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Tonight I feel that the Lord would have me to bring you a message on the theme of the grace of yielding. Now let me say, first of all, that there are some things to which, as Christians, we should never yield. I do not believe that we should ever yield to Satan. For the scripture says “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” And I do not believe that we should ever yield to sin. For the 6th chapter of Romans tells us that we are not to yield our members to sin. But there are circumstances and situations that occur in our lives which are only resolved when we learn to yield. I find it is a mark of maturity which I look for in myself and which I esteem in others when we know how to yield. I was listening just recently to a young preacher whom God has greatly blessed. He’s a fine young man, God has done a great deal for him. But the whole theme of his preaching was what he could do. And all of it was true and it was good. But I was sitting there saying to myself, “Brother, I’ll be interested to see you come to the end of that.” Because there’s a place we can come to in the Lord where we’ve come to the end of what we can do. And I’m not talking of what we can do merely by our carnal ability or by education, but even in our ministry which is given us of God. We come to a place by divine appointment where we can do no more. The trouble with many people is they’ve never recognized it. What I’m saying tonight is the result of God’s dealings with me over a number of years and I’m sure that God hasn’t finished his dealings. I want to give you a number of scriptures and then use a number of illustrations.
The first scripture I would like to read is Romans 15:1.
“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
Now this, I believe, is the scriptural mark of strength. It’s not how much you can do. Essentially it’s how much you can bear of the weakness of others. It’s very satisfying to be strong in your own ability, in your own ministry, in your own experience, to be the man with all the answers, but that really doesn’t require much spiritual strength. It does require spiritual strength to bear the weaknesses of others. And I believe that spiritual strength is measured by God and by the scripture in proportion to the amount that we are able to support and bear the weaknesses of other people. And for me that has never been easy. Paul says, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
See, this is the opposite of the spirit of this age. The spirit of the age is get what you can for yourself. Let the weak take care of themselves.
I’ve been meditating recently on the whole question of abortion which to me is a most horrible, fearful evil. But if you talk to people they’ll justify it because many unwanted children are not born into the world and maybe illegitimate children or children who are the result of problem homes, or unsuitable mothers are never born. We just kill them off before they come out of the womb. I’ve learned by experience regardless of what the Supreme Court or anybody else may say that God classifies that as murder. This I’ve learned by experience and I believe it is very clearly unfolded in scripture. But I want to point out to you that once we begin to make what suits us the measure of what is right, we’re on a slippery path that goes downwards to a horrible mess.
Very, very quickly we’ll follow, “What about the child that’s born hopelessly handicapped, that will never be more than a vegetable? Why should we keep that child alive.” Already in the State of California a case is before the lower courts of parents who deliberately did not feed a child that was born hopelessly incapacitated. They just allowed it to die. And when we’ve dealt with them we’ll deal with the aged, the mentally sick and so on. And one after another they will be written off in the name of humanity. But I want to point out to you that is not the Christian answer. And it’s not the Christian answer not merely because abortion is forbidden by God, but it’s because the attitude behind it is totally unchristian. We do not write the weak off, we don’t even relegate them to an institution where we never hear about them or care about them again. One of the outstanding marks of Christians in the first century was they cared for the weak. They cared for the sick. They didn’t write them off. That’s what really impressed the ancient world. They couldn’t understand what made these Christians concerned about people who had nothing to offer. They were only liabilities. But I’ve come to see that if you write off human liabilities, that’s not strength, that’s weakness. It’s the people who are liabilities, it’s the incapacitated, it’s the infirm, it’s the weak believer who are the test of our spiritual strength. We have obviously come to a place in the United States, and in other countries too, where we cannot permit ourselves to live by the established standards of the age. If I’m a Christian, my first motive is not to get away with as much as I can get away with legally. It’s to do what Jesus Christ wants me to do. And once you begin to live by seeking to please Jesus, you will inevitably lead a life that is completely different than that of the unconverted and the unbeliever round about you. You won’t need to peddle a lot of doctrine, it will make you different.
Paul says we ought not to please ourselves. Do you know what I’ve learned? I’ve learned any time I do anything effective for God that’s acceptable to him I begin by not pleasing myself. I’ve discovered this is an inevitable rule. Every time I’m pleasing myself I’m doing nothing that’s worth anything for God. The first thing I’ve got to do is deny myself. This ego in me that is always asserting itself saying, “I want, I wish, I feel, I think, if you ask me, that’s what I like” has got to be denied. I have to say no. There’s no problem about what it means to deny yourself. To deny is to say no. All you have to do is to say no to yourself. And if you don’t say no to yourself and repeat saying no to yourself, you cannot lead a Christian life. You cannot be a self-pleaser and a Christ pleaser. It’s impossible.
Luke 9:23, these are the words of Jesus.
