calls us to do if we do not remain fully surrendered and yielded to him. God does not bring us to supernatural ministry so that we can do that ministry on our own, once again striving to accomplish great things on our own strength. No! He calls us to continue to surrender our lives to him, day by day, experience by experience, year by year. We must remain in a position of total surrender and commitment.
I once overheard a man say, "I'm satisfied with just being saved. I just want to make it inside heaven's gates."
How sad! I thought. What a tragic waste! God doesn't save us solely so that we can "barely get in" to his presence or into heaven. He saves us so that we might be brought to spiritual maturity and used by God to fulfill his plans and purposes. The good news for us is that supernatural ministry is what gives our lives a sense of fantastic, indescribable, awesome purpose and meaning.
How many people ask themselves again and again throughout their entire lives, "Why am I here? What is my purpose for being alive?" The person whom God has broken and who has been made whole and brought to spiritual maturity knows the answer to that question. We are here so that God might use us to bring glory to himself! We are here so that God might call us into paths of supernatural ministry that will bring about the accomplishment of his plan for all humankind. We are here to be blessed by God so that we might be a blessing to others!
Once we realize the reason for our existence and begin to walk in it, nobody has to prompt us to get up in the morning. We can hardly wait to work toward the goals God has set before us. There's a joy to our steps, a feeling of hope in our hearts, and a desire to put our shoulders to the wheel and trust God with the outcome!
But first, you must be willing to be broken, to change, to grow. Before God can use you mightily, he must know that you are completely surrendered to him. [65-85]
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