It is a painful, yet glorious path that takes us through valleys, scaling hills and mountains -- and on mountaintops, close to heaven. And when our hearts truly are set on making that pilgrimage, He never leaves us or forsakes us, and the promises of Psalm 84 are ours:
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion (verses 5-7).”
The pain in the journey is often caused by our having to give up our own dreams and visions, in order to embrace His. There are few, if indeed any, who find death to self and self’s aspirations and dreams, a happy experience. But it is nevertheless an experience we must embrace -- if we love Him and desire to let that love prove itself true by our obedience.
The good news is that we do ultimately find that His vision is far bigger than ours was; and His resurrection life which flows after our death is glorious, full and fruitful.
It is all about seeking first His Kingdom, the keys of which He has provided through His life on earth, His death on the cross and His unique and all-powerful resurrection.
One of the keys to His Kingdom, which the Holy Spirit has been highlighting to me in recent months, is the key of humility.
We do all know, even if just in our heads, that our pride is a great abomination to the Lord. It causes Him to resist us and not pour out His grace upon us, and our pride sabotages the salvation-of-our-souls process. Many months ago, the Lord highlighted this to the women’s discipleship group in our local church. I found a prayer from a book on Humility by Andrew Murray which seemed appropriate for us to embrace. It goes like this…
“Heavenly Father, may Your great goodness be known to me. Take from my heart, every kind and form and degree of pride, whether it be from evil spirits, or my own corrupt nature. Awaken in me the deepest depth and truth of that humility which can make me worthy of being but your servant, a vessel through which you can manifest the riches of your wisdom, power and goodness.”
Murray goes on to affirm: “If you can and will give yourself up in truth and sincerity to this spirit of prayer, I will venture to affirm that, if you had twice as many evil spirits in you as Mary Magdalene had, they will all be cast out of you, and you will be forced with her to weep tears of love at the feet of the holy Jesus.”
God was calling us to pray this on a daily basis – for a long time. One of the initial fruits of our prayers, were some ugly manifestations of pride! But then salvation began to come – not only the fruit of humility, but other Godly fruit also. Psalm 149:4 tells us, “He will beautify the humble with salvation.”
Satisfied with some evidence of good fruit, the temptation was to give up the prayer. But the Lord challenged me: “I want every trace of pride out of your heart.” So I kept praying, and He kept working.
I came to realise that pride is so pleasurable. It’s like a tasty truffle. And it is so motivating. The world knows this, and the feeding of pride is a good motivational key to employers getting the best out of their employees.
Some people seem to need to eat many of those truffles on a daily basis. Some can keep going on one a day, or one pride delicacy every few days. God was saying to me, “I want you to come to the place where you don’t need or crave even one of those tasty treats, EVER!”
Often the Holy Spirit begins His work of pride eradication by bringing us to a place of not craving any praise or bouquets from men – ever.
But the Lord wants to take us further.
He homed in on my heart. “You know how it is, when you’ve done some task for Me. You reflect on it, stand back and assess that which has been brought forth through you, and when you feel the job has been done well, you get a warm fuzzy feeling. That is pride,” said the One intent on leading me into all truth. The “warm fuzzy feelings” were my truffles. I probably needed one of those a day. Now God was saying, “No more, not even one!”
Oh, how I mourned! Truly, for several days, I am ashamed to say, I was deeply downcast. Because, I didn’t really want to repent of and lay down something which was pleasurable.
But pride needed that death blow, and the Holy Spirit encouraged and exhorted me not to shrink back.
At the end of the death process, I thought I had lost everything. It sure felt like it.
“I’ve lost everything,” I moaned to the Lord.
“But that’s all right,” He gave me the grace to add.
I looked up from my self-pitying, dark tunnel of gloom, to see brilliant shafts of light streaming into my cylindrical prison. And, behold the Good Shepherd was there, in the midst of the light – and He was smiling.
“All I called you to lose was your pride, not your call and your vision/My call and My vision. Here you are, take that back!” said the beaming One.
The vision or purpose for the pilgrimage? His vision and mine? To go back, full circle, to the beginning of this article: In a nutshell, to love, worship, reverence and glorify God; to love others; to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ; to come to know Him; to play my part in discipling all nations and to fulfil the good works he has purposed and pre-destined for my time on earth.
Pray, beloved of the Lord, bought by His blood: what and whose purpose is driving you?