By Fred Pruitt
There is a time for every one of us, if we are truly to discover the “abundant life,” that the Lord puts us apart from everything we have known before to be “godly,” and strips us bare naked. It seems like all is “vanity,” as the preacher said in Ecclesiastes. We look out into the world and all we see is vanity. We look inside ourselves and all we see is vanity. (Vanity is self-focus — and to see all as “vanity” is thus to filter everything through the only lens we’ve ever known, i.e., the lens of our individual selves, in which we see everything within and without as something “for me.” Including and most especially the “works of God.”)
This is a very right place to be, because it is the plan of God that we would be reduced in experience to death, because until we know our own death in the Lord, we cannot truly know His life. Dead people don’t do anything. They are not responsible for anything. They cannot respond to anything. They’re dead.
Christians by and large do not really know that they are dead people. They keep (and I include myself in this in past times) substituting “activity” for life, thinking if they will do these things, God will be pleased and bless them, etc. Now God does wink for a time at this ignorance, and because of God’s wink, many never really do come to the end of themselves, because God in some way blesses what they do. They see results. They see miracles, etc. In my beginning days I saw “results” and “miracles” of one sort or another. I won people to the Lord. And as I say, God blessed me in and despite my ignorance.
But after a time I wearied. Nothing was ever enough. I was never all that I thought I “should” be. All my thoughts were condemning to me.
And that is when the Lord put me into the reality of, “Be still, and know that I AM God.” To “be still” is probably the hardest thing to do for a human being and even harder to do for a believer, because we are exhorted continuously from the pulpit, Christian books, etc., to do the opposite of “be still,” and instead we are commanded to “do more!” But we must be reduced finally to nothingness, where nothing we can think of or imagine has any more value to us. We realize that in Christ we died. We may have known that in a conceptual way prior to this, but this is the time when the Spirit makes our death real, because ONLY the Spirit can bring us to this place. It is the place of Lazarus, dead in a tomb.
Only then do we begin to know the meaning of, “Be still, and know that I AM God.” This is the Spirit’s classroom, and He is the best teacher, because He has always been there, every step we have taken for our whole lives (and not just when we are born again), and His purpose has always been to bring us to this place where we experience this futility. We must be emptied out before we can truly be filled. What is emptied out is this false consciousness of ourselves as selves separate and apart from God trying to approach him by formulas, works, sacrifices, etc. We become in a very real sense, “nothing.” As Paul says in Galatians, “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”
Because what begins to happen when we come to this place of utter futility and death, we are then conditioned to recognize the Real Life that has been there all along, even while we were flailing around all those years “trying to work for God.” The Real Life is in us, and always has been, but we are all so full of ourselves and trying to make ourselves pleasing to God that it blocks our clear sight to the real truth of our inner life.
We have no independent life of our own, but were born to live God’s life. Like the moon, I have no light of my own, but as long as I try to create the light and make light come out of me, at best it is a cheap imitation of the Real. But when I realize that I have no light of my own, but that ANOTHER IS NOW Light in me, then I have found my true place in the kingdom. “I live, yet not I, but Christ.”
After realizing our utter death into nothingness, we begin to see, by the Spirit in us Who alone does it, that even though we no longer live, somehow we still do, but it is no longer just us living, but Christ within us as the Real Life expressed by our human lives, even as the moon reflects the light of the Sun, and is only manifest to us because of that Light.
So for anyone who might be in this moment seeing this futility and despair, take heart! You will not stay there, because even though the Spirit has literally taken you to hell that’s where you find Him in fulness at last. Remember, it says in John, that God commands the “light to shine out of darkness,” and, “If I make my bed in hell, lo, thou art there.” (Ps 139:8). You are then overwhelmed inwardly by the Life that fills all things, from the depths of hell to the highest heights of heaven.
So, to those who are caught in this place at the moment, they probably will be shocked that I say this to them, but I have to say of anyone in that situation, “Good!” God has you right where He wants you (He always has, but this is a very special holy time), and He will not leave you in Hell, even as the Father did not leave Christ in hell. Rejoice, for the barren one will bear many children! And such are you, my friend.
Take heart, because I tell you it will not be long until you will say, “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?” (SS 8:5). Who is this? It is YOU!