CRISIS AND THE CROSS
by Rev. Arnold Reimer
Early one Monday morning the telephone rang while I was sitting at my desk. The voice on the other end asked, “Dad, what is a spiritual crisis?” I gave a quick definition, to which he responded, “I think I just had one!” That weekend at a men’s conference God had confronted my son in such a way that he was compelled to yield in humble, broken, obedient submission to His claims upon him. It was a transforming moment.
Down through the ages God has used crisis moments to bring people to the end of themselves, and, into humble, obedient submission to His purposes for them. It is almost always clear and costly. It is usually born in a crucible of fire - painful, devastating to the flesh, more spiritual than tangible, but genuinely real and certainly significant to life and godliness.
Think of some of the significant crises of Biblical giants like Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Samson, David, and Prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah. Esther and Ruth are the notable women. The issues for each of them were submission and obedience to God, often leading up to some work God wanted them to do. In the New Testament the disciples and the Apostle Paul certainly faced crises. A holy God required them to yield unreservedly to His purposes; to follow Him with the submission of their will and plans to His. In the case of the disciples the hindrances were often the sins of a weak faith, self-sufficiency, pride and independence. Paul was bound by pedigree and legalism. Such things were barriers to effective ministry. And time and failure was needed to expose and rooted out such impediments.
So significant is this crisis experience in the life of God’s servants that books have been written explaining the known details. You cannot read the classic biographies of God’s “movers and shakers” throughout church history and missionary endeavour, without finding a paragraph or chapter that describes a unique, transforming and, usually, a specific “moment” when they met God in humble, costly, life-changing submission. In almost every case it was a post-conversion experience, and, an encounter with God, the Holy Spirit. Often into their desperation came a spiritual revelation leading to a profound repentance, a thorough emptying of oneself and high emotion, followed by a satisfying inner peace that God had truly met with them.
Leading up to this crisis experience these saints describe a period, short or long, of dissatisfaction with the state of their spiritual life and effectiveness. The were people with a profound longing after God. They experienced the galling weakness of the flesh to do God’s bidding obediently and effectively. They found human inadequacy so real and limiting, so personal and depressing that they cry out to God for help and enabling. Often the heavens became like brass, light became as darkness, truth became veiled by fog. Discouragement, uncertainly and depression became hated companions, threatening to undermine whatever efforts one expended. And, increased efforts to prove one’s ability, availability and spirituality were cranked up over and over again in a carnal effort to please God and to find effectiveness.
No one going through such an experience questions the reality of spiritual crisis - nor its painfulness. But, here it is that God meets the desperate soul with healing in His wings. Here it is that the clear voice of Jesus is heard with increasing clarity: “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water’. But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-38)
It is a hard thing for us gifted, educated, “successful”, people to realize that even after our conversion to Jesus, “in our flesh dwells no good thing.” We like to think that Isaiah’s reference to our righteous deeds being like a “filthy garment” in God’s eyes is not referring to us but to others. No one wants to wander around some dry, dusty desert pretending we are bound for the promised land, hoping it is just over the next sand dune. Who wants to grovel in the confusing, heart-searching, frightening period between the cross and Pentecost? In an instant-everything age it seems hard and pointless to wait until we are endued with power from on high!
Our culture despises such self questioning people as “losers”. What have we got to market to seekers if we have to tell them the cost of the journey, the implications of the cross? Who really wants to hear, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life losses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him.”? (John 12:24-26)
None of us comes to this place easily. There is too much of self at stake - self-acceptance, self-dependence, self-assurance, self-promotion, self-help, self - - - -! Even more confusing, who has not seen the huge “successes” of many who manifest little of what I have been describing? But, what of them? They are not our models. We must leave them to God - and follow Him who humbled Himself and took the route of the cross!
Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)
The Apostle Paul, whose crisis experience cries out for understanding in his letters to the Galatians and Philippians, put it most succinctly in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”
I know of nothing more important to the fulness of the Spirit, to victorious Christian living, to a holy life-style and to church leadership in the day in which we live than a crisis experience that brings us to the cross and to the end of ourselves. Only then will there be room in us so for the fulness of Christ.
Arnold Reimer has served as a pastor/missionary with the Christian and Missionary Alliance for 50 years. He began his ministry in Rosetown, Sk. after which he served with his wife, Frances, in Colombia, S.A. After one term they pastored the Woodward Ave. Alliance Church, now Rosewood, in Regina. In 1969 they moved to the Avenue Road/Bayview Glen Church where they remained until 1991. Returning to Regina he served as the District Superintendent for one term. Since 1995 he has been a Minister-at-Large in both the Eastern and Central Canadian Districts.