We are all frightened at some time by others but for most of us I think that if we are truly honest the person who frightens us the most is ourselves. It is not the “Strongman” we seek to bind that we fear but the insidious “weak man” that lurks in the corners of our consciousness that frightens us. We fear ourselves often at a level so deep and visceral that we are only made aware of it by a creeping anxiety, like a slow burning hatred which poisons our joy and steals our vision in times of pressure, change or uncertainty. What is it that we fear? What is it that we hate? It is the evidence of our own fallibility, our weaknesses and our frailties. In times of pressure those parts of us that we would rather tuck away and keep hidden come squeezing out from the cachets in which we placed them. Rounding a corner we are suddenly reminded of mistakes we have made, skills we do not possess, relationships we cannot fathom, people we cannot seem to please and problems that we cannot solve. That is when fear rises quite unbidden to beat in your throat, to steal your breath and blind you to the vision God has for you and then the Frankenstein reflection of you whispers this lie to suck you into a blue funk of depression. “You are so weak, flawed, stupid, ill equipped you cannot possibly succeed in the things God has for you.” If we listen to this, we will lay down the destiny that God has for us and trade it for the ultimate humanistic lie that man (yourself) is more powerful than God. The reality is that our weaknesses are not only no match for God, they are often God’s greatest gift to us. No I am not talking here of your sins or sicknesses, I am speaking of our weaknesses, frailties and deficiencies.
Those who would walk in the power of God and carry a spirit of might must be comfortable with weakness. This is one of the paradoxes of the Kingdom of God. In the darwinian logic of today it is the strong who are powerful and who rule, in the kingdom only those who know how to access their weakness, who can press into their fears and insecurity are ready for the responsibility of wielding the ultimate power of God’s spirit and anointing.
I believe that for many this truth is to become important in 2011. Many respected prophetic voices around the world have declared that this is a year of transition and shift both in the world at large and in the church. Already that pandora’s box has burst open as in North Africa and the Middle East we see nations shaking, governments falling and cities burning and changing. Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Yemen are all caught in a growing hurricane of change as their people unite in a primal cry for freedom and work for change. The change is coming quicker than many could have anticipated. In 18 days a government which held power for decades in Egypt was swept into the dustbin of history. Now the world waits with baited breath asking the all important question, what will emerge? Will the middle east find freedom and democracy or will the religionists, the hardliners and fanatics seize power and, taking advantage of the insecurities and fears provoked by change, steal the revolution and put the people under the yoke of religion, control and repression. We need to watch and pray for nations are at the cross roads of history.
The same forces are at work in the church in 2011. I believe the earthquake in New Zealand is a prophetic picture of things to come in the church, last year we saw a shift in Christchurch, (Christ’s Church), however a shaking is about to be released in which many structures which were built for another time will fall. Great flexibility is going to be needed. The church is in transition, systems of government that have seemed stable for decades are about to experience sweeping changes. A shift is occurring that is about giving power to the people in the pews and not just to those in the pulpit. Old systems of government that were once revolutionary, that were birthed in the renewals and freedom movements of the past but which over time left only a few people with real power are about to be challenged to reform and change or to disappear. God is wanting to free his bride and bring her to a beautiful maturity. However as Margret Thatcher once famously said “When the pack ice breaks up, you get icebergs” Change is bound to bring with it insecurity, excess, casualties on both sides from radicals and entrenched interests. How we solve those problems will determine the face of the future church, and the world.
The shift that we are seeing in the world and in the church is about true power combined with freedom. In 1960 Harold Macmillan spoke of the “Winds of Change” as he stood before the South African parliament. His speech was prescient and prophetic, it released a wave of change in Africa that brought independence to many African nations and a level of freedom in many places. However in many places the empowerment and freedom that Africa was desiring did not materialize. Power and freedom instead of being the experience of all became the privilege of a few powerful people. The same year that Macmillan released the winds of change in the political arena the Charismatic movement began to shape church culture world wide. It too began with a ground swell of people who were looking for power and freedom. It brought tremendous growth and blessing to the body of Christ again, however, in some ways the empowerment and liberty that many expected, has failed to materialize. In many places systems of church government grew which facilitated an ecclesiastical version post independence African dictatorships. Churches were centered on one or two powerful people and a mass of largely disempowered controlled followers. In both the political and the ecclesiastical arena, the revolution was stolen, or at least it never matured into true liberty and power for ordinary people. However, fresh winds are blowing, the winds of change are again being released in Africa and in the church.
The pattern which emerged in both political and church dictatorships was that of the ” Strong man” who emerged to rule and lead. Seeing themselves as fathers and their followers as children they often never allowed others to mature to share the freedoms and power that they claimed for themselves and a small group of elite leaders. They became the poster for Jesus’ teaching in Luke 22:25
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors .’
However Jesus went on to contrast this leadership with Kingdom leadership, a leadership that is mediated not through power, maturity and strength but in weakness, humility and childlike simplicity. He said
“But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest , and the leader like the servant .”
The Holy Spirit is releasing winds of grace to empower and liberate the whole body of Christ. I believe that as the church leads, so the world will follow. This is an every man revival, where it is not about power for the strong but power for all. Regardless of gender, generation, social status or denominational and cultural background, a new wave of supernatural power is being released. It is a grace which is at home with the weak, the broken and the normal not just with the strong, the whole or the super gifted. It is focused on Christ’s virtues and his work and thus it is not threatened by diversity or cultural differences. In this context I begin to understand the gift of my weakness, because in my weakness the power of God finds a place to rest, to live in me. As it is written in 2 Corinthians
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Thank God for your weaknesses, boast in them for it is there that you will discover the power of God, where you will experience the joy and the freedom of the cross.