Faith. Part 4
“So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17).
There was one man in the 17th century who took God at His word very seriously, and learned to hear God speak to him on a regular daily basis. Before analysing our N.T. text, it will be good to learn a bit about this man.
His name was Nicolas Herman (1614 – 1691), and he lived near Luneville, in eastern France. After a period in the army, he had a strong conversion experience that set him on a unique spiritual journey. Leaving the army, and after a few years working as a valet, he decided to apply to the Carmelite Priory in Paris, and was accepted as a lay brother, having no education to carry him into the more elevated ranks of the clerics. He became known as “Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection”, and spent nearly all his days in the Priory, working in the kitchens, cooking, cleaning, running errands, scrubbing pots, often enduring the scorn of his superiors.
But Brother Lawrence was not moved by this. His whole desire was to build up a relationship with his Lord, whom he had grown to love very dearly.
“I began to live as if there were no one save God and me in the world,” he said, “fixing my mind upon his holy presence, recalling it when I found it wandering from him. This proved to be an exercise frequently painful, yet I persisted through all difficulties.”
In the process of time he recorded that “there is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”
At first it was his persistent practice of waiting upon God and learning to hear His voice during the quiet times in his cell that he called the “painful exercise,” but gradually he found that he could hear the Lord speak to him in the midst of the clatter and noise in the kitchens, which caused him to say that his soul “had come to its own home and place of rest.”
In time his winsome character, and loving ways attracted many to him, and he was able to share his experiences with them, thereby helping them on their spiritual journeys. He spoke about the great Lord and King of his life. “But this King, filled with goodness and mercy, far from chastising me, lovingly embraces me, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the keys of His treasures and treats me as His favourite. He talks with me and is delighted with me in a thousand and one ways; He forgives me and relieves me of my principle bad habits without talking about them; I beg Him to make me according to His heart and always the more weak and despicable I see myself to be, the more beloved I am of God.”
Is this the unique experience of just a favoured few of God’s children? I would suggest not. My own experience in this respect leads me to say that I believe God desires such sweet and close communion with His children, but that few contemplate going the way of Brother Lawrence. Shall we therefore rob God of the pleasure He obtains through deep fellowship with Him? Have we looked at it in that way before? Are we moved to become “spiritual athletes” in order to obtain the “gold” in the “heavenly Olympics”, and hear the Lord say “Well done, good and faithful servant”?
(His little book entitled “The Practice of the Presence of God” is available from Amazon & AbeBooks)