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, [this is absolutely universal] let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (KJV)
What is the first thing you do when you decide to follow Jesus? The first step, let him do what? Deny himself. You cannot begin to follow Jesus till you make that decision. And then it says and take up his cross daily. I didn’t like that word daily for a long while. I steered around that verse in Luke 9 because I know another verse where it doesn’t put the daily in, it’s Matthew 16:24 if you want to know. It doesn’t put daily in.
Now my theology and my teaching was all on a once for all experience with the cross, which is perfectly correct and theological, but it doesn’t exhaust it. And here, Jesus sneaked in that little daily. Let him take up his cross daily. I believe every day presents every Christian with an opportunity to take up his cross. If you use the opportunity, you have a victorious day. If you lose the opportunity, you have a day of defeat.
Now what is your cross? I heard Charles Simpson say this and I think it’s very nicely said. “Your cross is where your will and the will of God cross.” Your cross is the thing on which you can die. It’s the place where you can lay down your life. Now when Jesus went to the cross he said, “No man taketh my life from me. I have power to lay it down, I have power to take it up.” And in this sense, no one will take your life from you. If you don’t voluntarily lay it down, you’ll be in control of it. Your cross, dear brother, is not your wife. Unless you have power to lay her down and take her up day by day. Nor, dear lady, is it your husband. Your cross is the place where you can make the decision not to please yourself. And I could tell you time after time after time when I’ve had that inner struggle and made the right decision, blessing follows. I can minister. I cannot minister as long as I’m pleasing myself. The old ego in me has nothing to give to anybody. He has to be dealt with before any ministry of God can flow out of my life.
And Jesus said you better do it every day. Many, many times you and I come to a situation in the day where God’s will and our will cross. We have to see that as the opportunity, not the disaster, but the opportunity. One thing I can assure you of, if I preach this message I’m going to be given plenty of opportunity to practice it in the next few days, I know that. Both God and the devil will see to that. In fact, I tell you, I thought twice before I preached it! Because I know full well that I’ll be tested on what I teach. See, this is the exact opposite of the way our natural mind works. It’s just diametrically opposed to the way the natural man thinks.
I’d like to give you one or two other scriptures I find very challenging and searching. 1Corinthians 1:25. Without going into the background:
“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”(KJV)
Now that’s a paradox. But there is a weakness that comes from God that is stronger than any strength we have. There is a foolishness that comes from God that is wiser than any wisdom we have. And there was one thing in which the foolishness and the weakness of God found their full expression, what was that? The cross, that’s right. And in the weakness and the foolishness of the cross God triumphed over all the strength and all the wisdom of this world. And I believe God is asking you and me to learn that kind of weakness and that kind of foolishness. It’s never been an effort for me to be strong in my personality. And God has blessed and used the strength I have, but God has shown me that it will only take me so far. That’s good enough, I can stop there. I have seen many lives and many ministries stopped at that point. I’ll speak a little later tonight about ministry and the option that comes before every ministry.
Let me give you one other scripture that’s in Romans 8:9. Now I only want to read the latter half of the verse. It’s a very strange verse in the King James Version because it’s got a period in the middle of the verse. And why they put those two sentences in one verse I don’t know and I’ll never find out till maybe I meet the translators in the hereafter. But if I were writing the 8th chapter of Romans I would put a paragraph there. And I think it would make all the difference. Now I don’t want to bother you with my theology, but I do not identify the Holy Spirit with the Spirit of Christ. And I believe there’s a deliberate antithesis here. The first half of the verse says:
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God [which I believe to be the Holy Spirit] dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
The distinctive mark that makes you a child of God is having the Spirit of Christ. Now, I could create endless problems for your theology, but I believe there are a lot of people who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, speak in tongues, work miracles, who demonstrate little or nothing of the Spirit of Christ. And the mark that makes us God’s is not speaking in tongues. Nor is it working miracles. Nor is it preaching tremendous sermons. It’s having the Spirit of Christ. And I believe the Spirit of Christ cannot be separated from the nature and personality of Jesus. And if I ask myself what was the Spirit of Christ like I would have to say it was a meek spirit. It was a humble spirit. It was a gentle spirit. It certainly was not arrogant or self assertive, nor self pleasing. And I believe that’s what marks the true child of God. The Spirit of Christ.
See, we have a good deal of teaching about claiming your inheritance. Getting what belongs to you. And I’ve preached a lot of that. And I can preach you a sermon any time on the 3John 2:
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (KJV)
Thank God I believe it. But you know what? In God’s sight you don’t prosper by asserting your rights. The Spirit of Jesus did not lay claim to his rights. I believe prosperity, health and inward peace and well-being of soul are the right of the new creation. But many times they’re abrogated by the old man for his own selfish purposes. When I hear people today say, “Brother, just claim it,” something in me winces. Because when I hear those words “Brother, just claim it,” inwardly I picture an arrogant ego asserting its rights. And I would like to ask you, but don’t answer, how many of you would really like to live with somebody who’s always just claiming it? I have to be very careful because I’m not aiming my remarks at anybody. You might think I am. I don’t have to. But I am weary, inwardly weary of the legalistic assertion of my inheritance in Christ. And I am really tired of hearing Christians being told how to be healthy and how to prosper. Sure they need it, but brother and sister, when you’ve learned how to be healthy and how to prosper, you are not out of kindergarten spiritually. Your strength isn’t what you have and what you can demonstrate. Your strength is the ability to bear the infirmities of the weak. That’s altogether different.
