I remember seeing something on television when I was a child which illustrates how we often try to manage our own lives. Did you ever see “The Ed Sullivan Show”? Even if you aren’t old enough to remember watching Ed Sullivan, you probably have seen this act in reruns. There was a man who took plates and long rods, measuring around ten feet in length. He would put a plate on the end of a rod and spin the plate with his hand. When he got the plate spinning, he would stand the rod straight up with the plate still spinning on top, high up in the air. He would then gently shake the rod in such a way as to keep the plate spinning on top.
He would then take another rod and plate and do exactly the same thing. Then he would take another. Then another and another. Eventually the man would have about a dozen rods with plates spinning on top all going at the same time. He would frantically run back and forth across the stage, shaking the rods and keeping the plates going. He could keep all of them going at the same time. It was amazing to watch.
That man’s act reminds me of a Christian who is enslaved to living in the wilderness of empty religion. Religion demands that we keep all our plates in the air. The plates represent the things of value from our own religious perspective which we believe that we must sustain. So the religious legalist spends his whole life running back and forth, “shaking his sticks” in an effort to manage his life. Surely none would argue that this is the life Christ died to give us! What a waste His death would have been.
Meanwhile, our loving Heavenly Father sees us wearing ourselves out with this performance we call “the Christian life.” Moved by compassion He determines to deliver us from the frenzied routine we have mistakenly thought of as “Christian living.” So he walks across the stage of life and starts knocking our plates off. One by one He causes them to fall, shattering at our feet.
It’s interesting to see how the body of Christ reacts to this plate breaking movement of God. I’ll bet you never read about that movement of God in Christian magazines. How would you like “The Breaking Revival” to come to your church? People’s lives would all start falling apart so that Christ could become their sufficiency. Different parts of the body of Christ respond to God’s breaking process in different ways. The Baptists conclude that they need to rededicate themselves to try harder to keep their plates in the air the next time. The Pentecostals begin to rebuke the demon of plate breaking. The charismatics lay hands on the plate and say, “In Jesus’ name, be healed!” The Presbyterians conclude that the plate must have been predestined to break from the foundation of the world. The Methodists form a committee for a year long study on the causes of plate breaking and to determine whether it was a sin for the plate to break or simply the inherent predisposition present in the plate since the day of its creation. The Salvation Army responds, “When you think about it, aren’t we all really broken plates?” It isn’t my goal to offend Christians of every denomination. I hope you have a sense of humor and can see that what I want to point out is that while different parts of the body of Christ respond to our problems in different ways, we all have the same tendency. We fail to see that God may be the One who is causing our problems to come so that He can bring us to the place where we give up on our self-sufficiency and begin to totally trust in Him alone.
God wants to bring each of His children to brokenness, a condition which exists when we have given up all confidence in our own ability to manage life. Before we can cross over into Grace Land, we must come to the end of our self-sufficiency and recognize that we will never accomplish victory by our own strength. To try is nothing more than a religious performance and God loves us enough to spoil our performance if necessary.