“God be merciful to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us,
That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.” (Psalm 67: 1-2)
“And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved? But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:24-26)
I sometimes think that we can get so caught up in our desire to see revival sweep across the nations that we can lose sight of why revival is sent. We know for a fact that one day the Glory of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, because it is stated in God’s word; and we can be fairly certain – because the message has been given consistently through a number of reliable prophetic voices, including Smith Wigglesworth’s notable 1947 “The Last Move” prophesy – that God is preparing a move of the Holy Spirit that will eclipse anything the world has seen up till now. But if God is going to be merciful to us and bless us with an outpouring of His presence, and if He is going to cause His face to shine upon us and bring His light into the darkness of broken communities, broken lives and broken bodies, it will be for a purpose: that His way is known and His salvation revealed.
God’s Way is of course revealed in Jesus. Jesus is the Way; we, the Church, were first called “Followers of the Way, or even at times just “the Way.” So far so easy. But it tends to get more difficult when we look at exactly how Jesus Himself described the way He came to reveal, because He isn’t just the Way; He is the Narrow Way: “Small is the gate, and narrow the way leading to life, and few there are who find it.” (Matt 7:14). His is the way that humbled Himself to death on the cross (Phil 2:8); who “didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Way is “meek and humble of heart” (Matt 11:29); and although “He was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9). When God mercifully pours out His blessing it is to reveal the way of His Kingdom, which is a life lived without self-interest, motivated only by the needs of others. Indeed there are few who find it.
We all know Romans 8 28: “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” but we don’t all quote the following verse quite so often: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” The word “for” connects the two verses: God’s purpose for us, within the frame of which “everything works together for good,” is that we are “conformed to the image of His son.” Within God’s Kingdom purpose there is an inevitable progression as the blessing of God causes all things to work together for good, whereby the followers of the Way become part of the Way themselves, and in doing so are able to show the Way to others. Yet if the entrance to this salvation is narrower than a needle’s eye, and we (certainly in the rich developed world) are at least as fat as camels, how, as the disciples asked, can anyone be saved? (Matt 19:25)
Jesus answered the disciples’ question succinctly: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (verse 26) God doesn’t take away the eye of the needle: what He does by His Spirit is to make us small enough to go through it. When the Son of God came as the Son of Man He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” (Phil 2:7) He sat the disciples down and told them very clearly: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35), and John’s gospel shows how He demonstrated the Kingdom way of Lordship by washing the feet of his disciples. (John 13: 1-17). “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (vs. 13-125)
These are familiar scriptures. They all illustrate the same thing: that God’s ways are not our ways. To walk in blessing, we bless others. To walk in authority, we serve others. If we give, it will be given unto us. If we want to walk without fear of our needs not being met, we meet the needs of others; because it is our “Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32). This is the Way that God desires to make known on earth, the way of the Spirit that the flesh is ever opposed to (Galatians 5:17), the needle’s eye.
A sister at our church had a dream in which the Lord showed her that we, and all our fine plans, were like rocks that needed to go into a bottle in order to be poured into the places where He would direct. The rocks needed to be broken down and sieved into fine sand before they could go through the narrow neck of the bottle in order to be poured out. Only God can do this. He will only do it when we give Him permission, and our flesh will try to deny that permission in every possible way. Even if all our intentions are to serve the Lord and His Kingdom our best efforts are worthless if the rocks we bring Him are not so broken and sieved that He can direct them where, when and how He wants, and not where, when or how we think He wants.
I have just returned from a birdwatching holiday, where a group of us were taken by a guide to various birding “hotspots” in and around the Scottish Highlands. Two members of the group had cameras with such big, powerful lenses that they could only use them when they were set up on a tripod: I would need more muscle strength than I am endowed with to even lift them to my eyes. They could take brilliantly clear pictures of a Slavonian grebe a quarter of a mile away on the other side of the Moray Firth, once they were set up and focussed on the bird; but they would have completely missed the crossbills flitting between the treetops that I could capture an image of with my lightweight handheld gear. It is God’s word, borne on the wings of His Spirit and received in an obedient heart that brings His life, not our cumbersome structures and heavyweight programmes.
For those of us who might feel that we are more reliant on the impromptu leadings of the Holy Spirit than organised missions and programmes, there is still a “heavyweight lens” that will keep us from passing through the needle’s eye, and this is the lens of signs and wonders, the prophetic lens itself. God will “cause His face to shine upon us, That (His) way may be known on earth.” The purpose of all that He does in a time of outpouring will always be to see more lives conformed to the image of His Son, swelling the numbers of those who walk the Narrow Way. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2: 1-5) Paul’s ministry clearly manifested the power of God, but his life was just as obviously a demonstration of the Narrow Way. He could write 1 Corinthians 13 because he lived it.
Psalm 85:13 tells us “Righteousness will go before Him, And shall make His footsteps our pathway.” If we are seeking for signs and wonders to follow the words that we preach and for revival outpouring to fall on our churches, we tend to focus on the mechanics of ministry – how to share Jesus, how to move in words of knowledge, how to prophesy, how to lead worship etc – but what about how we can “make ourselves of no reputation” so that we can be small enough to walk in His footsteps through the eye of the needle? There is plenty of training on prophesy, evangelism and all the fivefold ministries, and I am not saying that these are not valuable; but I have yet to see a course on how to be meek and humble of heart like Jesus so that we can demonstrate His Way in our lives on Earth.
Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16) To pray “in the name of Jesus” is not a mantra that we tag onto the end of every supplication, but it is to ask the Father what Jesus would ask Him for, because we are walking in His ways and conformed to His image. From the testimony of the Acts of the Apostles this obviously worked for Paul: he saw the power of God at work, and he saw His Way established on Earth: he bore fruit that remains. We need the power of God as much as Paul did: not just to demonstrate His sovereignty, but also to make us small enough to make His way known on earth.
Psalm 62:11 says this:
“God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.”
Power belongs to God; the narrow way belongs to us. It is when they work together that the Kingdom is built.