Now the Spirit of Christ was a spirit freely yielded. And I believe he’s the supreme example of yielding. Before I close this message, if the Lord enables me I want to speak about the example of Jesus. Let me just give you, to begin with, one contrast. It says in Philippians 2:6 about Jesus:
“...being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” (KJV)
That is the King James Version. But the New American Standard Bible says:
“He thought not equality with God something to be grasped at.” (NAS)
You see, we have a complete, specific contrast. Jesus was entitled to equality with God. It was his by divine nature, divine right. He did not grasp that. Lucifer, who became Satan, was not entitled to equality with God, he did grasp at it and he failed. And I am exercising my mind as to how much of our assertion and claiming and demanding is the expression of the Spirit of Christ and how much it doesn’t come rather from the other source. I really believe that the Charismatic movement is going to have to face this issue. See, we are going to have to discern between true and false prophets, true and false ministries, those who are serving God in spirit and truth, those who are not. Miracles is not the decisive point of difference. The mark that separates is the Spirit of Christ. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
Do you know what I believe about the Charismatic movement? I believe it’s just an interval between two waves. One wave has been going out and another wave is coming in. In between there’s a mess, isn’t there? A churning up, a lot of dirt and mire churned up, kind of confusion, two forces going in opposite directions, that’s the Charismatic movement. It’s not God’s ultimate. Believe me. Something else is coming. It’s going to be orderly, disciplined, Christ honoring and it’s going to promote humility, brotherly love and each esteeming other better than ourselves. And as far as I’m concerned, the day of God’s individual man of faith and power is on the way out. And I say that without being critical of any man who might ever have qualified for that title. What we’ve got to get used to is the fact that God isn’t always doing the same thing, you know that? People find a success formula, it works and they go on until they’ve worked it to death. I think of what Paul said to the men of Athens, I think it’s Acts 17, about verse 30. Speaking about their many, many centuries of idolatry he said, “The times of this ignorance God winked at.” To wink is to close your eyes for a brief moment. So for a brief moment God voluntarily overlooked that ignorance. But he said, “Now he commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” See, many people argue, “Well, God let me get away with it for ten years so I’m going to go on getting away with it.” No you won’t. God winked at it. But now he’s opened both his eyes, he’s looking right at it and he says you better change. And when God says you better change, my advice is change. God has ways of pointing the lesson.
All right. Now I want to look at some examples of yielding. I trust that I’ve laid a basis because there are situations which we should not yield. 1Kings 3, the first part of this chapter God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you want.” I think that is a pretty difficult situation to be put in when God suddenly says, “Now what do you want? I’ll give it to you.” And you remember Solomon did not ask for riches, he did not ask for honor, he did not ask for the lives of his enemies, but he asked for wisdom. He said, “Give me a wise and hearing heart.” And God was pleased and said, “Because you’ve asked for that I’ll give you the other things you didn’t ask for as well.”
And then there came the case of the two women whom the Bible says were harlots who lived in one house. Each of them brought forth a baby. Each had the baby in bed with her and in the middle of the night one of the women rolled over, rolled onto her own baby and killed it. So in the morning there were two mothers but only one baby. And each of the mothers wanted the baby that was alive. So the mother who was the real mother claimed the baby. The mother whose baby had died claimed the baby too and said it was hers. So the case was brought before Solomon, these two women in court with one baby. And Solomon heard the case out and the mother said, “My baby,” and the other woman said, “No, it’s my baby.” So Solomon said, “Well there’s only one thing to do. Bring me a sword. I’ll cut the baby in two. Each of you can have half.” And the woman whose baby it was not said, “That’s right, cut the baby in half, give me my half.” But the real mother didn’t want to see her baby die. She said, “No, give her all the baby, let it live.” Solomon said, “That’s the mother.” And his wisdom became famous throughout Israel.
Now the lesson is very simple. If it’s really your baby, rather than see it die, you let the other woman have it. That’s the real test. See, many, many times in Christian service and ministry a man brings forth something which is his, but somebody else contests it and claims it. And there’s an argument and a fight. I mean, I can go through the history of the last thirty or thirtyfive years and name man after man and case after case. I’m not theorizing. But the real test is if it’s your child, you’d rather see the other woman have it than see it killed. And many, many times we are put to that test. Do I want to lay claim to my ministry, my success? Do I want to establish my reputation? Or am I prepared to let somebody else have all that I worked for, all that I achieved, all that I prayed through? Depends whether you love yourself more than the baby, or the baby more than yourself. Next time you’re faced with that situation you’ll be able to measure how real your love is. If you’ll give it away, you love it. If you claim half, you don’t.
