Several years ago Andy recommended a book in his monthly Messenger article called “Knowing the Heart of God”. The book is an arrangement of writings by George MacDonald with some editing to bring the language up to date. I knew of MacDonald as an inspiration to C.S. Lewis, in fact he appears as a sage character in Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”. MacDonald was a Scottish novelist, poet, and Congregational minister who had a far reaching impact on famous authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Madeleine L’Engle, G.K. Chesterton, Lewis Carroll, and Mark Twain. I had read two of his fantasy works “Fantastes” and “At the Back of the North Wind” because of his connections to Lewis (and because his out-of-copywrite works are cheap). But I had no idea what was in store for me in “Knowing the Heart of God”. What he wrote scared me. MacDonald’s challenge to true discipleship in Christ was so direct, so unvarnished, that I felt unsettled. It stripped away my excuses and threatened my comfortable “faith”; so much so that, to my shame, I stopped reading after two chapters.
I can do no better than to give a small taste of MacDonald:
Do you want to live by faith? Do you want to know Christ aright? Do you want to awake and arise and live, but do not know how?
I will tell you:—Get up, and do something the master tells you. The moment you do, you instantly make yourself his disciple.
Instead of asking yourself whether you believe or not, ask yourself whether you have this day done one thing because he said, “Do it”, or once abstained because he said, “Do not do it”. I do not say that you will not have done, as a matter of course, this or that good thing that fell into harmony with the words of Jesus, but have you done or not done any act, as a conscious decision because he said to do it or not?
It is simply absurd to say you believe, or even want to believe in him, if you do not do anything he tells you. If you can think of nothing he ever said as having had consciously influenced your doing or not doing, you have no good ground to consider yourself his disciple.
This week I’ll be praying for the courage to pick up this book again. “Lord, give me the courage to be your disciple. Strengthen my faint heart and enliven me to do your will and not my own. Make me obedient to you, not just when I agree with you but in all things, for I know my wisdom is nothing compared to yours. Amen.”