You knew him.
If you've been a church-attendee for very long this man is no stranger to you.
The man usually wore dark clothing & donned the pulpit every Sunday, opened the Bible & preached. The thing you most remember is how dull & listless the sermons were. You tried to blame it on the dull lighting, the rock hard pews & the drab surroundings but alas, what it was- was boring preaching, coming from a man who'd given up.
This man had quit studying years ago & was simply reciting his old manuscripts. Though at the time, you may not have had enough experience to call it what it was, something in you knew he'd lost the joy, the enthusiasm of imparting God's Word to the people.
Nothing new. Nothing fresh fell from the lips of this man. It was in his voice & written all over his countenance. But he had one special magic that couldn't be denied & no one could take it away from him; He could make twenty minutes seem like two weeks.
Be honest; you've known this man haven't you? He'd basically shut down. He'd lost the wonder. He was only in his early forties but he constantly used the word "old."
But having spent so many years in the ministry myself, it would be dishonest of me not to admit there have been times in my own life, thankfully short-lived, when I endured spiritual dryness & faced head-on my powerlessness to do anything about it. I have looked into the abyss of spiritual burn-out & oblivion & wanted desperately to run & hide from the agony of it all.
Not that I was or ever will be a Mother Teresa, but I can understand her "dark night of the soul," holding on by the fingertips & longing so very desperately for God.
Standing before the people more than once a week as a spokesman for heaven feeling deep within myself that I wasn't worthy. But also knowing unequivocally that God had called me to speak for Him & even, God forbid, if I went to hell I’d take that call with me.
I have known Mondays when I was so emotionally exhausted & adrenaline depleted it was hard for me to talk. Mondays are days when I am most vulnerable to discouragement & despair after wringing myself dry emotional & spiritually on Sunday.
There was a time when pastors always took Monday's off but that changed some years ago. Many ministers felt they'd be more productive to get into their offices on Monday & use the time to get organize for next Sunday since they couldn't relax anyway. As you know, preachers are only human. Their only hope of "staying alive" & viable is to study & pray & once again be engaged by the presence of the living Christ as He speaks into their hearts & the Scripture is illuminated by His Spirit.
Here's a simple illustration. I have an electric razor with a rechargeable battery as I suspect many men do. I can unplug it & walk all over the house shaving which I often do. But when the battery starts to run low, I can feel it & then I hear it as it slowly loses power & cutting ability. At that point I know I'd better get it back to the electrical socket in the wall & recharge the battery.
At least for me, this is a metaphor of life. We can all run for a short time without being plugged in, but sooner or later it catches up with us & we must get back to the source of power. The ministers I mentioned at the beginning of this article, many who have been & can still be some of God's most gifted men, just need to get back to the source of power that opens the mind, thrills the heart & causes us again to know the presence of the Living Lord.
In Luke 24, two disciples returned to Emmaus filled with despair with all that had happened in
Then later they broke bread together & then they recognized the "stranger" as the resurrected Lord Jesus. Then He was gone, but they knew He was alive. He'd been with them & promised to come again to dwell with them through the power of His indwelling Spirit. In a manner of speaking this visit from the living Christ helped those thoroughly dejected men to "stay alive," at least on the spiritual level.
Jesus showed up. Only in the presence of Jesus can we stay alive. What always saves the discouraged preacher or the downhearted Christian is when Jesus shows up & in his own wonderful way again stirs our spirit, & opens our eyes so that we again are aware of His presence at work -guiding, blessing, forgiving, & restoring hope. It's then that we see He is at work all around us in the lives of all whom we know & love. It's then & only then that the scales fall off our eyes & we're given glimpses of His divine grace at work everywhere. And to make it even more glorious, we see that even our perceived botching of the things we were trying to do for Him can so graciously & perfectly fit into the divine mosaic which is our lives.
God never meant for anyone to be this way. He created us with a sense of wonder -with the capacity for passion, yet too many of us, like the preacher, shut down way too early.
Are you living every day filled with hope & expectancy? Are you living life to its fullest?
So many people once were excited about the future but somewhere along the way life has knocked all that out of them & their appetite & "lust for life" has been lost. They used to pursue their dreams but then they hit some roadblocks, things didn't work out the way they had hoped they would & now they're just going through the motions. They've quit dreaming. They've quit pursuing their goals & tragically they've lost their purpose.
It happens far too often. People have a great salvation experience. They become excited, devoted & committed. Every time the church doors open they're there. They can't wait to get there. The whole new world of faith has opened for them & it's all too wonderful for words. For months, sometimes years all goes well. They have no problems with their faith. But suddenly they began to have difficulties. They begin to drop out. The luster wears off; the excitement wears down & their devotional commitments shrink. Soon they disappear & become names on a dusty church role somewhere. No one sees them. No one knows them anymore.
In our youth, we were filled with joy & energy but now many of us have to work on stimulating them both. Why does this happen & how can we prevent it? How can we keep our spiritual experience vibrant & zestful? How can we spiritually "stay alive?" The answer isn’t deep or difficult to grasp.
THE FUNDAMENTAL THINGS APPLY WHEN YOUR FAITH IS ON THE CRITICAL LIST.
First, you and I must...