I’d like to go, for a moment, to the story of Abraham. In Genesis 13 Abraham had started out from Ur of the Chaldees in obedience to the word of God, but not in full obedience. It’s very interesting to study Genesis 12 which we will not look at now. God said, “Get thee from thy family, from thy home, from thy kindred, into a land that I will show thee of.” Now Abraham did not fully obey God. Because he took his father with him and he took his nephew with him. He was not authorized to do either. And as long as he had his father with him he only got halfway. He got to Haran which is halfway between Ur and Canaan. And he couldn’t get any further till his father died. Now many of us are like that. God says, “Come out, leave everything behind and I’ll show you your inheritance.” But we want to take daddy along. Daddy may be a denominational affiliation, it may be a pension scheme, it may be a particular situation, and God says as long as you take daddy you’ll only get halfway. And even Abraham couldn’t get into Canaan as long as he had his father with him. You read Acts 7 where it says, “After his father died he moved into the Promised Land.” But he still had a problem with him. His problem was Lot, his nephew. He ought never to have been there. And it wasn’t long before both Abraham and Lot prospered and they got so much cattle and so many goods that they couldn’t live side by side as they had done. There was continuous strife between their herdmen. And so this is what happened then in Genesis 13, beginning at verse 7:
“And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle. And the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife. I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.”(KJV)
Now Abraham was the senior, he was the man whom God had called, he was the man to whom the inheritance belonged. But he stood back and said, “Lot, you make your choice. Whatever you choose, you can have.”
“And Lot lifted up his eyes and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly. And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.” (KJV)
That was his inheritance. But until he had been willing to yield, God didn’t show him his inheritance. As long as you hold on and say, “That’s mine, I’m not letting go,” you won’t see what God has for you to see. It’s the yielding spirit that receives the inheritance. Not the grasping spirit, not the grabbing spirit. Not as long as you say, “It’s mine and you can’t have it. God gave it to me.” You won’t have what God has for you. You have to yield.
My wife has often shared with me something that happened in Palestine before we were married. She was living at that time in a city named Ramala which is about ten miles north of Jerusalem. And though her main work was among children, a revival broke out among the Arab women of that city and it was a sovereign revival of God. And my wife was the instrument that God used. And those Arab women would come in off the street unconverted, be saved, delivered from evil spirits, baptized in the Holy Spirit in the one encounter. And the work was flourishing and growing and it was a testimony to the Lord, and then a missionary who lived in Jerusalem decided that he wanted that work. And he sent up an Arab worker and said, “This is our work, we’ve had a worker in this city before you came.” Now he was completely unjustified and it was incorrect. My wife understood and loved those women. And I bear testimony to this because twentyfive years later we went back to that village, my wife and I together, and when they heard my wife was there they came running out in the street to embrace her. They hadn’t forgotten twentyfive years later. But faced with this and with the strength of a man against a single woman she said what Abram said, “All right. You choose. You go to the left, I’ll go to the right.” And the man said, “Well, this is our work, we’ll take it.” So my wife said to the Arab women, “From now on we’re having no meetings. The meetings are to be held at such and such a place, you go there and be faithful and support that work.” After a year or two the work died completely because the man was not called of God, it was not his work. But my wife had won the victory.
Now what happened was this: within a few months, this was during the Second World War, British and American soldiers in the countries of the Middle East, found their way out of that little home in Ramala and came there seeking God and seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit. And in the next three or four years scores and scores of American and British servicemen found God and were baptized in the Holy Spirit in that little children’s home. As a matter of fact, I was in the British forces and I was stationed in the Sudan. You know where the Sudan is, it’s right down almost in the center of Africa. And I heard from another soldier, “If you want a real blessing, there’s a little children’s home ten miles north of Jerusalem, you go there.” So next time I got leave, I got two weeks leave and I journeyed all the way down the Nile and I got to Jerusalem and I went to that little children’s home. And I got my blessing.
But the point of the story is this: by the traditions and the customs of the Middle East, those Arab women could never have been allowed in a place where British and American servicemen were coming. And had my wife clung on to the women the others would never have come. But when we yield, then we get promoted. Many of those men, myself included, today are in full time ministry all over the world. Missionaries, pastors and so on. Some here in the United States. You see, you have to be willing to let go. It’s unfair, it’s unreasonable, it’s unjust. So what. God arranged it. He’s in control.
All right. Let’s go on to Genesis 22. Romans 4 speaks about the steps of the faith of our father Abraham. And one thing that has become very clear to me is faith is not a static condition. It’s not sitting on a church pew and saying, “I’ve got it.” Faith is a walk in which one step follows another. Abraham is called the father of all them that believe if we walk in the steps of his faith. Abraham’s faith was progressive. If you go from Genesis 12 to Genesis 22 you’ll see the various progressions of Abraham’s faith. And what he did in chapter 22 he could have never done in chapter 12. His faith came to a grand climax because every time God said step, he stepped. Every time God gave him a challenge he accepted. So he was built up. The epistle of James said by works his faith was developed and made mature. Faith is received as a gift but it’s matured by walking in steps of obedience.
