A gentle man of joyful spirit, Brother Lawrence shunned attention and the limelight, knowing that outside distraction “spoils all”. It was not until after his death that a few of his letters were collected. Joseph de Beaufort, counsel to the Paris archbishop, first published the letters in a small pamphlet. The following year, in a second publication which he titled, ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’, de Beaufort included, as introductory material, the content of four conversations he had with Brother Lawrence. At the end of this first conversation Brother Lawrence said that, if my purpose for the visit was to sincerely discuss how to serve God, I might come to him as often as I pleased; and without any fear of being troublesome. If this was not the case, then I ought visit him no more.
Brother Lawrence was a man of focus. As a lowly brother he was visited by an archbishop’s counsel. He greeted him respectfully but as to further visits, he was interested only in sincere discussion on how to serve God. Just think the impact on our lives if we limited our activities to those which dealt with how to serve God. No watching silly television programs or movies, following sports, or Fox news; just focusing on how to serve God. We would not care about the standing of our acquaintances only what they could teach us about serving God.
Lawrence left the world and joined a monastery where, he believed, he would have the best opportunity and instruction on how to serve God. We would probably consider such focus to be “radical” or “extreme.” But doesn’t it simply reflect what is really important?
Think about your day, the last 24 hours. How much of what you did improved your service? How much was a waste? Maybe Brother Lawrence had the right idea or at least a better idea?
Focus and learn to serve.
10 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. 11 And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain.” Exodus 19:10-13
Our concept of God isn’t big enough or holy enough. Imagine a God so holy that His people were told not even to touch the mountain on which he visited. It’s true we are privileged to call God, “Abba” or “Daddy” but that should not diminish Him in our eyes; rather it should make His love for us the more remarkable.
We are privileged to communicate with God and to enter into the Holy of Holies, no longer requiring a High Priest, having Jesus as our Great High Priest. Again this does not reduce who God is; but rather enlarges what our privilege is.
There is no wonder that we struggle to convey the enormity of our God or the horror of sin to a world that we have, somehow, taught that God’s our buddy – that He certainly wouldn’t condemn anyone. If we are ever to properly convey a vision of God to a hurting world; we have to have that vision ourselves.
God’s love for us is not impressive; if we think of God as a buddy. It’s awesome if we remember He is the all holy and powerful creator of the universe.
Do we fear God yet recognize His love for us? Do we understand the extent of His holiness; yet know that He has made a way for us? Do we really appreciate the enormity of the task we have been given: to go and make disciples? Do we understand the power we have been given, for He would not give us a task He has not equipped us to perform?
God is great and awesome; and the good news is all the better for it.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:14-17
Do you remember pencil marks on a door post? It was the way our parents measured the growth of children. How do we measure our spiritual growth? It is dangerous to think that we must be growing just because time is passing. It’s not like when we were kids and physical growth just happened.
Here are some signs of growth:
1. A spiritually mature person is increasingly aware of their own sin and weakness. It’s not unusual for Christians to be aware of sin…in others. The mature Christian realizes he is weak and sinful. The more he matures the more that reality grows.
2. A spiritually mature person responds to sin with quick repentance. When we are new as Christians we are slow to recognize sin and slower still to deal with it. We go through a grieving process. At first we deny the sin and then we are shocked by it. We may try to negotiate: Is it really sin? If it is, is it really that bad? The mature Christian recognizes sin for what it is and realizes that the only proper response is repentance.
3. The spiritually mature person has an increased desire to obey and a reduced attraction to sin. This is a secret that Brother Lawrence learned. By practicing the presence of God, by realizing He is with us always, we are reluctant to sin in His presence and desirous of obey His word.
4. The spiritually mature person experiences an increase in struggle. The walk gets tougher, not easier, as we take it more seriously. The more we are concerned about matters of sin and obedience, the more we recognize our own sin and weakness.
5. The spiritually mature person experiences an increase in joy. With more struggle and maturity comes more joy. The closer we are conformed to the image of Christ, the closer we are to the person we were meant to be. With that comes more joy in our walk.
Grow in maturity and grow in blessings and joy.
Today was a great day. I noticed that recently my Wednesdays have been great days. I attribute this, at least in major part, to my Friendship Group which meets on Wednesday mornings at 6 a.m. at the McDonalds near Rouse’s in Youngsville. If you are not part of a Friendship Group please consider joining up with one. Ours is for men (who else is up and free to go to Mikey Ds at 6 a.m.). But there are groups for women and groups with no membership restrictions. We review the Daily Bread reading for the day and talk. We pray for each other and have coffee. It’s not a complicated format but it’s great.
In a world where most communication is by text or on Facebook, real face-to-face communication is worth more than ever. And such communication with Jesus at the center can be the centerpiece of a great day. Brother Andrew recognized that truth. At the beginning of his spiritual life, he spent time alone in the dessert but eventually opted for monastery life. While not the most social of lives, he lived in constant fellowship with Jesus and his brothers. We can mirror a small piece of that if we can, on at least one day a week, spend some time with others who consider Jesus the rock.
Join a Group, have a great day and be blessed.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.James 1:2-4
Brother Lawrence’s greatest testimony may not be in his words but in his actions. When he found himself crippled for life and in acute, constant pain, he did not retreat from service, but rather recognized his circumstances as an opportunity for God to be glorified.
This is so foreign to our current “victim” culture. We are bombarded with commercials that tell us if we have suffered anything in life, we may have a right to monetary compensation. We have lost touch with the concept that God is glorified in our weakness. Our faith in God has incredible potential to make life complete.
Don’t be mistaken. It wasn’t easy for Brother Lawrence to cook and to serve with constant pain in his back. There is no reason to believe the pain went away. But by practicing the presence of God, this man was able to focus on the Great Positive and deal with the nominal negative.
Can we get to the point that the appearance of a trial is cause for joy bringing with it knowledge that God is prepared to perfect and complete us through it. My knee has been bothering me for three months now. It is not an issue of constant pain. It is most disturbing at night when I’m trying to go to sleep. If I am busy during the day, I hardly notice it. This must be something like Brother Lawrence discovered. If God is in the room visiting with you, wouldn’t you pay attention to him. Wouldn’t everything else fade into the background: distractions, pains, discomforts? If we can learn to recognize the constant presence of God, nothing else will matter.
Let God reveal Himself and be blessed. Lemons are but one ingredient in lemonade.