I have so many goals, and so many things on my “to do” list, that I am always hurrying and trying to get as much done as possible, but I recognize the need for systematic rest in my life to get refueled for more work and accomplishment. Today I slept in to 9:30 am, did a few things on my “to do” and then took a nap. I did ride my stationary bike for an hour and lifted weights for 30 minutes but then I took another nap. I felt very energetic during our Saturday night service and expect that I will tomorrow as well. It is nice to work hard and get a lot done but it sure feels good to have a day like today to relax and rest.
Finished the “Five Days of Prayer” tonight. We prayed Monday through Friday, 10 hours each day, 5 to 10 am and 5 to 10 pm each day. I prayed 38 hours and tonight I am really tired, but it is a good tired. There is a tired where you feel a half a step from dead, that is no fun, there is a tired that is more discouraged and depressed than lacking in energy which is a real bummer, tonight’s tired is like what you would feel after you run a marathon and you won! You would be dead dog tired but my oh my you are so excited you hardly feel the exhaustion. That is a good tired, a fun tired, a satisfied tired. My Dad used to say, “feeling tired at the end of a day of hard work is a good feeling, means you did something with your life”! Devoted, sacrificial, prayer that takes long hours, effort to stay focused, and self discipline to get up really early and not fall asleep during prayer or quit early, has that “I won a marathon” feel to it. I believe that this concerted kind of prayer is the most neglected and undervalued and unappreciated activity on the planet earth. I also believe that no activity comes close to producing the eternal results in the lives of people as this kind of praying does. I think the reason I feel so fulfilled in spite of the weariness is that in my heart God has made it known to me the true value of five days spent like the last five. I will see the value when I get to heaven and see the people there because of it. I can’t imagine what that is going to feel like.
When I was younger I went through several periods of time when I didn’t have much faith in God’s existence. As I tried to resolve this tension in my mind my method was intellectual, that is I read books to try and find answers that seemed sure. It was during the last serious questioning of all that I had been taught that a speaker at a conference that I was attending said “you really will never be absolutely confident in your faith by reasoning. You have to experience God and you will never do that unless He chooses to reveal Himself to you. God’s promise is that if we seek Him we will find Him and if we draw near to Him then He will draw near to us.” He went on to say that “If God draws near to a person that person will know without a doubt that God exists”. I determined that I would seek God with all my heart and do all I could to draw near to Him so that I could really experience Him as much as if I took a trip to heaven and saw and heard Him. The speaker said “God waits to be wanted, and a casual, half hearted attempt at seeking Him would not work.” He suggested that those who were serious would do well to take several days, maybe even a week, and spend most of it praying and reading the Bible. I took 3 days, got all by myself, fasted, read the Bible for 20 minutes or so, then prayed for awhile, then wrote in my journal for a bit, read some more, took a nap when I got sleepy, but didn’t sleep more than a couple hours at a time. I continued that routine for 60 hours. There wasn’t any sensational experience with God, but there was a settled confidence that came into my heart that I have never lost. JBC is in the middle of a “Five Days of Prayer” for missions. I prayed 10 hours both Monday and Tuesday and that same sense of God’s presence filled me. That phrase, “God waits to be wanted” is a super important one in my life.
2002 to 2007 I traveled to Sierra Leone, West Africa 12 differed times for the purpose of helping in starting churches, schools and doing seminars for the pastors of the churches that we started. During these years of going into Sierra Leone more than twice each year A significant attitude change developed in me. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest and undeveloped countries in the world. People live in small houses made out of mud with dried leaf roofs that leak rain and they own very little. They went through years of civil war when thousands of people were killed and mutalated and most recently an Ebola plaque that again killed thousands. What happened in me was I realized how much we fuss, fight, argue, and worry about things in this country that really arent that important. We all have a value system impressed in our heart that controls how we act, talk, spend time, and what we worry about. I haven’t traveled to Sierra Leone near as much in the last 5 years. Last night from 5 to 10 pm for our “Five Days of Prayer” for missions we prayed about Sierra Leone, and I started reliving many of the experiences, sights, sounds, and conditions that I had during those few years of being there so much. I again realized, there really aren’t that many things in life that are super important, just a few, and I need to focus my life on those.
Watching Denver win the football game against the Patriots this afternoon reminded me of the Bible verse in 1 Corinthians 9 when the Apostle Paul said “in a race, everyone runs but only one wins”. In life everybody loses at something periodically if not often. The experience of losing is painful and because of that many stop competing, trying, striving, wanting, dreaming, and setting goals for themselves. It seems easier to just respond to life, role with the punches, take what may. It may be painful to lose, but it is also fulfilling to win, to accomplish something great, to do something that matters. Not everybody will win a football game but anybody who really wants to and works hard at it can do something that matters, that makes a difference, and the longer we set our minds on accomplishing significant things with our life the more “trophies” we will add to our life “trophy case” before we finish this life.
I am reading a very good book right now called the “Intangiles of Leadership”. The author who is a professional coach for top CEO’s and other leaders has studied successful leaders for years and has a list of 10 “intangible character traits” of every great leader. One of them is the ability to know accurately and honestly what their weak areas in their life are. The author said most think they do good in this area, but the fact is most are terrible at seeing their own flaws even when those flaws cause major conflict in their lives, even when everyone around them can see the flaws easily. The author said the only people who do this well are the ones who have proactively and diligently sought to learn the skill and discipline of reflection and self examination. Anybody can learn the skill, but most choose not to because they are more comfortable being naive about their weaknesses. I don’t like the idea that I have a flaw in my character that I am unaware of. Sounds sort of like preaching before a large audience with my zipper down and not knowing it. I am going to work on this skill and find some friends who will help me.
The word bless in the Bible basically means to be full of joy. Joy that comes from God in spite of circumstances. Most people think that if their circumstances were better they would be happier. That is probably the most destructive lie that the devil has gotten people to believe and live by. The phrase “blessed is the person” is used almost 100 times in the Bible and it is always used with a condition attached. That is, God’s blessing or joy is given by Him to the person who meets the condition or obeys Him. Many people are unhappy not because of trials but because they are not experiencing the blessing of God in their life because they are violating the conditions He has attached to His blessings. A key requirement for God to fill us with His joy is to be a peacemaker, Matthew 5 says, “blessed are the peacemakers”. Both Psalms 34:14 and 1 Peter 3 say “seek peace and pursue it” the result being that “you will inherit a blessing from the Lord”. The characteristics of a “peacemaker” is that they are not argumentative, they are gracious in their speech, they don’t gossip or slander, they don’t demand their own way, they don’t take offense, they forgive others easily and quickly, they honor others with their words. Sounds like the kind of person I would like to go fishing with. Sounds like the kind of person God will bless with great joy.