Sometimes, when coincidences happen, you start to think maybe God is telling you something He wants you to listen to. I had just such a set of coincidences this week.
It began when I decided to grab my copy of the Oswald Chambers classic, My Utmost for His Highest, during my morning Bible reading and turned at random to the January 5 entry. Chambers has chosen for his text the episode in John’s account of the gospels where Jesus predicts Peter’s denial of Him (chapter 13). Christ tells Peter that the loyal disciple cannot follow Him at that moment. Skip ahead to the risen Christ, who reinstates Peter, ordering the “fallen” disciple in John 21 to “Follow me!”
Between these times, Peter had denied Jesus with oaths and curses, he had come to the end of himself and all his self-sufficiency, there was not one strand of himself he would ever rely upon again, and in his destitution he was in a fit condition to receive an impartation from the risen Lord.
In other words, Peter was finally empty and ready to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Once he was filled with the Spirit, Peter went on to be the foundation of Christ’s church, just as the Lord had said he would be.
When I finished reading Chambers, it struck me that to know true peace and purpose in Christ, this emptying is something that we have to do over and over again. How else do we keep from being diverted by the distractions of this world–the entertainment media, our jobs, our family obligations? Some of these are things we cannot put aside, but all of them are things that should come after our commitment to the One and Only.
I think we all want to acquire the kind of calm that being rooted in the Spirit of God has to offer. With that kind of peace, no force can move us. Traffic can be bad, the weather can be horrible, the job can present one challenge too many. But for those who have emptied themselves to be filled by the Holy Ghost, there is a sense of peace, faith and hope that does not leave us.
I picture Yoda, so in tune with the Force, that even Luke’s whining does not divert him from raising the spaceship out of the water. Not even Darth Vader can divert Yoda from his centered being.
But I began by discussing coincidences. Later in the week, I happened to watch a 1962 movie, The Spiral Road. In this story about doctors in the jungles of 1936 Indonesia, a young Rock Hudson begins by denying the very existence of God. He is an ambitious doctor who is convinced that he is strong enough in himself to defeat all the challenges that trying to offer medical treatment in the middle of a jungle among people from a different culture present.
In the movie’s climax, Hudson takes on a task two other doctors before him have failed to complete, despite their faith–overcoming the tricks and resistance of a local witch doctor in an isolated camp near a village where people need medical attention. Because Hudson has no faith, he is convinced he will defeat the witch doctor through his superior mind and logic.
In the end, Hudson’s mind fails him. He becomes as empty as the two doctors who have failed before him. And in that moment of emptiness, Hudson cries out to the very God he said did not exist!
So, I think it is high time I pay more attention to the concept of my own emptying and the subsequent filling by the Holy Ghost. After all, when I have a difficult time clearing my mind from all its random thoughts in order to meditate for five minutes in yoga class, how am I making room for the Almighty to come in? No wonder I experience anxiety instead of peace!
But this is a journey that is just beginning, again. I have decided to share it as I go. I want to concentrate on practical steps I should be taking to grow closer to God. In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.” I want to do every day, in the peace of God.
So, I start with the promise of what we have because of our faith. In his letter to the Philipians, Paul explains it this way:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (4:11-13)
A mind that has learned to be content no matter what is a mind that understands how to empty itself and accept the peace of the Holy Spirit. I appreciate in advance any and all thoughts on how you manage this process in your own walk with God, the One with Whom there is no coincidence.