Let me point this out to you also, which is not exactly in line with my message and maybe it is. God had promised Abraham a child. He promised him an heir, he promised him an inheritance. But as you know the story, the promise tarried. And after twelve years no heir had appeared. Sarah was seventyeight years old. And she viewed the situation as hopeless. She said, “If we’re ever going to have a child, we better do something about it.” And you know the most disastrous words that we can ever use spiritually are “We better do something about it.” So Abraham took his wife’s advice which was a mistake, and they had a child by Sarah’s maid, Hagar. Now there was nothing immoral about that whatever. By the standards of the day it was right and moral and decent. But it wasn’t the will of God. And the name of that child was Ishmael. And essentially Ishmael is the ancestor of the Arabs of the Middle East. And when I think of that I say, “God forbid I should ever beget an Ishmael.” Because for four thousand years Ishmael and his descendants have been the main barrier to God’s blessing on Abraham and Isaac and his descendants, and still are today. If that doesn’t teach us a lesson, we’re incapable of learning.
My friend Charles Simpson says this, “The child of human expediency is an Ishmael.” When you decide you’d better do something to help God, God help you. I was planning something last year and I went quite a long way in my plans. It doesn’t matter what it is. And then I got together with Bob Mumford and we were talking it over and I said, “To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’m going to do it.” And he said, “Why not?” I said, “Well, I’m afraid it’ll be an Ishmael. And I don’t want to have to live with my Ishmael.” And I saw that Bob was impressed by that so some time later when we were together again he said, “Would you mind telling me why you changed your mind about doing that?” I said, “It was the fear of the Lord.” And I saw the answer satisfied. I try to live in the fear of the Lord. I don’t want to do anything that grieves God, that stands in God’s way. I want to walk softly with the Lord. So I put my Ishmael in the pending file, which is where he is today. But you see, to me the lesson is this: the things that we think good, the things that seem right, that are the result of human attempts to do the right thing, are the biggest disasters. God keep us from them. God keep me from them. God keep you from them. God keep the Tennessee/Georgia camp from begetting an Ishmael. Because brothers and sisters, you’ll live to regret it. And I have nothing in mind whatever, I don’t know your plans or intentions, but I just know that anyone that begets an Ishmael has brought forth a disaster.
What’s the biggest test that God ever puts us through? In one word, it begins with a W—waiting. If God tells you to climb the mountain, you’ll be up it. If God tells you to sit at the bottom and wait, you can’t do it. Isn’t that right? The biggest test of faith is waiting. Probably the most mature character in the Bible is Moses. How did he mature? Forty years in the wilderness? Do you want to be like Moses? What did it make him? The meekest man on earth. Moses didn’t assert his rights. He stepped back and let somebody else do it. I feel safe when I can say with all sincerity, “Let somebody else have the baby.” Oh I feel so safe. But when I’m nervous, tense and grasping, I’m headed for disaster.
All right. Genesis 22. God said to Abraham, verse 2:
“...Take thou thy son, thine only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” (KJV)
It was a three day journey from where Abraham lived to Mount Moriah. One of the things you notice about Abraham was not merely that he obeyed God, but he obeyed God promptly. It’s very conspicuous. When he was told to do something, he got up early the next morning and did it. He didn’t hang around till noon wondering if God would change his mind. The next day Abraham was up and on his way with Isaac to Mount Moriah. And you know the story. They went up the mountain and Isaac said, “My father, here’s the fire, here’s the wood, but where’s the lamb?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide a lamb.” And it says in the Hebrews 11: “By faith he was willing to offer his son to God and kill him, accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead.” And if you read carefully in Genesis 22 you’ll find why the writer of Hebrews says that. Because Abraham said to Isaac, “My son, we’ll go up, we will worship, and we will come down.” Bless God. He really believed that even if he thrust that knife into his son, they would come down. And he came to the place where he was actually ready to kill the miracle child who was the only hope for this God promised inheritance. And as he had the knife raised, God spoke to him from heaven. And this is part of what God said. It’s the second time that the angel of the Lord spoke in verse 15:
“And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, by myself have I sworn, [and the writer of Hebrews says he swore by himself because he could not swear by anything greater] saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven...” (KJV)
That’s a strange thing, isn’t it? Isaac was God’s gift to Abraham and Sarah. They could never have had him apart from a miraculous intervention of God. He was supernaturally born. And the very child that God had given them, God asked them to give back to him as a burnt sacrifice.
