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Descent into Nothingness

I knew practically nothing of all the preparation and ready oversight that God had for me (and for all His people) when I was first forgiven* or when I received the baptism of the Holy Ghost five years later.* But He knew. God knew just what step needed to be taken at every point. He knows yet. If I will let Him have His way, He will guide me step by step until this life is over and I am with Him forever. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.”* (Psalms 37:23) Praise His name! This scripture was written by a man who also was guided by the Lord, and he stated that God delights in the the way of the good man—the way in which God leads him. Just as loving parents delight in the progress of their baby, their child, their adolescent, their grown children; so God delights in the way of His dear children as He guides them and sustains them along the pathway to heaven.

My mother and father were attending a congregation that had a rich heritage of truth. My parents rejoiced in that truth to an extent. To rejoice wholeheartedly, they would have had to possess more of the power of God in their souls. Both of them believed the doctrine of entire sanctification, for they came from the Nazarene Church, and they had been taught Bible holiness all their lives. They were very loyal to that teaching and believed in it with all their hearts, but they knew not the power of a complete consecration, a sacrifice salted with fire. They meant well and possessed some power from God to live victorious over sin, but they did far too much of their own thinking and reasoning and were completely ignorant of what it meant to be led by the Holy Ghost step by step. They feared God greatly and prayed for guidance and desired it, and I believe that God helped them in their groping, but He had much more for them than they had found at that time.

God really had changed me when I was saved, and they rejoiced in that. They knew what that meant by personal experience in their own lives. When God began to deal with me about walking closely with Him, they were agreeable to the idea, but, as I look back on it, they did not really understand what was going on, and they were puzzled and uncertain of the steps that were taken. Sometimes they were outright apprehensive. They really loved me and desired the best for me, but they did not really know the way of the Lord for His consecrated children and were consequently afraid I might go astray. They were also humble enough to realize that I might be on the right track, after all, and they tried to be careful in how they interfered. How I wish that they had possessed the experience! How much better things would have been for them! Surely the way of the Lord and the very Word of God Itself is geared to a wholly sanctified life. How much God wants each of His children to choose to be wholly His, so that He can guide and shape each one as He knows is best!

In the home of my parents and under these circumstances, God laid hold on my heart with great power. He took me down, down, down into a vision of my littleness and lack of inherent worth that defies description in human language. As I write these words, scripture passages and verses of songs flash though my mind, and they are all true and say what I am trying to say, but I despair of painting in words a picture of just how emptied and stripped of self God would have us to be. Here are some of the words in my heart:

“And He taught me that I must
Then be prostrate in the dust,
That with Him if I would reign eternally,
Self within must all be slain,
And I live with Him again,
Just the holy life my Lord now giveth me.”*

And how this scripture speaks to my heart! “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do NOTHING.”* (John 15:5) Oh, have you faced the great NOTHING that you are and that you can do WITHOUT HIM?

It is so. It is so true. All else is so worthless. Without Him I can do Nothing. Brother Orr put it this way:

Drawing nearer to God includes getting a deeper consciousness of our own nothingness. The Lord recently helped me to feel my helplessness, insomuch that I saw I was helpless to realize my helplessness unless God helped me by His Spirit to realize it. The nearer we get to God, the more clearly we see His greatness and the smaller we become. Oh, how infinitely little! We simply sink into insignificance. We make such a tiny speck on the scroll of creation that we can hardly be found with the most powerful magnifying glass. A mere weak worm. Just one light stroke from the hand of God and we are blotted out. The very greatest man that ever lived is utterly nothing. Oh, shame on the poor mortal that thinks himself something! When we see God in His greatness, we see ourselves less than the least.

[Charles E. Orr; The Hidden Life, “Drawing Nearer to God”]

Yes, helpless even to realize our helplessness. So great is our need that we cannot see it without help.

I would not have survived spiritually without this descent into nothingness. I am a man whom the Lord has helped, and I was a boy whom the Lord helped. That is my testimony. That says it all. As I acknowledged my condition and put all my hopes in God’s willingness to use this mere weak worm, the weak was made strong. I continued and still continue weak, but the strength of that gracious Spirit can more than compensate for the infinite weakness of the infinitesimal me. Truly God can use a worm to thresh a mountain (Isaiah 41:14-16). “For when I am weak, then am I strong.”* (2 Corinthians 12:10)

The loving hand of God gently, but firmly, tugged at me to choose to forsake the ambition of my family, their pride in accomplishment and intellectual prowess. And little by little, through the great patience and mercy of God, I responded. I gave up my professional ambitions in music. How good God was to faithfully deal with me about something I loved so much! I had thought I would be a musician who glorified God on the concert stage, so foolish and vain are the desires of the natural flesh. I imagined that I would perform magnificently, then give some humble testimony of how God had blessed me, etc. How ridiculous! How little I knew what I was doing or what I was involved in! Sorrow and suffering played little part in these imaginations, but God knew the way that I should take, and His plan for me called for me to voluntarily renounce every imagination that exalted itself against the obedience of Christ and to bring every thought in captivity to the will of God for me (2 Corinthians 10:5). Little by little, I learned the meaning of the poet’s words:

“I give up all sinful pleasures and mirth,
Everything, yes, that would bind me to earth;
What will all these fleeting pleasures be worth
When the flames of God’s wrath shall break forth?”*