Set Your Sights on Revelation Not Human Motivation
'Truly influential people are those who won't tolerate what they know must change. They recognize that things do not have to stay just as they are.'
I celebrated Reformation Day on a recent visit to Germany. It was a day that changed history forever.
On October 31, 1517, a little known German Monk nailed a document to the wooden doors of the castle church in the small university town of Wittenberg. Until then, nobody had heard of Martin Luther.
In this document, he outlined 95 objections to the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, the most powerful institution in the world at the time.
Those statements led not only to a revolution in theology; they also brought about radical changes in the way that many European societies were structured. They paved the way, in fact, for many of the social freedoms we take for granted today.
For his efforts to get the church back to its roots Luther was excommunicated and in 1521, the German Emperor called him to appear before a council of princes. The Emperor demanded that he recant on his teachings.
After a day spent in earnest prayer, Luther's response was clear. 'Unless you can prove from the Bible that I have made wrong statements,' he said, 'I cannot and I will not take back anything. My conscience is bound by the Word of God. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.'
Luther would not accept human motivation as his driving force. He was moved instead by divine revelation - and it led him to world influence.
As Christians, if we accept other people's motivations, we will also accept their limitations. If we can't exceed human motivation we will accede to human limitation.
History has only ever been changed by people who refuse to accept the status quo. Truly influential people are those who won't tolerate what they know must change. They recognize that things do not have to stay just as they are.
Sometimes, though, Christians - and some leaders - lower their sights. They set their expectations in life not on revelation but on imitation or intimidation.
Many Christians have all the style in the world, but they've lost their soul. They slavishly follow the latest trends they've seen in major conferences, or read about in Christian magazines or books. They don't like to think for themselves.
As a result, they prefer to borrow other people's motivation rather than dig deep for their own personal revelation.
It is right to honour those who deserve honour, who've made a great contribution to your life. When you practically honour deserving people you set yourself up to emulate them, for we tend to copy those we most admire.
But excessive imitation leads to slavish stagnation. You should use imitation as a temporary scaffold while you establish your own identity, based on revelation.
Those who would influence the future usually pay a high price in the present. Today exacts a heavy toll on those who would shape tomorrow.
John Wesley rode 4000 miles each year on the back of a horse, preaching to people who were largely forgotten by the church. When he died, he left behind only four silver-plated tablespoons -- and the Methodist movement.
He saved England from revolution - because his expectations were based on his revelation of God.
William and Catherine Booth defied religious convention to the take the gospel to the poor, in both word and deed. They saved thousands of lives, birthed the Salvation Army and changed history - because their expectations were based on their revelation of God.
Reinventing the future is often a lonely business, simply because it is motivated not by imitation but by carving our new paths based in revelation.
God has given us many things but, according to 2 Timothy 1:7, he has not given us a timid spirit, or a spirit that is subject to intimidation.
A timid person will not risk anything for fear of losing everything. He will give everything to avoid doing anything. She runs from a fight she could very well win; is always the borrower and never the lender; is often the led but never the leader; is often spectator but never competitor. He wakes without ambition and he sleeps without dreams.
That is not God's intention for your life.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul tells us that he would rather boast about all his moments of weakness than his incredible moments of success.
The word he uses for 'weakness' actually means to be 'frail, feeble and unable to produce a result.' It's when he feels like that, he says, that he is actually truly strong - because God's strength is truly revealed in the midst of human frailty.
We would rather celebrate our strengths, but Paul seems to have something very different in mind. Isn't he being defeatist? Where's his confidence?
I came to understand a little more clearly what Paul was getting at when I watched the TV telecast of the Paralympic Games in Athens, 2004.
All the able bodied competitors had gone home. The hype and hoopla from the main games were dying down and a smaller but no less enthusiastic crowd had remained to watch the real heroes compete.
Watching one of the swimming sprint races had me on the edge of my seat, and I think it will stick in my memory for the rest of my life.
I watched in amazement as one young man, probably no more than a teenager, surged to the front of the field and stretched his lead lap by lap until he was some lengths ahead of his nearest rival.
I was stunned as I watched him hit the wall in first place. First, by the scale of his victory, and second by the fact that he had hit the wall with the top of his head. You see, he had no arms!
What's more, he was the only competitor in the race who had no arms. That's what made his victory all the more remarkable. He just kicked and breathed, kicked and breathed, kicked and breathed all the way to victory.
I found myself choking back tears and thinking, almost aloud: 'Whatever that boy has, I want some of it.'
Sometimes, God seems to enter us in a race which we know we cannot win. We feel the challenge is too great, that we don't have the power to match the odds stacked against us.
We look around and see others who seem so much more able to complete the task God has assigned to us.
It's as if God has placed us in the pool and told us to swim, despite the fact that we have no arms.
Like that young man in Athens, if we'll just stay in the pool and push forward, God himself will give us the breath and the kick to make it through.
When we come to the moment of victory, it will seem all the more remarkable to a watching world, because they will know that we have no arms.
That, I think, is what Paul meant when he said: 'I glory in my weakness, for when I am weak, then I am strong.'
We need not be intimidated, even by our own weakness. We must keep our eyes on the revelation God has given us, kicking and breathing, kicking and breathing all the way to a remarkable win!
© Mal Fletcher 2004