Steve's Story: The Good Humor Man
Excerpt from Rescued from Hell, Chapter 6: Back on Planet Earth
Being led by the Lord is one of my favorite parts of this new life, just as being misled by the enemy is one of my most hated. Ironically, you can hardly have one without the other. Following the Spirit is always a bit of a guess, because it is based on faith. Perhaps that's why so many want to confine being led by God to just following His written Word, as if that alone were all we have to go by. But the thing is that when you know exactly from His Word what you are meant to do, that is an order to obey, not a leading to follow. I don't want to draw too sharp a contrast between Word and Spirit where guidance is concerned, because whenever the Spirit reveals the Word clearly we are being led by the Spirit; and the Spirit we are seeking to be led by will never guide us in contradiction to the Word. However, just consider this: The Word commands you to give alms (charity) to the poor, but it doesn't say which poor person to assist or how much. For that you need discernment and a leading of the Spirit if you want to stay "in step" with the Lord.
This same approach to life runs throughout the whole of scripture. As great as His Word is - He even set it above His Name - God speaks to us in many more ways than scripture alone: We are guided by His Example (Jesus' life is a visible word - a word shown to us); His voice (a word spoken to us, however we may receive it); His Spirit (a word living in us, however He may draw us). It is easy to see that there is a progression of increasing intimacy from following the Bible's words to imitating Jesus' example to listening for His voice to yielding the whole flow of our daily life to His Spirit. Jesus gave us - His Bride on earth - more than a book when He pledged Himself to us as our Husband. He gave Himself to us.
If Jesus had given us a "more complete" manual, I am sure that on page 3,157,068 or so I would have seen the exact warning I needed to avoid the bone-headed thing I did as a raw recruit. Only a few months old in the Lord and still wet behind the ears, I had joined a small enterprising group of fellow charismatic believers who were doing deliverance work with the hurting people in our area. June and I wanted to learn how to do what Eddy had done for both of us. Plus, we needed a spiritual "laundromat" for all of the people we were leading to the Lord, including our employees.
On this particular evening, our leader had just cast out the spirit of anti-Christ from one of my employees. The New Age was rampant in those days, and I wanted proof he was clean and in the clear. So I asked the Lord, "If You got it out of him, how about putting it on me so I'll know." Almost immediately my train of thought began streaking off in some pretty wild directions! It was no trouble to command the spirit to leave me, but I didn't relish the mind-bending thoughts ("Jesus isn't who you think he is…") and yucky feelings I had experienced (ego inflation, skepticism, anxiety, etc.), or the way the group was laughing when I told them what I had done. I promised the Lord I would stick to the way of faith in the future. Nevertheless, I was fearless, and I was learning. See what I mean? The mis-leadings, the learning and the true leadings all get wrapped up together in a package called "trial and error." As long as you take cautious steps when the ice is thin, you usually will do fairly well.
I wouldn't blame you if you wanted more guarantees, but only if you hold back from playing the game because you're not getting them. What is guaranteed is this: He loves us no matter what, has inexhaustible mercy for us, is the greatest Teacher in the world, and can bring a greater good out of whatever has gone wrong than you or the devil put into it by way of sin and error. It is also guaranteed you will make mistakes at this. So don't quit. I remember once in my very early weeks, going to the Lord in deep anguish of heart: "Jesus if You don't give me more of Your Spirit, I know I'll keep getting things wrong and sinning against You. I don't want to do that!" I'm quite sure I heard Him say, "If I gave you any more of My Spirit, you would be up here with Me and I want you down there!"
What can I say? Guidance is on-the-job training and the Lord is used to having to provide it for us. Here's an encouraging fact from history: The very year Babe Ruth set the longest lasting homerun record was the same year he led his league in strikeouts (1923). So keep swinging. The Father loves it! He played an image in my mind once when I was grousing about how bad my batting average seemed to be. Had I ever jumped out of bed as a child on a fine Saturday morning and ran to my parents so they could assign me chores for the day? They would have dropped dead if I had. I ate quickly and raced out the door before they could nab me. So don't you think I'm very pleased when any of My children run to Me asking what I would like them to be doing each day? I love His sense of perspective!
I also needed guidance when it came to speaking in groups. I was terribly shy and had been my whole life. But I "knew" that the Lord might give me something to share and - despite my fears - I truly wanted Him to use me in that way. So I would pray, pray, pray whenever these opportunities came around. In the beginning the guidance was tremendous - the word would come insistently, my heart would pound, my whole body would tense, the Holy Spirit would practically shake me until finally I would speak it out. People seemed to appreciate it. This was great! After a while though the usual signs and symptoms diminished. I would walk out without sharing, then feel deflated for missing the opportunity. So I carried my question to the Lord, "Why aren't You letting me know the word was from You like You used to? You know - the shake, shake thing." His reply? Do you really want Me to shake you like that all your life? He explained that He had been shaking me in the manner He had in order to get my attention in the beginning, but wouldn't it be better for me to learn how to live by more gentle prompts? I laughed in complete agreement.
Nobody makes me smile more or laugh more than Jesus. He can be so funny! One day I was driving through traffic and praying away in tongues. I was frankly bored with the few words I had in my prayer language, so I just started making up sounds and threw them into the mix hoping they would work. Immediately the words formed in my mind: What did you just say? "I don't know. I thought You would know." No, it was just gibberish. I was hoping you could tell Me! I broke up laughing over that one and had to fight to stay in my lane! He so often corrects me with humor and interrupts my thoughts with humor that I am amazed how believers can be so sheepish in saying things like, "Well, I think God has a sense of humor." Really? All we have to do is look in the mirror to get it. He made us in His Image and that surely includes loving a good laugh just as much as we do - or rather, infinitely more. Trust me, at least on this one: I have proof!
When I came to faith the only kind of humor I had going for me was sarcasm. I really did have absolutely nothing to laugh about during those years in hell, unless it was in a mean-spirited way, which I knew not to put on display very often. Obviously, sarcasm and cutting remarks are not the Lord's kind of humor. His playfulness makes everyone want to laugh and join in - no one is ever made to bear the brunt of His jokes. So I committed my sarcasm to the flames. I told Him I would nail my tongue to the cross where that was concerned, and from henceforth I would just have to be the un-funniest guy in the room, unless He did something about it.
One day in a Christian meeting, praying for "a word" as usual - something that I was always dead serious about - I saw some words go by my mind's eye as if on a ticker tape; they were so apropos to what was going on that I had to laugh inside. Then the thought occurred to me, Why not share it with the group? Which is exactly what I did, and everyone broke into gales of laughter. My new career in Christian comedy was born! Just kidding. My gift of humor isn't that good, but it is light years beyond what I had, and best of all, it flows with an effortless grace since it is coming from Him. That's how I know that God has a sense of humor. Because I do - now that He lives in me.
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