No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.
(In Christ Alone, Stuart Townend)
Don’t get me wrong. I loved every minute of it. Not only the sermons, the electives or the workshops, but the intense and fruitful conversations with fellow brothers and sisters as we debate, learn from each other and soak in together the Word and God like sponges. At least that was the case for me. Ultimately, all I could do is fall like a heap in front of His cross.
"I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. … For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. …
… I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people,… in toil and hardship, …apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak?
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. … I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it … I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth … So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
(Excerpts from 2 Corinthians 11:16 – 12:10, ESV)
I suggest you go read the full passage. But I can almost print this version out as my prayer. This is my prayer right now.
We can’t all be madmen and fools right? Right? 2,500 of us at this conference. 500,000 of us in Cambodia. Millions of us in China. Thousands dying in Iraq. All through history. I’ve met engineers, specialist doctors, IT professionals (me), university professors, mums, dads, really really smart people! All coming together, love this God and got transformed. We can’t all be mad enough to spend money, time, use our brain cells and our energy to come to this conference? Right? To come to this conference to cry like sooks. On our knees all the time. Raising our hands to the sky.
Why? Because we love God. That’s why. But why bother? Can’t we just love God at home? No! Or should I say “Far be it so!” We gather, we cry, we plead, we learn, we stress, we argue all because, at least in this case, we want to recognise that none of us are righteous and free of the need for help. We want to strongly recognise that we are all broken and need help and not as self-righteous as we or others think we are. Secondly, and more importantly, we gather because we want to so strongly “love our neighbours”! We bother because we want as many people as possible to know about this redeeming love. We want people we love to understand that the only way to true life is through Jesus. We toil, cry, ache and kneel because of firstly Jesus and then you. Yes, you. We love you too.