Because of a book I’m writing, which is not part of this sermon, I’ve been occupied with the picture of Abraham on his way to Mount Moriah. And I’ve tried to put myself into his position and imagine what he was reasoning and thinking on that three day journey. Why would God want Isaac? Did God give Isaac to us? Isn’t he the promised one? Isn’t he the only way that we’ll ever receive our God called inheritance? Hadn’t we left everything? Haven’t we followed him? Haven’t we obeyed him? Why should he demand Isaac? I don’t know whether he thought that or said that. But when he came to the place where he was willing to do what God commanded, God spoke and said, “That’s all right, now I know. From now on Abraham, I’ll bless you as you’ve never been blessed before and I will multiply your seed.” What was his seed? Isaac. See the lesson? If he had held onto Isaac, all he would have had was Isaac. When he gave Isaac up, he got Isaac back multiplied beyond his power to calculate. And I’ve seen this truth. When God gives us something it’s from God, it’s precious, it’s unique, it’s miraculous. One day God is going to say, “I want it. Give it back. Kill it. Lay it on the altar.” And then you’re either going to follow the footsteps of Abraham or you’re going to miss God’s blessing. And again, without any sense or particularly thinking of any person, I have to say I’ve seen many servants of the Lord make this bitter mistake of holding onto Isaac. And all they’re left with is Isaac. I think the biggest test of any servant of God is is he willing to put his ministry on the altar.
I’ll tell you, many of you know, I have fought with wild beasts for the truth of deliverance. People that come from Southern California, they look at me as if I had two heads. I remember a young man that came from California and he lived in Fort Lauderdale for two months and one day he said to me, “Brother Prince, I’ve decided to submit myself to your ministry.” And I think he thought he was going to be smitten to the ground. I didn’t understand but I discovered later the reputation I had in Southern California. But anyhow, I’m saying this: I have fought for the truths of deliverance. I’ve fought physically, I’ve fought spiritually, I’ve fought in prayer, I’ve fought in fasting. But there came a time when God joined me with three other brethren and I don’t want to make a big issue of this because I’ve discovered it makes us unpopular. But this just happens to be true. Whether people like it or not, it happened. And there came a time in my experience when I said to those brethren, “Brethren, if you find that my ministry in deliverance is unscriptural or wrong and you take exception to it, I will not practice it.” And you think that didn’t cost something. It did. I praise God today I hardly have to do deliverance any longer. God has multiplied what I offered.
Now I’m being very personal, I didn’t even intend to say this. When I gave him my Isaac he multiplied it. I can go almost anywhere in the United States today and preach deliverance and there are qualified dedicated men of God that will do the work. It wasn’t that way ten years ago, believe me. I believe if I had held onto my Isaac, all I’d have been left with a little Isaac.
Let’s look in John 12:24. The words of Jesus:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (KJV)
Now I’ve always applied that to the death of Christ. And there’s no doubt that it does apply. Jesus was the corn of wheat; he was willing to lay down his life, he fell into the ground; he was buried. And out of his death, burial and resurrection there came forth much fruit. That’s the correct application. But just recently as I’ve been meditating along the lines of which I have been speaking to you tonight, I began to see myself and my fellow believers, each one of us holding in our hands a little corn that God placed there, your gift, your ministry, your talent. Something precious because God gave it to you. You say, “It’s mine, I can do it, I know how to cast out demons. I can pray for the sick and they get smitten to the ground, Brother. I’ve got the word of knowledge.” And it’s so nice to hold it in your hand and feel it there, it’s mine. But God says if you keep it there, that’s all you’ll have; just one little corn. You can put your name on it, you can put your label on it but you’ll never get more.
What’s the alternative? Let go, drop it. “You mean let my ministry go? Let my talent go? Let my gift go?” Let it go. Let it go right down into the earth and get buried and lost and out of sight. And you won’t own it any longer. But I’ll tell you something, God will be responsible for it. And God has guaranteed the fruit. I believe this is the place where we’re coming. But many of us are going to be faced with this choice. Do I want to propagate myself, do I want to establish my reputation? Do I want to make my ministry, my outreach, my camp, my youth center, my deliverance center, am I interested in the fact that it’s mine? Or if I’m wrongfully challenged and the ownership is disputed, am I willing to say to the wrongful mother, “You take it.” Do I love it or do I love me? It’s a very searching question. I believe whatever God has given you, there’ll come a time when he’ll ask you to let go of it, drop it, let it fall. Bless the Lord. I can see somebody the message has registered with. I feel your inward response in the spirit. Praise God, you’re glad you let it go.
I’m glad I’ve let some things go too. Do you know if I had gone on carrying them they would have ground me down to the ground. I think of the preachers I know, I’m the least busy. I’m busy, but I’m not too busy. You know what? It isn’t spiritual to be too busy. God only made you one person and you’ll never do two person’s jobs satisfactorily no matter how hard you try.
