It occurred to me several years ago that I was becoming consumed with the pursuit of Biblical academia. The quest for Biblical knowledge had essentially become an idol in my life. To be honest though, the pursuit was more about being validated than it was about the actual content I was studying. I wanted so badly to be perceived as an intellectual that Biblical study itself became void of the life-giving joy one's faith in Christ is supposed to produce.
It was a torturous journey because no matter how much knowledge I acquired, I always felt like there were mountains more I didn't grasp. My idol had become self-aware and constantly hounded me about my intellectual shortcoming anytime I'd listen to a Biblical scholar teach.
Providentially, I was interrupted by God Himself in my own "road to Damascus" experience. It wasn't as dramatic as being blinded by Jesus, but God graciously placed a mirror in my path and revealed to me the futility of my vain pursuit. Over the course of several months, I was deeply humbled and had to climb down a manmade mountain I had created so I could once again delight in my relationship with Jesus Christ.
A lot transpired (including a life changing trip to my old stomping grounds in Nigeria, where some of my insecurities were birthed), but now's not the time for that story. I will say this though, those months of letting go and letting God take center stage in my life, culminated in an unexpected experience where God spoke rather personally into my life. I don't know where you stand on your understanding of the operation of the prophetic-giftings today, but the Scriptures leave plenty of room for us to believe that God still grants individuals the ability to discern what HE's doing into the lives of others.
All that to say, my "unexpected experience" was a prophetic word spoken into my life by another pastor, Dr. David Ireland (Senior Pastor, Christ Church). It was at a regional prayer gathering hosted at his church. Hundreds of people were gathered and all the pastors were invited on stage to be prayed for. I went up on stage with zero expectations when God began to lay on pastor Ireland's heart a specific "word of knowledge" for each individual.
To each person, he spoke insightfully into what God had been doing and was doing. Then he got to me. As you LISTEN to the the audio clip below, keep in mind that this was during the period when God had already been trying to strip me of my vain pursuits in academia.
[audio file has been removed]
You should have seen the look on my face!
I wasn't freaked out, but I was slightly alarmed at the depth of insight the Holy Spirit had given him into the secret struggles taking place in my life!I had struggled for so long with insecurity about who I was not, academically, that I never took the time to be who I was called to be! In God's providence, Dr. Ireland's Spirit-filled words were exactly what I needed to hear to snap me out of the funk I'd gotten myself into.
Since that season of life, God has not only held true to His word spoken to me, but soon after, something new, something holy, something life-giving was birthed in me. My time in the Scriptures have proven to be more fulfilling and life-giving. Whereas I once studied to increase in insight, now I study to know Christ more. Incidentally, this blog (and all its theological content) is a result of all those experiences.
I share this now because I'm working my way through a book by Tim Keller, titled, "Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Ministry in your City." [A must-read, especially if you're in ministry]. In the first chapter, I came across a quote that struck a deep chord with me. In light of what God has brought me through, I resonated deeply with it and felt an obligation to adapt it visually. In the section on how sin has marred man's relationship with God, Keller quotes novelist, David Foster Wallace from a speech given to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College. The actual quote is captioned below the image. I added a few of my own words in the image.
Wallace nails on the head the section on worshipping intellect because during that season of my life when my one holy ambition was to start a doctorate degree in Biblical studies, I certainly always felt like a fraud, constantly worried that I'd be "found out."
Turns out, I was worshipping intellect.
What about you? What or who has become an idol in your life? What or who are you running after in hopes of finding fulfillment?
The pursuit of a Husband/wife?
As a former idol worshipper, I can assure you of this, whatever it is that you're running after, unless it's Christ Himself, not only will it NOT fulfill, but it is bound to come after you someday, to EAT YOU ALIVE!!!
I learned this the hard way, but by God's grace, I'm in a different place today. I still desire to grow in my understanding of God's Word and it's impact on culture, but my motives are different. These days, my aim in God's word is to know Jesus Christ more and to make Him known. Like the apostle Paul, "I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!"
I have of course, not arrived at this perfected state yet, but this one thing I do, I keep pressing on and pressing into Christ since He already initiated a great work in me. I have chosen to forget my former failings and leave my ugly past behind, focusing solely on what Christ has ahead of me in store for me. In so doing, I hope reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, has called me!
Friends, hear me on this, in Christ alone will you find life. And not just life, but life overflowing, immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine.
I pray that you would embrace the truth that Christ is FOR YOU!