"By my spirit"

Dear Lord, thank You for these words, although I'm not sure I understand them. What do You really mean when You say, "by my spirit"? I know I cannot rely on myself, but don't You want me to have some self-confidence?

Samuel Young is president of the Hong Kong-Macao Mission.

It was a quiet evening—so quiet that I could hear my heart beat—as in meditation I sought to hear God's voice. I was confused; the inner struggle in my heart almost caused my thoughts to become incoherent. Yet I heard God say: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit" (Zech. 4:6).

Dear Lord, thank You for these words, although I'm not sure I understand them.

"Not by might, nor by power"? It is easy to accept that, for I know so well my limitations. Many times I've wished I had the strength of an Olympic athlete. But I have neither might nor power.

I've wished I had the intellectual power of an Einstein, an Aristotle, a Confucius, or a Shakespeare, but I know I'm not a mental giant. It would be foolish to rely on my own feeble intellectual power.

I've also wished I had a powerful influence like Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King. But I have no such charisma. So you see, dear Lord, I have no real problem in accepting Your words spoken to me through Your servant Zechariah. How can I rely on something I don't have?

By Your Spirit? I have no problem accepting this either, Lord. It is so nice to have Someone to rely on. It is nice to be like Mary, sitting at Your feet and drinking in the words of wisdom from Your lips. But is that what You want me to do? You have just told me not to rely on my own effort, not to be a Martha, so occupied with many things that I forget to rely upon You. But do You really want me to be like Mary? I'm not sure.

What do You really mean when You say "by my spirit"? Are You warning me that we Christians are too often like Martha, too busy working our own vineyard and not Yours? But, Lord, if everybody stopped being Martha and played Mary, how would the work get done? Who would do the accounts? Who would teach the classes? Who would sell Your books? Who would heal the sick? Who would do visitation and conduct Bible studies? Who would attend the committees?

Do You really want all of us to be like Mary? Mary isn't the right type of person to be on a committee. Nor is she exactly the kind to be a star colporteur, or an efficient nurse, or a good teacher, or even a successful preacher. Don't You see we need Marys to fill the pews with people who will listen? We leaders need followers. Surely You don't mean for all of us to be Marys! If so, who would do the work?

You have told me that to be like You I must deny myself, take up my cross, and follow You. You have also told me to work in Your vineyard to preach the gospel, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to comfort those who are in prison. How can I be a Mary and still have enough time to do all these other things? Some of us just have to be Marthas. Do You agree, Lord?

I notice that Martha blamed Mary for not helping her. In the church today I see Marthas, too, but even more often I hear the Marys blaming the Marthas for not coming to church. It is easy to misunderstand and criticize, and it is so easy to be misunderstood and criticized. Please give me wisdom to know how to deal with this attitude.

Dear Lord, have I been jealous of others? Have I treated others unfairly? Have I discriminated against some people because of my prejudices? Have I persistently suspected my brethren and not given them a chance to change the bad impressions? Have I been insensitive to the needs of my fellow workers and my flock? Have I been using the little power I have to cause unnecessary pain in the hearts of my brethren or sisters? Teach me, Lord, truly to know myself and to be kind to others.

In spite of the fact that I denounce money, I spend a lot of time promoting offerings in the church. I have glorified human beings for their money and their financial power instead of glorifying Your Spirit and Your power. Forgive me, Lord, for placing so much emphasis on material things that I have gotten out of tune with You.

Perhaps I have been too conscious of position, fame, and personal achievement. I say I want to be used by Your Spirit, but instead I find myself sometimes trying to use Your Spirit to achieve the things I want to do to glorify my own name. For this I pray for Your forgiveness.

"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom nor the valiant of his valour; let not the rich man boast of his riches; but if any man would boast, let him boast of this, that he understands and knows me. For I am the Lord, I show unfailing love, I do justice and right upon the earth; for on these I have set my heart. This is the very word of the Lord" (Jer. 9:23, 24, N.E.B.).*

I fully agree with what You have said, dear Lord. But I have often been laughed at by non-Christian friends as an ambitious but feeble-minded weakling, with neither power nor might, yet still talking big, like Don Quixote, off to conquer the world. I feel very embarrassed and am developing an inferiority complex. You know, too, how often I have felt so afraid before going on the platform to preach that I have had a stomachache. Now You tell me not to glorify or boast of myself! Am I so small that I glorify only shame and failure?