I read a little article by Jamie Buckingham in his church newsletter and this one was his decision to give up doing the urgent in order to do the important. See, most preachers are so submerged to meet the urgent they never get to do the important. One of the most important prayers in the Bible is in Psalm 90, “teach us so to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Teach me how to use my time. Do you know Jesus was never flustered? He was never hurried, he was never too busy? It’s really an extension of my ego if I make myself indispensable. Most people really don’t want to be dispensable. As far as I’m concerned, my greatest triumph is when I can be done without. Then I’ve succeeded. I’ll tell you a little story and we’ll close.
This is a true story, it’s so personal that I have to be careful. Some of you have heard it before, just a few. But the outworking of it is going on in my life all the time. In l970 in June I went to Seattle, Washington to take part in a kind of fellowship retreat of ministers. Don Basham was there, Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Ralph Wilkerson, David DuPlessis, Dennis Bennett, many of the national known Charismatic teachers. And what they did, they got us together for a week and every morning and most of the afternoons we were together in fellowship. It was quite an experience. We spent a day and a half talking about demons. We spent two days talking about water baptism. When you got over those two, you got somewhere. But to get so many preachers to the far northwest corner of the United states is very expensive. And they had no money so they invited us and said, “Brethren, we promise you nothing, but we’ll try and raise the money for your fares.” So in order to do that they held evening services every night of the week. And they had five preaching points in and around Seattle and they turned loose two or three preachers every night in each point. Well everyone of those places was filled to capacity before the meeting ever opened every night. And the response of the people was tremendous. And I stayed on to minister in one of the Assembly of God churches in Seattle when the retreat was over, just before the weekend. And I heard the ministers talking together in Seattle, and I pastored a church in Seattle so I knew many of them, and I knew that this was the truth they were saying. And what they were saying was this: In all our memory, no meetings have ever made such an impact on the City of Seattle as these meetings. Well, the comical thing about those meetings from the human standpoint was that they weren’t organized to make an impact on the City of Seattle. They were organized to raise the preacher’s fares, that’s the simple truth. So, on the plane on Monday I was flying from Seattle to Atlanta because I was going to be in meetings in Atlanta in June of l970. And some of you were in those meetings. As I was in the plane—you know, a plane is a good place, the telephone can’t reach you, people don’t bother you, you just sit back in your seat. I was meditating and I thought to myself, “Isn’t that strange? Meetings that were not planned to make an impact on the city made a greater impact than meetings that were planned that way.” And as I was sitting there the Lord began to speak to me very clearly, not audibly, quietly but very definitely. And this is what he said. Now I don’t demand that you believe he said it but I’m just telling you the way I experienced it. He said, “Now tell me this, with whom did I have more problems? With Jonah or the City of Ninevah?” And I said, “Lord, when you got Jonah straightened out you had no problems with Ninevah.” And he said, “And when I get the preachers straightened out I’ll have no problems with the people.” Now I can tell that story because I’m a preacher. And I really believe it.
Well then I arrived here in Atlanta, this is the second half of what I’m telling you and this is the end. I don’t know how I’m going to close the message because this is the final story. I was staying in the home of some friends in Atlanta who may be here, but the meetings were held in a hotel. And I taught in the morning, was due to preach in the evening so in the afternoon, rather than go back home, a friend in the hotel said, “You can go up to my room and lie on my bed.” And so I was lying there between the meetings on this bed in the hotel room and my mind was more or less blank. I find that when we can get our minds blank, God can get our attention. And this was what came to me and it came to me as clearly as if it had been printed on paper, it was so clear. I’ve got to remember it and get it right. It was this: “From ?Kerif? to ?Zerafat?. From ?Zerafat? to Carmel. From Carmel to Horeb. From Horeb into many lives.” Now I knew enough of the Bible to know immediately that it referred to the career of Elijah. And that it was the different stages on Elijah’s career from ?Kerif? to ?Zerafat? to Carmel and then to Mount Horeb. And I began to fill in the details and it was very, very plain that the real climax of Elijah’s public ministry was on Mount Carmel. It was there he gathered all Israel, there he challenged 850 false prophets, there he called down fire from heaven, and all Israel were prostrated on their faces crying “The Lord, he is the God.” If ever any man had a personal, individual triumph, that man was Elijah on Mount Carmel. But then the Lord showed me within three days Elijah was running away from Jezebel: a woman and a witch. And asking God to take away his life. So brief and impermanent was the triumph of Carmel. And then the thought came to me had God answered Elijah’s request and taken away his life at that point, Elijah would have died without any spiritual successor. There would have been no one to carry on and complete his work. But when he then was driven to Horeb, when he got to Horeb and got face to face with God and heard God’s plan, it was very different from Elijah’s plan. God said, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” And he said, “I’ve been very jealous.” And the Lord said in so many words, “I know about that Elijah, but what are you doing here?” And when Elijah finished telling the Lord all he had been doing, the Lord told Elijah what he wanted him to do next. And he said, “I want you to anoint three men. Elisha to be prophet in your room, Hazael to be king of Syria, and Jehu to be king of Israel.” And if you read the subsequent chapters in the book of Kings, you’ll find that those three men who were the product of that interview between God and Elijah on Mount Horeb finished off every task assigned by God to Elijah. Everything he had to do. He could not do the job himself. But he could find the successors and hand over to them.
