Saturday, November 22, 2008

Broken to Reveal

The small regiment of three hundred men crept silently up the hillside under cover of night, excruciatingly aware of the enormous army camped in the valley below. As per earlier instructions, the men quickly fanned out in three groups, surrounding the camp. In their hands were unlikely weapons for war: each held a trumpet and a clay pot containing a hidden burning torch. They hunkered down and waited for the signal blast of Gideon's trumpet. All was quiet.

Abruptly, the trumpet blast sounded, piercing the quiet of the night. A crashing sound filled the air as each man simultaneously broke the clay vessel surrounding his torch. Suddenly the night was lit with three hundred torches dotting the perimeter of the camp. "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!" the soldiers cried. The small army then blew their trumpets in loud, short blasts.

The sleeping camp below jolted awake. In terror, the disoriented enemy soldiers wildly looked around the perimeter of the camp and saw they were completely surrounded. Panic ensued. With no hope of surviving the onslaught, they fled the camp. The lights from three hundred torches had fooled a massive army into thinking they were outnumbered.

The clay pots had to be broken to allow the bright light of the torches to accomplish its purpose.

Many years ago, my husband and I were searching for a new church. One Sunday we attended a place which had a beautiful building, yet very few members sat in its pews. We learned they had recently gone through a terrible split when the previous pastor had to be dismissed. What once had been hundreds was now a congregation of no more than fifty.

However, one thing really impressed us during our brief visit. A big banner stretched across the front of the sanctuary. On it one word was boldly emblazoned: Brokenness. It was evidently the church theme for that entire year. We felt assured that only good things could come for them with that particular desire. If they wanted to be used to spread the gospel and reflect the glory of God to their community, they could not have picked a better emphasis.

Brokenness is key to our walk with God. Paul wrote the Corinthians: "God . . . is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves." Like the torches hidden inside clay pots by Gideon's men, we contain the flame and bright light of the Holy Spirit residing within us. The most effective means to exposing the world to that hidden glory is to metaphorically break the container.

What is brokenness? It is a dying to self. It is a determination to put aside our self-interest for servanthood and our love for God. We are broken when we determine to live obedient lives in imitation of Christ. After all, it was through His brokenness, the willing surrender of His life for ours, that Jesus ultimately redeemed us.

Jesus put it this way: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24)

While largely dependent on our attitudes and resulting actions, these are not the only means to brokenness. God brings circumstances into our lives to accomplish our brokenness as well. Pain frequently accompanies this process. Paul warns that we may be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down. These are the circumstances that God uses to produce a broken vessel. Yet we are also reassured by Paul that this process, while it may destroy our pride, self-sufficiency, or selfish desires, will not destroy us.

Like a piƱata, which must be bruised, battered, and finally broken to allow its desirable contents to spill out onto the ground, our struggle will allow the treasure we hold within to pour out into the lives of those who surround us. Brokenness is the means to this important end. God will receive the honor and glory due Him. He chooses to do this though broken, earthly vessels.

This article is an excerpt from my weekly newsletter, The Dogwood Digest. You can subscribe to receive this free Tuesday morning devotional by using the link in the right hand margin of this page.

1 comment:

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