People can often get in the way of what is best for them. This post explores that idea and will open your heart to your need to “stand aside” and let God be God in your situation and circumstances.
This topic was brought to focus for me recently when, due to a misunderstanding, I went to a meeting to lead the program and ended up on the sidelines. That incident was simply a misunderstanding, but the Lord used it to challenge my heart about the process of letting Him sideline me.
To help bring the issue to life I have written a literary excursion, creating a fictional case of someone being asked to ‘stand aside’. I trust this helps to give dimension to the issue for you.
A Literary Excursion
He said, “Stand Aside!” But I was in full swing. Seven thousand people sat in the palm of my hand. I had their rapt attention and I knew I could escort them into the spiritual glories they expected to see.
But He said, “Stand Aside!” I lost my place and stumbled to a halt, mid-sentence. Some people chuckled, thinking this to be one of my many cleverisms. I hung in indecision. The throng waited, attentive and expectant.
I had been building to a point for many minutes and had not resolved it. It felt wrong to leave the audience unresolved. And there was so much I could share that would illuminate their understanding, as it had done for other audiences around the world. This crowd had come to hear ME, not to have me stand aside.
Yet the voice persisted. “Stand Aside!”
I had heard the voice before, but never yet obeyed. Glad-handed accolades and large offerings followed my popular meetings, but I felt the salty sting, that I had let each audience down. The Master had something in mind and I did not know its dimensions. Letting go was not my natural style. My carefully crafted, finely honed display was worthy of the highest honours. Consistency and cogency underpinned my fame.
“I believe there is something unique which God wants to do tonight. And I believe I should have you stand in His presence and wait upon Him.”
With that I stepped aside and bowed my head. The crowd shuffled to their feet and a deathly silence engulfed the auditorium. My thoughts raced to see what I could do to enhance this moment. I had now taken the heroic step God had been pressing on me for almost a year. I had “done it!” and now I waited, expectant to see what God would do.
“Stand Aside!” He said again, making me conscious that I was still the only person on stage and thus I commanded their focus. My mind conjured an image of the towering presence of Jesus standing behind me, but unseen because my own presence distracted their view.
I stepped from the platform and stood at the front row, speaking soft words of devotion to the Lord, as encouragement to the crowd. Gradually others joined in. I earnestly wanted them to see the Risen Christ and to hear His voice, even as I did. “Lord I commit this crowd to You. They are Yours. Do with them as pleases You.” My silent prayer lifted them all before the Lord.
“Stand Aside!” He commanded. But What? Had I not already stood aside? Had I not already even left the platform?
But, Ah Yes! I was still leading them through my microphone. I was still asserting my leadership and influence through the very devotion I prayed to encourage their own.
I clicked off the microphone. Then I quietly moved backwards, away from any place where people might look at me or to me to lead them.
To my delight the audience gradually entered in. I heard people praying, some pouring out their heart in adoration. Others had tears for reasons I could not tell. Some knelt. The Lord began to do quite a reasonable job, without me.
I handed the microphone to the chap at the rear sound desk and simply watched the huge crowd. I was half inclined to pray earnestly that God would move powerfully on them all, but there seemed to be an echo of the command to stand aside, still reverberating in my heart. So I did nothing. I simply watched proceedings.
It felt weird to be in such a meeting and not to be controlling the pulse. I felt out of place with the Lord in control. That was the position I had always sought and held. I felt redundant.
While I couldn’t say it was clearly from the Lord, there was a sense to me, standing at the back, that I could stand down. I was relieved of duty. I was discharged for the day. I was not needed and my presence was not required. Hoping no-one would see me. I slipped out to the coffee shop and sat alone.
With these unexpected few moments of privacy I rang my son-in-law and congratulated him on his recent promotion. I rang my wife and she caught me up on a frustration that I needed to resolve for her. It would have to wait until my trip was over, but it was noted. After a quick “hello” to Bradley and a sweet catch up with Lee-anne, I wondered how God was getting on with His meeting.
Part of me wanted to go and peep back into the auditorium, but I felt restrained. It was not my meeting any more. It made no real difference to me what God did with His business and His people. The meeting, the church and the people were all His business. He wanted me out of the way, and so the rest is up to Him.
The silly thought even danced through my mind that Jesus might get stuck at some point and have to call me back in, because I could get through to these people in ways He could not. Then I was stung with the blasphemy of such a thought. “Lord, if You need my help tonight, then You are not King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I thank You for disposing of me and taking charge of Your people in Your church for Your glory.”
The overflowing gratitude with which people greeted me as they spilled out of the meeting encouraged me that God may have handled the whole thing rather well. But some chipped me for not finishing my story and resolving the piquant interest I had aroused. I made a mental note not to play my audience next time. I distracted them with my stories and took their eyes off the Lord.
“Next time”. Those words were pregnant with uncertainty. Would there ever be a ‘next time’? Just how serious was God about His command to “Step Aside”? I realised I had a lot of praying to do before I stood before a crowd again.
Are You Getting It?
How many pastors, parents, Christian friends or concerned citizens take matters into their own hands? Isn’t it the case that we send people to Bible Schools to get degrees so they will know how to preach, run the church, serve God and so on? We applaud people who are clever enough not to need God any more. We envy them and aspire to be like them.
Yet when we take matters in our own hands we risk displacing God in the experience of those we are trying to reach or help. We can completely block people’s view of Jesus and we can persist in doing things in human energy, while God is waiting for us to get out of the way, so He can do divine things with His people.
Juan Carlos Ortiz told me about his own experience in Argentina of learning how to step aside. I’d like to share that with you in a future post.
John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” – and that deserves a review in light of the “Stand Aside” message.
Then there’s the old discussion of “God in a Box” and that relates to this topic too. When we insist on doing God’s work for Him, we have effectively put Him in a box that is smaller than our own talents and abilities.
Then we could discuss the issue of New Wine in New Wineskins. When we perpetuate what we know and can control from our own skill set and experience, we are sticking with our old wineskin. How do we then allow God to bring us a new wineskin? What would happen if God tried to put new wine into those meetings we run so well the way we’ve always done it?
Your Mission, Should You Decide to Accept It…
Your Mission may be Mission Impossible to you. Your Mission, should you choose to accept it, is to Stand Aside. Get out of God’s way. Stop distracting people with you, and with your programmed and set service for the Lord. Get out of the way, so people can see Jesus. If He is lifted up He will draw all men to Himself.