Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hearing from God with Martin Luther King

I'm a day late to the Martin Luther King Jr. party, but it's a raging party that is still going strong. I'm a huge admirer of Dr. King. As I was reflecting on him and his impact yesterday, I realized that a theme in his life intersects with a point I am making in my listening book.

To elaborate on this theme, I will quote from page 59 of an MLK biography called Bearing the Cross, by David Garrow. On January 27, 1955, King had just come out of a temporary stay in the Montgomery, Alabama prison. Later that night he received a threatening phone call, one of hundreds he had received, but this one got to him. The caller vowed that if he and his family were not out of town in three days, he was going to shoot him and blow up his house. In despair Dr. King considered giving up his work.

I sat there and thought about a beautiful little daughter who had just been born....And I started thinking about a dedicated, devoted and loyal wife, who was over there asleep. And she could be taken from me....

Something said to me, you can't call on Daddy now, he's up in Atlanta a hundred and seventy-five miles away....You've got to call on that something in that person your Daddy used to tell you about, the power that can make a way out of no way...

And I bowed down over a cup of coffee. I never will forget it...I prayed a prayer out loud that night. I said, 'Lord, I'm down here trying to do what's right. I think I'm right. I think the cause that we represent is right. But Lord, I must confess that I'm weak now. I'm faltering. I'm losing my courage. And I can't let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing my courage, they will begin to get weak.'

Then it happened:

And it seemed at that moment that I could hear an inner voice saying to me, 'Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo I will be with you, even until the end of the world.' I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No never alone. No never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.'

'Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared.'

It is a remarkable story, and the night that Dr. King called the most important night of his life. What I want to draw attention to is the fact that this profound encounter with God that he had actually did nothing to change his circumstances, yet changed everything.

The more I talk with people, and reflect on my own experiences, the more I discover this theme in the way God works. Yes, God provides guidance and specific direction, but more often the indwelling Voice does a work on our fears, our doubts, and our perspectives. He removes the veil on our hearts and shows us that he is near, he is powerful, and he is merciful, and so often that is all we need to know. We are still weak and fragile, and have no more control than we did prior to his revelation, yet somehow that doesn't seem to matter anymore. Our eyes have seen the glory of the Lord and it doesn't matter whether we make it to the Promised Land.

What's your experience with the inner voice that strengthened Dr. King that night?