Why we are Broken by Charles Stanley
All the passages below are taken from Charles Stanley’s book “The Blessing of Brokenness,” published in 1977.
A young man once said to me, “I’ve been a Christian for two years, Pastor, and I can’t begin to tell you how different my life is now Last week I went to a prayer meeting on a Friday night, and I thought to myself, Man, if anybody had told me two years ago that Pd be going to a prayer meeting on a Friday night and praising God and singing songs about God and liking every minute of it, I would have said, `You’re nuts!”‘
Then he added in a very serious, thoughtful tone, “Sometimes I wonder, though, why I had to go through such awful experiences before I came to the Lord. I was an alcoholic. I used people and loved things, rather than loving people and using things. I got into trouble with the law and came very close to killing a couple of people because I had an accident while driving under the influence. I wish God had saved me a whole lot sooner.”
I said to him, “Perhaps something in you had to die before you could fully live.”
He thought about that for a moment. “Yeah, you’re right. I wasn’t ready to give up what I called the `good life’ until about two and a half years ago. I thought I had a great life until that time. It’s only now that I know what a terrible life I was leading.”
Before any of us can fully live as God has created us to live, we first must die to our desire to control our own lives or to live life according to our plan and will.
SOMETHING HAS TO DIE FOR LIFE TO BEGIN
One important passage of Scripture on brokenness is John 12:24-25. In preparing his disciples for his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds”(John 12:24).
As long as you hold a kernel of grain in your hand, you have only one grain. You can place it on the barn floor, put it on a windowsill, or even place it under a glass dome and keep it forever, but it will still be only one grain. Nothing will come of it or from it. Eventually, it will rot and turn to dust.
Once you take that seed, however, and drop it into the earth and cover it up with soil, you have positioned it to die—but this time with the purpose of reproducing life. The elements in the soil, the heat of the sun, and the moisture in the earth will all work on the outer shell of that seed. Before long, the outer shell breaks, and a little green sprout begins to push its way up through the soil until eventually it breaks through into the sunshine. A root begins to grow downward, anchoring the seedling to the soil. The seed itself disappears as a stalk of grain grows and eventually produces an ear of corn or a head of wheat. That ear of corn or head of wheat holds dozens of grains, each of which has the capacity to grow into a plant of its own.
From one grain of wheat, a person could eventually plant a million acres of wheat, if all he did was replant all of the fruit of one grain, and then all the fruit from its grains, and so forth.
Jesus was teaching that as long as the grain remains alone—unplanted and unyielded—it cannot bear fruit. He was describing, of course, what was about to happen to him. As long as Jesus remained alive, a few people might be healed, a few might benefit from his miracles, a few might turn to God by his teaching and preaching, but ultimately, the world would remain unforgiven.
Before his life could be extended and multiplied, Jesus had to die. Once he had died and risen again, his life could be multiplied millions of times, just as it has been down through the centuries. Those of us who have accepted him as our Savior and have been forgiven of our sins had our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life because he was willing to die.
In turn, he calls upon each of us to take up our cross—sacrificially dying to ourselves and giving ourselves to his cause—in order that we might live for him and according to his purposes.
Jesus went on to say, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).
We must be willing to die to our affections, dreams, desires, ambitions, and goals, and then be totally willing for the Lord Jesus Christ to have his way in our lives. Only then can we truly know life to the fullest and find our purpose in life realized completely. We must die to self in order to become more of ourselves and eternally ourselves!
We must break ourselves of our intense love of self if we are ever to allow God’s love to envelop us and fill us.
Several other passages of Scripture echo this same teaching: In holding on to our own desires and our own will, we lose. In letting go and letting God have control, we win. (Matthew 10:39 and Matthew 16:24-26).
You may be asking, “But why does God require that something be put to death in order for it to be made alive?” The fullness of God’s reasons are known only to God. But we can see that this principle holds true throughout his creation.
We have the juice of grapes only because somebody has crushed the grapes. We have bread only because somebody has crushed the grain into flour. We have fully productive and useful lives only because God has crushed our self-will.
GOD WANTS TO DESIGN OUR FUTURE
I have discovered through the years that those who are young sometimes have a more difficult time submitting their lives completely to the Lord. They see the future stretched out before them, filled with what they perceive to be unlimited opportunities. Satan tricks them into thinking that the future cannot be good without this relationship, or the fulfillment of that sexual desire, or the pursuit of this vocational commitment, or the acquisition of that particular possession. They begin to pursue what Satan holds out as the “ideal way to live.” His plan, of course, never includes God.
The result of pursuing what Satan holds out as desirable is a spirit of striving. Striving is hard work—it depends solely on what an individual person is capable of doing (or of convincing others to do). Striving has an element of greed to it—there’s always more to be achieved, earned, or acquired. Striving has self at its core—it wants what it wants. When a person is striving for something, she has little regard for harm that may be done to others, or even to her own body or soul. Striving is raw ambition. And ultimately, striving is bondage.
The illusions that Satan holds out as being objects that give value, meaning, and worth to one’s life are just that—illusions. They are like a mirage in the desert. You can struggle and scrape and claw and crawl toward that mirage with all of your energy, year after year, and never arrive. What appears to be life-giving is actually dry dust.
Is it wrong to like quality things or to purchase the best you are able to afford? Is it wrong to desire a spouse and children? Is it wrong to want to succeed in your work?
No! What is wrong is when we feel we can’t live without those things. What is wrong is substituting the acquisition of things, relationships, and accomplishments for a relationship with God. When we set our eyes on the accomplishment of our goals, we nearly always lose sight of God’s goals for us. Only when we make our relationship with God our number-one priority can God bring us into a position where we can achieve and receive what will truly satisfy us.
