The phrase “living on the edge” applies to a type of life in which a person is often involved in exciting or dangerous activities. Most people who know me would never associate the term with me. Perhaps four decades ago, when I threw caution to the wind, quit my job and travelled around the world for several months with very little cash in my pocket. Or perhaps even thirty years ago, shortly after I made a firm commitment to the Lord, then began to frequently venture into hospital rooms and nursing homes to lay hands on comatose and dying patients and see them rise up in the name of Jesus. But then I got too smart for my britches: I attended Bible school for a time, graduated even from minister’s candidate school, studied the Word, I worked under and with some very respectable ministries and gained a lot of head knowledge – but my heart knowledge seemed to fizzle. I had entered a very “safe and comfortable” period of my life.
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus commended the church of Ephesus for its many good qualities: “ … you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.” But then He pointed out a fault, that many of us have also been guilty of: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love…” Revelation 2 And that’s where I felt I was at.
Literally for years my main prayer has been, “Lord, remove my heart of stone and give me back that heart of flesh I once had. You promised that for Your people Israel, after they had drifted away from You; do that for me.” Fortunately, my head knowledge taught me that most men and women of God at one time or another had gone temporarily cold as I had. Elijah became one of my favorite Bible characters. I identified with him – not because of his holiness or prophetic gift – but because of his often waffling character. One moment the “man of God” was responding obediently to the command of God and seeing the miraculous take place; the next he was filled with doubt, loneliness, insecurity, and running like a frightened rabbit before the threats of another human being. Yet in the end, God still sent a chariot of fire to carry him to his eternal reward.
I’ve had a number of experiences in the past few weeks where the Spirit of God was so strongly present that I could physically feel Him in a way that I hadn’t for years. I’ve sensed His presence in small group meetings and in large formal services. I’ve sensed it while watching men preaching on YouTube videos and while praying and worshiping God in private. And just a week ago, God woke me up at three in the morning with the words, “Live on the edge,” adding “of eternity,” I think just for clarity. I jumped out of bed and headed to my computer to record the thought before it slipped my mind. And as I began to type, more and varied spiritual thoughts flowed out, many of which I was able to capture.
To me, “living on the edge of eternity” means living with an awareness of God’s presence and leading and not being afraid to do whatever He calls you to do, wherever He calls you to do it. Living with an awareness of God’s presence and leading is a state most of us have difficulty handling – at least consistently. And those of us who have experienced it often fall into one of two misguided tendencies.
In times when the Spirit of God is so strongly present, one tendency is to not want to let go: to bask peacefully in that presence and do nothing else, while you are ministered to and filled up. I believe that’s why men and women (especially in times past) would go off into cloistered monasteries or to caves or to live on mountain tops – to bask in God’s presence. They had discovered the spiritual truth that prayer and worship and scriptural meditation literally takes a person into the throne room of God. And there’s always a temptation to not want to let go of the accompanying charismatic feelings of peace and joy and agape love.
Such a person who closes him or herself off from the world’s distractions to just pray and worship their Creator are no longer of “any earthly good” for God. One day we’ll have the opportunity to just bask in God’s presence, when we get to heaven. But the primary reason for members of the Church to remain on earth today is to reach people, build believers and reflect God to the unsaved. Just before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed that the world would come to know Him through the words of His followers (you and me). “I do not pray for these alone [My disciples], but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me….” John 17:20-21
In contrast to the tendency described above is that some over-extend themselves in the doing of the good works of the Church under the Spirit’s leading. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be our comforter and to give us rest – not just to guide us as we minister to the unsaved and hurting. Those who don’t see that part of His nature will either wear themselves out or will look for another avenue for rest. They may intentionally shut themselves off from the still soft voice of the Holy Spirit, for a time, by watching a football game or American Idol, or by going shopping. I’m not condemning anyone, for I’ve been as guilty as the next person. And maybe it’s even necessary that we take these silly breaks occasionally.
The bottom line is that we need to learn how to live on the edge (of eternity) even when we are going about doing our daily business. We need to learn to balance a life of prayer, worship and a study of the written Word of God with the execution of “The Great Commission” to go into all the world and preach the Good News of salvation. Of course, it’s something easier to tell others to do than to do it yourself.