“You will seek me and you will find me when you seek with all your heart.”
What would happen this very moment if you were to halt all activity, find a solitary place, fall onto your knees and ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit? Would forthwith heaven dramatically open or a flame of fire descend upon your head? Would you begin to speak in tongues? If none of these, would you at least feel a stir deep within? The answer may surprise you. Most often no. In fact I can tell you from personal experience a flurry of frothy prayer often leads to disillusionment. And it has taken me years to understand why.
Why have I cried so often to God? Isn’t a simple prayer all God’s needs?
Why it is some people go forward in a service and without effort, receive a touch from the Spirit and there I am standing beside him, arms outstretched, pleading with God and the only thing I receive is a deeper awareness of something within blocking the full release of His Spirit?
Why do the testimonies of great revivalists speak of spending years wrestling with fruitless, futile preaching, then, in the nick of time, sometimes after years of fervent prayer, the Holy Spirit is poured out and their entire ministry explodes with power. Why did Jesus wait until three years of ministry before He breathed the Holy Spirit on His disciples? Why years of running, hiding in caves, fighting for his very life, before anointed David was able to sit on the promised throne? Why four hundred long years of slavery before God raised up Moses? Why two thousand years of painful Church history and still Christ has not returned for His Bride?
The best way to answer is with a flower story.
It was two days before Christmas, last minute flowers in one sweaty hand, beating heart in the other, wearing my best shirt and jeans among a sea of people who had swamped terminal three of Toronto Pearson International Airport. Atmosphere thick with a thousand exhales and din of people talking over the bedlam, pinned by four shoulders to my square foot of real estate reminded me of how much I hated crowds and avoided them at all cost. But this was worth it. I obsessively checked her Dallas flight number for an Arrival sign. Nothing. Texas felt worlds away. Like a single face, all watched the large off-ramp we surrounded like an altar call. With agonizing slowness the ramp disgorged strange persons from afar walking down the ramp hungrily scanning for a familiar face in the crowd. Every so often someone among us would squeal or wave franticly, and like an audience we would watch the long departed dramatically swim through the crowd toward each another, lost in embrace, then finally pulling away, getting on with the business of luggage and departing, leaving the rest of us craving for our own melodrama.
Anticipation produced a tense atmosphere, like a bingo hall or TV game show. Who would be next to win a loved one? The tension was heightened by the tragedy 9,11 a few months previous. There was an unspoken fear, please God.
I stood waiting on pins and needles, hardly noticing the crowd, eyes aching to see the beautiful face of my future. My life was about to forever change. The five-year dream of becoming a writer-recluse in the untamed forests of northern Ontario was about to come to an end. The 20 years of studying woodcraft and many canoe trips into uninhabited places were behind me now. I had let the unthinkable happen! Nothing would be the same. The woman who was about to walk down that ramp, a woman I had only met briefly months ago around a campfire, represented a radical departure from years of careful planning and dreaming. Her brunette hair and dark brown eyes would embody an unfathomable future filled with risk and joy.
The doubts had been long worked through before the airport meeting; such would not taint this. It would be a moment of a heart’s grandest theatre, forever remembered by both of us. I had prepared myself on the outside, but most of all my heart was ready. I was ready. My desire for her far surpassed any fear, doubt or regret. I had counted the cost and was ready. Our months of talking over phone and emailing produced a longing far deeper than any fear or doubt could go.
God’s timing is perfect. Even though I wanted to be with Stacy the moment we talked, the three-month wait was necessary so I could work some things out, things I never saw except from the position of hindsight. You see, the wait had made my heart ready. What Stacy found standing at the airport was established love not shallow, fickle lust.
The infilling of the Holy Spirit is a profound and intimate meeting of two spirits, yours and God’s. Don’t you think God’s timing on that meeting will be better than yours? He knows your heart better than you do.
“You will seek me and you will find me when you seek with all your heart.”
God is not a harlot and does not give the most intimate parts of himself to half-hearted seekers. Why is God’s voice so often subtle and quiet? Because it forces us to turn off our toys, stop and listen. He will not compete for our hearts. God waits until we have come to the end of our resources and there is no one left but Him. Then we will listen.
You many think you are ready, think you have come to the end of yourself. But the heart is deceitful above all else and oh we so skilled at looking good before ourselves. Why are you seeking the infilling of the Holy Spirit anyway? Greater power, to speak in tongues, healing, overcome generational curses, sorry, not good enough.
That’s right, love. Because you cannot bear to walk this world without Him. Because He is your world, Lover, best Friend. And you will do whatever it takes. Getting to that heart-place may take some time.
The person who stood by the off-ramp at Toronto Pearson International Airport was a different man than the one who first called Stacy on the phone. Twenty minutes into that very first phone call I felt ready to marry the soft, sweet voice thousands of miles away. My adrenals where pumping, heart racing, all great, but not the stuff of a lasting marriage. Remember when you first asked Jesus to be your Savior? Oh the excitement. The beginning of love is filled with passion, but it is not enough. I have often watched married couples together at the shopping mall, a glazed look of boredom, barely tolerating each other’s presence. He wanting to get out with the guys, her, bitter from loneliness, trapped in a marriage gone dry. As I watch I try to picture their first meeting, aflame with the prospect of new-found love, content just to be in the same room together. Where did the love go?
The desert of hunger has prepared many a heart to love rightly. David, Moses, John the Baptist, even Jesus, countless lives waiting on the Lord until there longing for God overcame all other loves.
Hunger for God positions the heart for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. God knows how to clean temples before He fills it with His Spirit. Ask the ancients of the Bible. The Word is full of people who spent a great deal of time waiting. In fact, nearly all of God’s best outpourings came to people who had spent days, weeks, even years waiting.
Knowing the purging work of waiting will not lessen the despair of waiting. That is as it should be. It is in the soils of despair that strong and enduring joy can suddenly spring forth. But we do not despair without hope. Hope that God is perfecting us, and the greatest hope of all, we shall see Him face to face. When we see Him we shall be like Him.
Here lies the answer to the puzzle of God’s timing. You may cry out to God, believing you have been brought to the end of yourself. “I am broken,” you say, “my hunger for God consumes me.” Yet the deceitfulness of our heart blinds us to what God sees in full color.
Have you even listened to someone eloquently judge another for a fault so clearly evident within themselves? You are amazed at their self-blindness. Everyone sees it but them. That is how God sees you. And only he knows when waiting has done its perfect work and we are ready to receive all he has for us. Waiting deepens hunger, establishes humility and ferments desire. When we seek Him with all our hearts, when He and He alone will satisfy, then the Spirit of God will be found in a most wonderful way. Stop worrying about the Spirit’s work in you! Love He, adore Him in song and praise. Enjoy His beauty displayed throughout creation. I can tell you clouds are far more entertaining than the constant inner searching, and a great deal more enlightening.
The best things in life are worth waiting for. And there is no better way to wait on Him than fasting. But remember, fasting is not you trying to present yourself to God but an open door for God to change your self-deceiving heart. Years of spiritual work can be done in weeks. Fasting quiets other hungers so you can deepen your hunger for God.
If you are in love with God, do something! Even if you don’t have the faith, even if you are starting off on your own strength, do it! Do it with all your soul! And be prepared for everything to change.
You will fast because your heart is bursting within you. You will fast to clear the way so the Holy Spirit can be heard again. You will fast because the Bridegroom has been taken away and you are longing for His return.
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