I once counseled a young man who was very upset at a breakup with his girlfriend. He had fallen deeply in love with this young woman and had anticipated spending the rest of his life with her. When she jilted him for another guy, he was badly wounded.
As we talked, he admitted to me that he had begun to plan his entire life around what his girlfriend desired—he had moved to be closer to her, he took a job that she thought was good for him, he began to attend her church, he dressed in the way she desired. In addition, he felt a great deal of pressure from her to be successful financially.
I asked him, “Did God tell you to make this move or accept this job?” He confessed that he hadn’t even asked God about any of these changes he had made in his life. I encouraged him to start at that point in his recovery from a broken heart. “Ask God what he desires for you to be and do,” I said.
I didn’t see this young man again for several years. By the time we met again, he was married to a lovely young woman and they had a six-month-old son. He said to me, “Things really changed, Pastor Stanley, after I started doing things God’s way. I moved back to my hometown and took a job that the Lord opened up for me. I met my wife at the church where I had grown up. She and her family had moved to town while I was at college. The Lord really brought our lives together in a way that we knew it was God’s planning. We have the same goals in life.”
All of the things Satan holds out as not only desirable but necessary for our identity in the future are deceptions. His intent is not to see a person blessed, but rather, to bring about a person’s doom. If there’s anything in our lives that we think we just can’t live without, that should be a warning sign to us to reevaluate our relationship with God and to take another look at our priorities.
Jesus clearly taught, “Do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).
God knows what you need. He knows what is best for you—including in what quantity. The fact is, we can live with very little, but we can never truly live without God. He is what we need first, foremost, and always. He is the only one whom we truly can’t do without!
The things that Satan holds out to us as “must haves” for the future are passing, temporal things. If we are willing to give up striving for these things and seeking after them no matter the cost, and instead, turn to God, he will satisfy all of our longings for the future with perfect fulfillment. If we are willing to give up defining our own future, he’ll give us something better than we could ever arrange, manipulate, or create. His best will be ours—but only if we are willing to die to our selfish independent streak and to submit our lives completely to him.
GOD WANTS TO SET OUR GOALS
A young woman asked me after she had heard me preach about this, “Pastor, is it wrong to set goals? It seems to me that you are saying that we should just live day to day, trusting God, and not have any plans or goals.”
It’s not wrong for us to set goals—what’s wrong is when we set goals apart from asking God what his goals for us might be. We must always approach our goal setting with earnest prayer, asking, “What is it, God, that you desire for me to do and say and be?”
Our prayer must be the same as the one that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
WE ARE CHRIST’S WORKMANSHIP
Who is responsible for your accomplishments and success in life?
Do you consider that you are responsible for who you will become and what you will succeed in doing? Or are you relying on God to live his life through you and to change you so that he might use you for his purposes?
These are two very different perspectives. We rarely yield quickly or easily to brokenness if we believe that we hold our destiny in our own hands.
The wise person faces the reality that God both deserves and demands the right to everything that we are. He has the authority and right to express his life through us—through our lips, eyes, hands, feet, body, thoughts, emotions—in any way he so chooses. We are not merely to be reflections of the way Christ was, but we are to be living, walking expressions of the life of Christ in the world today.
The Bible tells us that once we have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, we do not own ourselves and we do not govern or determine our own future. Paul wrote,” For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Just as you didn’t earn your salvation, so you are not responsible for achieving your own glory in life. You are God’s workmanship, from start to finish. God leads and guides you into the good works that you are to do for him—works that are totally in keeping with the talents, skills, experiences, and abilities he has given you.
When I look back on my life, I stand in amazement at how God has moved me from place to place, from experience to experience, always positioning me to take the next step in my life, always putting me into places and situations so that he might refine or develop something within me that will be useful to his purposes later.
As a teenager I sold newspapers to make money to buy clothes and other things I needed. One night I was talking to a friend named Julian as we stood on a street corner where I was selling newspapers. I told him that I believed the Lord was calling me to preach. I said, “You know, I’ve got to go to school, and I don’t have any money for that.” I didn’t know this fellow all that well. We were just talking about our lives in a rather casual way. At that precise moment in our conversation, the pastor of my church walked by. Julian said, “Mr. Hammock, Charles believes the Lord has called him to preach. Do you think you can help him go to school?”
Pastor Hammock said, “Well, I might. Why don’t you come by and see me?”
I went to his office one day, and it turned out to be one of the most important afternoons of my life. Pastor Hammock arranged for me to receive a four-year full scholarship to the University of Richmond, about 150 miles away from my hometown.
Was it an accident that I happened to be talking to Julian that night? Or that Pastor Hammock walked by? Or that Julian spoke up as he did? No. God was at work in ways I couldn’t see.
God is not only our orchestrator, but our composer.
Christ Jesus is the author and finisher of our lives. (See Hebrews 12:2.)
As long we insist on writing our own stories, he cannot write his living will onto our hearts.
As long as we insist on forging our own paths, he cannot lead us into his paths of righteousness.
As long as we insist on governing our own lives, he cannot be our sovereign King and Lord.
As long as we insist on living life according to our own desires, he cannot impart his desires or guide us into his wholeness, fruitfulness, and blessings.
As long as we feel that we are in control of our fate, we cannot experience fully the destiny he has for us.
We are his workmanship. When we act otherwise, we are breaching our trust relationship with God and are refusing to submit our lives fully to him. [27-37]