Now this is very personal and maybe I don’t fully understand it myself. But I knew that God was speaking to me. And God was showing me that I had two options before me. I could go on doing my own thing, carrying out my own ministry, using the faith and the power that God had given me to whatever extent I was able. And I could have some kind of a personal triumph. But I would end without a successor. And there would be no permanent fruit to my ministry. And the alternative God showed me was, don’t be ambitious for yourself, don’t promote your own ministry, don’t do your own thing. Invest in the lives of others. Let them get the credit. Let them take over where you have to leave off. Let them be more successful than you were. And I said, “Bless God, I hope they are.” And I mean it with all my heart. I’ve always been in a certain sense, a successful person. I don’t say that boastfully, but from way back, from when I was nine years old I’ve been head boy, captain of schools, senior scholar, youngest fellow of the college, all the way through. And it’s ingrained in me to expect to be successful. But God showed me there’s a higher standard of success. Let that little corn of wheat that you hold in your hand fall into the ground and die. And God will take care of the consequences. And I tell you tonight, in a way, I’m probably the freest person in this building. Because I have let go and let God. I don’t care if I never cast out another demon. If God doesn’t want me to, I don’t mind the least bit. I’ll tell you, my critics are much more demon conscious than I am. If I never write another book, if God so leads it that I disappear from the public eye, that’s all right by me. As long as I’ve invested what I have where it will do good. I don’t know how much I have, I don’t have to know. But what I have, I’m willing to give. I’m willing to let it drop. And I’m very, very happy tonight. Truly I’m free. I mean, I know what it is to act free, I know what it is to preach freedom. But the best thing is to be free. And really tonight I can say in all sincerity before God, “I’m free.”
You see, let me just take another five minutes and then I’ll finish. I’ve been gripped by the phrase secret. 1Corinthians 2 I’m preaching on in my workshop, the secret hidden wisdom of God. Psalm 51: “the whole that I desire is truth in the inward part. And in the secret place, thou wilt make me to know wisdom.” And Psalm 91: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Well that’s a beautiful place, the secret place, the secret knowledge, the secret wisdom. But you know, if something is secret, it’s hidden. And if you want to dwell in the secret place you may have to be willing to be hidden. Your own personality, your own reputation, your own ego may be taken away.
Think about the life of Jesus just for a moment. Since he became a man he spent about thirty years in perfect family life. Three and a half years in public ministry and almost two thousand years in intercession. Are you prepared for that proportion? See, the people that rule the world for God are the intercessors. And most of them are not publicly known at all. Are you willing to bow out? What was the last public appearance of Jesus in the eyes of the world? Where? On the cross. All right. When he reappeared in the earth, how did he reappear? In the ministry of his disciples. He dropped into the ground, died and out came the fruit. Are you willing to do that? Am I willing to do that? Are you tonight holding onto your Isaac? “God, you gave it to me, it’s mine.” God says, “Give it back. Put it on the altar. Take the knife. If you’ll give it to me, in my way and in my time, when it suits me, I’ll bless it, multiply it more than your ability to understand or comprehend.”
I told the Lord years ago that I would never preach just religious lectures anymore if I could help it. But when I preached a thing I’d give people opportunity to act on the truth. And I feel that I owe it to you tonight to do that. I want no pressure on anybody, but I suppose in this congregation there must be not a few who are holding on to their Isaacs. “It’s mine, God, I built it up. I established it.” Maybe your Isaac is really a little child that you’re holding onto. God says, “Would you let go and let me?” Or it may be some gift, some ministry, some situation.
Now if God’s really spoken to your heart tonight, not otherwise, I would like to give you an opportunity to bring your Isaac and put it on the altar. Just as we bow in prayer without any further pressure, if God has spoken to your heart tonight, would you just get up, come down to the front and kneel there at the rail and give God your Isaac. Then I’m going to ask Jay to close the meeting in prayer. All I want to say is I will be available for a little personal ministry tonight on the platform when the meeting is entirely closed. If you want to come up and it doesn’t clash with any other activity, I’m willing to pray for a few people tonight. Especially for healing if you feel this is your night and I’m the instrument that God wants to use. Don’t come unless you feel prompted to come. But meanwhile, there are those of you tonight who need to bring your Isaac and put him on the altar before you leave this place.
I’m going to pray for you right now. “God, I’m sure tonight that there are those here who are unhappy, edgy, tense because they’re asserting their own will and their own claims to something which you gave them. Maybe a ministry, maybe a gift. It may be a situation, it may be a person. Lord, I just pray tonight that by your Holy Spirit you’ll give grace to these people to let go and bring that Isaac, hand him over to you and trust you with the consequences. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
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