When Jesus said, “Gather up the fragments that remain,” (John 6:12) the word simply means “broken pieces.” Most of us are aware of at least some parts of our character and personality that feel less than whole and fully functioning even if not entirely broken. We’re going to invite the Lord to look in on aspects of our character that feel raw and fragmented, whether as the result of some present stress or past trauma – or simply because we haven’t recognised that the way we respond in certain situations is far less gracious than it could be.
In other words, we’re going to offer the chance to receive healing and forgiveness by inviting the Lord to come into some pretty murky regions. Let’s use the psalmist’s prayer as a starting point:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
James speaks of getting to the root of the wrong desires that battle within us (James 4:1) Peter likewise urges us to “abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against our soul” (1 Pet. 2:11) because these things are like a riptide that sweep us into doing and saying things we may never have intended, and of which we are certainly not proud. But like a rip tide, the source of these shortcomings is often hidden. We can’t afford to allow the fact that many parts of our lives and ministries are functioning well to blind us to the fact that there may well be other areas that the Lord needs to draw our attention to.
The blessings are a sign of His covering grace, and His honouring of the truth we bring; but they are not necessarily the same thing as the truth and humility that He desires in our inward being.
That’s why the Lord often has to send specific events and challenges our way to flush things to the surface to help us see them for what they really are. If we aren’t willing to heed the gentle zephyrs He sends in terms of quiet warnings and words to the wise, He may need to send much stronger winds. At that point we face a big decision: will we allow the authentic fear of the Lord to stir us to get to grips with whatever it is He is showing us? Or will we push these unwelcome revelations down, or even attempt to deny them altogether?
A senior business professional devotes much of his spare time to managing a youth football team. His way has long been to allow his players a certain amount of time and grace in which to prove themselves, but then suddenly he loses patience with the shortcomings, and goes in search of better players. But having appointed them, the cycle soon repeats itself as the new players in turn begin to disappoint.
After many such years one of the players commented that his team aren’t any better than they are because they never receive any serious coaching. This comment proved a revelation, and provoked my friend to repent and made him eager to provide what was lacking in terms of coaching. It also had the effect of helping him to see similar patterns at work in the way he manages his team in his professional career. One simple comment to a man who really wants to do God’s will God’s way has turned out to be a mighty catalyst for change.
May it be God’s leading that directs us rather than ingrained responses and prejudices! Some people cut and run and pull out of things prematurely, while others hold back when the Lord is asking them to step out and to move on, because they feel too ‘fragmented’ to step out into the unknown.
Some of our sense of being fragmented may be the result of being hit by the genuine fiery darts of darkness that are endlessly sent against those who are serving in God’s front line. Attacks can come at any time, but you have probably noticed how the enemy fires them at times when we are particularly tired, dispirited or in some other way off balance.
Lift up the shield of faith against these attacks – and ask others to raise it over you. Use scriptures such as Psalm 64 to reassure you that God will move to protect you when you are experiencing scheming satanic assaults.
God takes care to surrounds and encircle us with godly influences and resources, more so than we often recognise at the time. It is the devil’s way to seek to make us discontent, and who dangles the temptation to look elsewhere inappropriately. Thankfulness is itself a powerful spiritual weapon and antidote. And then it is all about being in the mode the Lord is in, and “keeping in step with the Spirit,” as Paul puts it. (Gal. 5:25)
There is one other way of handling the attacks we come under that we ca do nothing about, which do not just go away the moment we pray about them – and that is to make them an offering to the Lord.
Jesus warned quite clearly that those who follow Him will be spoken against. There may be nothing we can do to prevent that from happening, but how we respond can make all the difference in both this life and eternity. That’s why it’s so important that we consciously offer God our hurts and disappointments. What feels like meaningless shards and fragments at the time may actually become precious gifts when we give them to God that He finds ingenious ways to transform to His glory.
I love the fact that the Lord Jesus “has chosen us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” We who can be so complex and contradictory, even from one moment to the next, will one day share in the glory Jesus has always enjoyed with His Father. Eph. 1:4). That thought alone makes it worthwhile to seek out and to gather up that which is fragmented in our lives. As Jesus prayed,
“Father, I want those you have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world,” (John 17:24)
I keep asking the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers. Oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!
May the eyes of our understanding be flooded with light to see His truth; that we may know and cherish the hope to which He has called us; what rich glories there are in the inheritance He has promised His set apart people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Eph. 1:18-21)