I know I cannot rely on myself, but don't You want me to have some self-confidence? Yes, I need the moments of quietness at Your feet so that I may truly know Your will and not use my own methods as substitutes for Yours. But where do I draw the line? Should I be 20 percent Mary and 80 percent Martha? Or 50 percent Mary and 50 percent Martha? Or even 80 percent Mary and 20 percent Martha? Often I am guilty of not having spent enough time with You. But how much is sufficient? How would my conference president feel if, as a pastor, I spent 80 percent of my time praying and studying and only 20 percent visiting and giving Bible studies? I would be fired! Such a ratio would be even more impractical were I a teacher, or a colporteur, or an accountant.

Dear Lord, I am confused. How can I understand the true nature of Your kingdom? Teach me—reprimand me—if my thinking has taken a wrong path or if my choices have been dictated by a perverted sense of priorities.

"'I tell you the truth, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit' " (John 3:5, 6, N.IV.).+

"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires" (Rom. 8:5, N.I.V.).

Thank You, Lord. Now I understand. Unless I am born again I cannot appreciate Your value system. My lower nature cannot comprehend spiritual things. The sinful tendency of my mind cannot help me think positively as You do. My motives are selfish. I love only myself. I have little faith, and my hope for heaven is based largely on the desire to escape death.

I yearn for something better—to be filled by Your Spirit, to be elevated to Your presence that I may know You. When I see You face to face, I change. Suddenly my pride is gone. I know I am worthy of nothing. I am reduced to a little speck of dust in the great universe. Your great love and supreme sacrifice for this infinitesimal bit of dust is something I can never comprehend.

Yes, You have shown me how Jesus struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane, how His hands were pierced by the nails on the cross, how He cried out in agony, how He prayed for His executioners. Tears wet my cheeks and choke my voice. What manner of love!

How I wish I could remain forever on the mountain top with You! But I am still in this sinful world; the law of flesh still has power over me. In my heart the battle between good and evil constantly rages; I am still enslaved by bad habits. How often I find blanks in my life: time wasted, efforts ruined, human relations spoiled! What can I do, Lord? How can I get out of this rut and be with You?

Oh, may Your Spirit come down like fire, burning out all the impurities in my heart, that I may be pure gold. May Your Spirit come as water, washing away all uncleanliness, that my heart may be white as snow. Come as a dove that I may have in my mind a heavenly peace that nobody can take away. Come, Holy Spirit, into my heart like a ray of light that I may refract into a rainbow of fruits.

Now I understand, Lord, why I must be like Mary, for without the right kind of communication with You, Your Spirit will not come to me as fire, or water, or a dove, or light. I will not be able to appreciate the good things that can be found only in Your kingdom.

For years I have read and preached Zechariah 4:6, but now I admit that too often I have relied on my own might and my own power, feeble and unreliable as they are. All the time I have been too much a Martha. I have never really allowed Your Spirit to take hold of my life. Only occasionally have I let Your Spirit use me. And once the job has been done, I have ushered Your Spirit out of my heart, relying again on my own might and power. I am sorry, dear Lord. Forgive me.

By Your Spirit please give me a heart of flesh in exchange for this stony heart. Give me a new life that grows, learns, and is sensitive to new experiences.

By Your Spirit keep me reminded of my limitations, that I may continually remain humble. Help me develop the habit of reliance on You and not on myself.

By Your Spirit may I not be ashamed of my faith. I have nothing to fear in the future, because I have come to You just as I am, and accept Your immeasurable grace and invaluable assurance of everlasting life.

So my inner conflicts are reconciled, priorities rearranged, and new motives implanted. Now, through Your Spirit, let me go forward to preach the real meaning of Your words, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit."

 

 

* The text credited to N.E.B. is from The New English
Bible. © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and
the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1961,
1970. Reprinted by permission.

 

+Texts credited toN.I. V. are from The Holy Bible: New
International Version. Copyright 1978 by the New York
International Bible Society. Used by permission of
Zondervan Bible Publishers.

 

 


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Samuel Young is president of the Hong Kong-Macao Mission.

June 1981

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