The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them. (John 14:21)
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus . . . He will keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God will do this, for He is faithful to do what He says, and He Has invited you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor. 1:8-9)
In both the verses above, the word I have highlighted in bold is one of Paul’s favourites: koinonia! I love the concept of partnering with each other and with the Lord Jesus Himself. However lopsided and unequally yoked we are in so many ways, Jesus welcomes our efforts to give everything to Him, because He holds nothing back from those who are willing to take that step. Because we are mutually committed to each other, what interests Him interests us, and vice versa. (Read more) That’s why it is so good to run everything we do past Him, both before and as we do it. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this. (Ps. 37:5)
I have been amazed how our exceptionally agile young Hungarian Vizsla puppy graciously accommodates herself to my extremely slow gait. (We have been looking after Skye for the past nine months, as we train her in readiness to live with Dom on his army base). But the odd slow walk with me in no way diminishes her ability to run swifter than the wind once let off the leash!
These Hungarian pointers are known as ‘Velcro Vizslas’ because of their tendency to stay extremely close to those they love. But there is One who remains much closer! How wonderful that we are in this living vibrant partnership with the Lord Jesus not only for this life, but for the infinitely greater riches and adventures in Heaven.
For we are all partners with Christ (and have come to share in Him) if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at the beginning. (Heb. 3:14) Of course this partnership gets tested in many ways – especially when we are at risk of being swept aside by some infatuation, preoccupations or strange wind of doctrine, at which point dopamine rushes and misleading fantasies of various kinds cut in.
When the physical problems I am now living with set in four or five years ago, the Lord so well when He reassured me that as I increasingly lose my grip (and mobility) I am not to think for one moment that this is any way means that He is losing His. In all our distress and affliction, He too is distressed and afflicted – but in no way weakened or diminished thereby! (Is. 63:9)
And when all earthly efforts have been laid to rest, it is our partnership with Him that alone will last, and which it is good to celebrate afresh. As the evangelist who led me to the Lord, David Watson, neared his homecoming, the Lord said powerfully to him one night, “All your preaching, writing and other ministry are as nothing compared to your relationship with Me.” After all, 99.999% and more of this living partnership remains ahead of us!
Partnering that overcomes Prejudice
As we partner together, may the Lord help us to discern between the various competing impulses that dominate our hearts – and to help us perceive and work our way around our prejudices and limitations. As has well been said, ‘None of us is big enough to carry a cross and a prejudice!
He is always looking to unravel and explode these prejudices! One of the best signs that we are keeping in step with the Spirit in our partnership with Christ is when we recognise our need to acknowledge the way Christ is working in other strands and denominations. In his excellent book Healing America’s Wounds, John Dawson cites the example of a Presbyterian Minister who the Lord woke up in the middle of the night to write a moving letter, asking forgiveness for having looked down on the ministry of another denomination.
Whilst the word of God itself can never change, our perception of it may change radically as the Spirit leads us on beyond too narrow an interpretation of it.
As we set off on this new term, for those of us who still think in terms of terms, I am thinking of those times when, so far from being in situations that we are familiar with, and which we know ourselves qualified to deal with, we find ourselves in unfamiliar and less welcoming environments where we can so easily feel downright daunted.
Our ability to tally, triangulate and “direction find” can go badly wrong when roots of pride and self-conceit on the one hand, and fear on the other, remain in our hearts. We may think we know a great deal about certain matters, but actually still be approaching these themes and situations trusting in our own experience and ability rather than actively partnering with the Lord in them.
May the Lord show us when we are approaching them from too fixed a ‘party’ position (whether denominational or political). Where such tendences are alive and kicking in our heart, the danger is that the Lord allows us to act and ‘hear’ in accordance with our delusion. (See Ezekiel 14:4-6). Let’s be honest in confessing how often we mistake our prejudices for wisdom, and how easily we end up hurting others, who may well be just as serious as ourselves in seeking to partner with Christ, by insisting on our perspectives, as if we alone are always in the right. He truly does lead people in very different ways to ourselves.
Thank You, Lord Jesus, that it is so good to celebrate every aspect of our ongoing partnership with You: Your utter faithfulness and commitment to us that enables us to be friends and lovers as well as co-workers. Give us special grace and wisdom to adjust our thinking and responses whenever we find ourselves plunged outside our comfort zone. May neither You nor others miss out through our dullness and slowness of heart – nor indeed through our plunging in to situations we would have been wiser to have prayed about more before directly involving ourselves, or indeed simply to have held at a more discreet distance.
Strengthen our self-esteem when we are in danger of succumbing to the pangs of imposture syndrome, Lord; those times when we feel as though our work and authority are of no value. Warn us, too, whenever we are trying too hard to impress others, and remind us that we cannot hope to enjoy the fullness of partnership with You so long as we craving approval from others, rather than focusing our efforts of obtaining the praise, honour and glory that only You can truly give. (John 5:44)