Don Goulding - Blog

Glorious Failure

So then, do not judge anything before the time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. Then each will receive recognition from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)  

I am not bound to win

But I am bound to be true.

I am not bound to succeed,

But I am bound to live up to what light I have.

                                               Abraham Lincoln

In 1888, Canadian born Dr. William Leslie began a career as medical missionary that would last thirty-five years. His last assignment was in the jungles of Africa’s Congo. After many years of fruitless ministry among the cannibals, he had a fallout with a tribal chief and was told to never return. Discouraged, Dr. Leslie retired in 1928 believing his ministry had failed. He passed into heaven ten years later.

Jesus of Nazareth was the most inspired speaker of his, or of any, era. The masses responded to his compassion for their abused hearts. Many times he demonstrated the power necessary to overcome his enemies whether they be Roman or Jewish. Then, on a dark Friday, Jesus the Son of God was captured, beaten and crucified. His followers defected and the greatest potential ever known to mankind was squandered like so much flotsam.

These two lives share something in common. By the world’s standards they both died abject failures, but God views success differently.

In heaven, success is defined as faithfulness to God. William Leslie and Jesus Christ were faithful until their departures and so it was impossible for them to fail. On the other side of death the glory of their failure became evident. 

In 2010, eighty-two years after Dr. Leslie left the Congo, another missionary expedition flew into the same jungle. They discovered the seeds the good doctor planted had taken root in the form of eight village churches spread over thirty miles.

We also know the outcome of the tragic death of Jesus Christ—how he was celebrated by angels as the greatest victor in history. We know it was impossible for him to fail, as it was impossible for Dr. Leslie to fail, and, even though everything we touch crumbles, it’s impossible for any of us to fail who obey Almighty God.

Earthly failure is most often the soil in which heavenly success grows.

Prayer: Gracious Father, let me fail gloriously for you.

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GPS For Life

C01You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying,

“This is the correct way, walk in it,”

whether you are heading to the right or the left. (Isaiah 30:21) 

 

I’m directionally challenged. I’ve been lost in Spain, China, Panama City, the Fijian jungle and the Canadian ocean, to name only some of the places. To travel with me is to spend significant blocks of time puzzling over our location.

Enter GPS mapping technology. Thank you Jesus. Somewhere in the unseen space above, satellites beam location data to my smartphone. A pleasant voice says, “Turn right in five hundred feet.” Whether I’m on land or sea I know where I am and where to go.

We also have a GPS for life—the Holy Spirit. Like my phone, the Spirit is always with me here on earth but he stays in communion with my Father in heaven and relays love and direction to my heart. It’s possible for me to navigate life with perfect serenity.

The arrangement breaks down because I use the wrong communication protocol. Rather than hear an audible voice, I must strain my entire being toward him. He wants to infuse who he is into my life. The best way I know to absorb him is to saturate myself with Scripture.

Without the Holy Spirit I can’t understand the Bible and without the objective truth of the Bible, I listen to the wrong spirits. I need both working together—the quickening of the Holy Spirit and the grounding of the written Word of God.

I would have expected God’s GPS to give me directions like, “In one year there will be an obstacle of death of a loved one, so get ready, and in a month you’ll turn right onto job change boulevard.” Instead, the stream I receive is, “I love you, I’m with you, peace, joy, you are mine, turn left now, I love you.” My life plans are only revealed on a need to know basis, and mostly, I don’t need to know because my gracious Father is in control, not me.

God’s main message repeated to my simple heart is, “I love you.” When I receive that, I find I know where I’m going, to whom I belong, and what to do in the next moment.

 

Prayer: Sweet Holy Spirit, help me receive your stream of guiding love.

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Rabbit's Humbling

maxresdefault 1Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3) (NIV)

In the Winnie the Pooh story by A. A. Milne, Rabbit suggests they cure Tigger of his bouncing by losing him in the woods overnight.

“Oh, we'll find him again next morning, and mark my words, he'll be a humble Tigger, a sad and small Tigger, an ‘Oh, Rabbit, am I glad to see you’ Tigger. And it'll take the bounces out of him, that's what!”

The misguided plan backfires and it’s Rabbit himself who gets lost. His friends rescue him and he comes out of the long night humbled from his pride.

When it comes to nonessential doctrines, I feel like Rabbit. I used to be confident of my beliefs and critical of those who differed. I reveled in debates to prove my points but what came out of my mouth was often intended to make me win rather than magnify Jesus.

Students of theology are soon faced with a bramble of opinions and the thorny disagreements that have plagued church history. They learn how wholly inadequate human speech is for heavenly truths and feel the prickliness of wordy debates. They realize navigation by human intellect without direction from the Holy Spirit leaves us thrashing in circles far removed from God’s path.

It’s time to stop pretending I or any human can fully elucidate subjects like predestination or eschatology. I must admit I’m Rabbit, lost in the dark woods, afraid and confused. I can’t get myself free of the tangle of nonessential doctrines.

From outside the forest I hear voices. Jesus and my truest friends are searching for me. They’re calling me out of the maelstrom. I no longer have to systematize biblical conundrums. I need only follow the voice of Jesus, return to his simple gospel, and let him bring me past the doctrinal thickets into the full light of grace.

I went into the bramble of secondary doctrines with an attitude of “I have answers that will unbounce others.” I’m coming out of those same woods a broken Rabbit, an “Oh, Jesus, am I glad to see you” Rabbit.

Prayer: King Jesus, may humility close my mouth except to glorify you.

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