Ten Things I Have Learned
On Saturday the 22nd of August someone sent me an email seeking advice as to what they should do regarding a compulsory event at Burwood Girls High School the following Friday where classes for all years were to be cancelled for two periods and every student was instructed to dress in purple clothing, eat purple cup cakes, celebrate a parade under the rainbow flag and watch a controversial political film involving gay parenting. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that the following events would take place. These are some of the Lord has taught me during that time…
1. God is sovereign: This might sound obvious but it is profoundly and wonderfully true. Jesus says that “not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of my Father” (Matthew 10:29) and it is worth considering that verse in its context because it’s all about bearing witness to His Name in a hostile world. Looking back I can only but MARVEL at how the Lord has orchestrated everything for His glory (Romans 8:28).
2. Jesus is faithful: One of the most precious promises that I have been holding onto over the past couple of weeks is Luke 12:11-12. “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you AT THAT TIME what you should say.” I have received a huge amount of wise advise regarding how to relate to the media but at the end of the day the spiritual wisdom that Jesus promised though has made the decisive difference.
3. Prayer is powerful: Another one of the great blessings over the past couple of weeks has been so many answers to prayer – the almost “tangible” grace that the Lord has poured out on my in answer to the prayers of His people as well as the opportunity to continually pray with other believers who up until now I might
have had very little to do with. At the end of nearly every phone call or face to face meeting people say, “Let’s pray!” And pray they do…earnestly, passionately and with great personal humility.
4. Persecution is inevitable: The anti-SRE group FIRIS came out publicly on social media and accused me of having a “persecution complex.” They even went so far as to photo shop my head onto one of the three men in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3) the other two they labelled as John Dickson and Michael Jensen. What they didn’t realise I guess was the OUTCOME of that particular incident. J I was actually greatly encouraged by their quickly thrown together clip art because I have truly counted it a joy to be found “worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” See Acts 5:41.
5. The media (and politicians) are “nice”: The biggest surprise was meeting some many journalists and politicians who are genuinely “nice.” I had this simplistic and quite frankly erroneous idea that they were all somehow compromised in their convictions (maybe I wasn’t looking closely enough at myself…) There are many, many men and women though in the media and politics who have great integrity and incredible courage. These are people who put their necks on the line every week in standing up for the truth and they deserve more of our respect and prayers!
6. Sin is residual: Despite what I said in point 2 and Jesus’ promise I have still greatly struggled with sin on a personal level. In particular, with being gentle and respectful (1 Peter 3:15-16). It has been a constant challenge not to exaggerate to make me and my position look better as well as just trust God to be the one who changes hearts and minds (see 2 Timothy 2:24-26). After my “debate” on The Project the producer rang me to ask if I thought I had a fair hearing – see, I told you they are nice! – and I said, “Yes, but could you PLEASE apologize to Alex Greenwich for me for being rude and speaking over the top of him at one point.” He said that he would but the Spirit of God would not let me rest. So last Friday I rang his office to ask for his forgiveness directly…
7. Speaking is essential: I’ve been preaching through Acts at church lately – yeah I know, another one of those scary providential things. Who ever said that the Bible is “boring”? They clearly have never read it! One of the biggest things to come out of that series though is that as Christians we HAVE to speak. Simple I know. But how often are we tempted to be silent? (See Luke 12:8-9). If He created the world through His spoken Word (Genesis 1) and He brings about the creation of the new birth through the spoken Word (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25) then brothers and sisters we just HAVE to open our mouths.
8. His favour is real: Who are we that God should use us? That is the question that a number of us have been asking ourselves this week. It all got started like a bad joke: “So there was an Anglican, a Chinese Independent and a couple of Presbyterians who organised a prayer meeting…” As we prayed and sought His face though we were all blown away by how He answered our requests. Never in our wildest dreams did we expect God to do what He did – but that’s just so Him isn’t it? Always doing “immeasurably more” than we could ever imagine or ask! (Ephesians 3:20-21). What we’ve found though is that God’s favour is real. See 1 Chronicles 28:9.
9. Fellowship is crucial: People have continually asked me, “How do you cope?” And my answer has been exactly the same every time. By God’s grace expressed through the prayers, encouragement and support of His people.” Being in close relationship with people who uphold you in faith and who also rebuke you when you’re going off track (remember what I said in point 6?) is absolutely crucial. There is one verse in particular though that is worth quoting in full. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother in born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17
10. Courage is needed: It takes guts to stand out from the crowd. That’s probably the most enduring things God has taught me over the past fortnight. Whether it be the prophet Daniel in the OT, the first martyr Stephen in the NT, Joe deBruyn at the recent National Labor Conference, Christian pastors who have to field nasty phone calls, or in particular a vulnerable teenage school girl whose only “crime” is to dare to wear only her school uniform…it takes real guts to stand out from the crowd.
I have learnt so much over the past couple of weeks. It’s just amazing to see what the Lord has done. Probably the most enduring thing though is that it only takes one person to speak up. Just one. When the opportunity comes will you be that person?