We find some fascinating & helpful clues in the
We know the disciples saw Jesus do many great miracles. Yet we don't read that they ever asked, "Lord, teach us to do miracles." We know the disciples saw Him use His intellect to silence the sharpest legal minds, but we never hear them ask, "Lord, teach us your mental acumen." We know the disciples observed their Master’s awesome command of the Old Testament manuscripts, yet we never hear them ask, "Lord, teach us what you know about the law." We know He was a master of crowd control & fully understood what it took to keep the masses of human bodies under control, yet the disciples never asked Him to tell them how to handle the throngs of people who pressed in to hear Him.
But the twelve had watched Jesus closely. They'd seen Him rise without disturbing a single soul to steal away & commune with His Father. Behind all of His skills they suspected something else was at work. They knew His secret; His awesome power was embedded in His prayer life. So they asked, "Lord, teach us to pray."
Do you see it? Prayer was Christ's way of keeping His faith alive. Friend we all need prayer. Prayer is conversation with God. Prayer is friendship with God. Prayer is the way we keep the lines of communication open with God. The truth is, if we fail to pray our relationship with God grows dimmer & dimmer. We don't need a sanctimonious tone to talk with God. All we need is a willingness to communicate with Him & to be in His presence.
In these days of perplexity on all fronts, do you want to stay alive? Please read on.
2. CONTINUE TO GROW & LEARN
You & I must continue to study & think. In the Garden Jesus didn't exhibit close-mindedness. He didn't say, "Now see here God, we never did it this way before." No!! Our Lord was open to God's truth. He was open to God's will; He was open to God's direction.
One night a little boy fell out of bed. When his mother asked him his problem he said, "I think I fell asleep too close to where I first got in." The tragedy is that as soon as we stop growing & learning, at that moment our faith begins to shrivel, shrink & die. We are like plants in that we need light to grow. To keep our faith alive we must continue to pray, grow, study, think & learn.
In the aftermath of some of the airline tragedies in this country, the sad reality has been revealed that the pilots & co-pilots were not really up to date on some of the latest facts about the machinery they were using. It has yet to be decided where to place the blame but the tragedy still remains that many hundreds of innocents souls who wanted above all else to stay alive, were lost, perhaps due to nothing more than the crew simply not having a small piece of information.
3. DO SOMETHING- BETTER YET, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!
I have a book in my library that I read years ago called, "Do one thing different." I won’t try to recall much of it now but the gist of it is- if you want to affect change in your life, do just one thing different every day. Read a different newspaper. Surf TV channels & you’ll surprised at the good stuff that’s available. You'd be surprised what would happen if you simply changed from fried chicken to oven- broiled or baked chicken for one year. Or [And I've tried this one & it works -eat opened faced sandwiches for a few months... one piece of bread.]
One of the fastest ways to run out of steam is to operate as a lone wolf. We must love our enemies but we're under no mandate to work with them, if we're constantly having "dust ups." Work & fellowship with people who don’t have agendas & whom you can be peaceful with.
It’s been my experience that the fastest way to break through the wall of helplessness & hopelessness is to act. Do something. Don't just be a hearer of the Word, be a doer. It will keep you alive spiritually & even physically.
4. RETAIN YOUR CHILDLIKE SENSE OF WONDER
What do you think is the most important spiritual grace? If you say love, you'd certainly be on the right track, & you'd have the apostle Paul, the greatest Christian who ever lived- in agreement with you. But if you asked Jesus that question--what's the greatest spiritual quality we could possess, you'd get another answer. Can you guess what that answer would be? Wait for it.........it's the Child-likeness of "A little child."
Did you notice the answer wasn't--childish? It was the -child-likeness of a "little child." What's the difference in a child & a little child? If you've raised children you know very well that there's a great difference in a child at about four or five, than a child at about five or six.
What's the difference? Among other things, it’s a sense of trust. One of the biggest differences is-a little child is unimpressed with any one's station in life. They will play with other children of any color, race or creed & pay no attention to pedigree or who the other kids are.
But twelve or eighteen months later you have a different “kettle of fish." Now you'll hear things like, "My daddy is the president of a bank," or, "My daddy has more money than your daddy." You'll probably hear them talking about their new item of clothing & what the brand name is. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus called a child to him one day & said--Unless you become as a "little child" you can't enter the
5. DON'T QUIT-NO MATTER WHAT!
Let me ask you a very important question; did the Wright brothers quit? No! Did Charles Lindbergh ever quit? No! Did Joan of Arc ever quit? No! Did Jesus, or Paul, or James or Daniel or Elijah ever completely quit? Of course they didn't quit. Did Thorndyke Mckeester ever quit? The reader may ask, "Who on earth is Thorndyke Mckeester? I never heard of him!!” Of course you never heard of him. He quit!
In the early church, there was a leader who was close to the Apostle Paul. He was talented, bright, capable & full of potential. But we hear few sermons about him because he quit. His name was Demas. Some of the saddest words in the New Testament are found in 2 Timothy 4:10—Demas ……has deserted me….
Friend, we have to make up our minds to stay with it. Demas was destined for greatness but he got lost in the shuffle & quit. Don’t quit on life. Don’t quit on the church. Make up your mind to stay with this faith pilgrimage whatever the cost. It takes a lot of prayer, a lot of obedience, a lot of determination & a lot of grit & grace to stay alive.
6. CELEBRATE SMALL VICTORIES
Your arthritis may not be totally healed but is it better? Then praise God for it. If you have fewer migraines than you once had, praise God for it. It may sound insignificant but still it’s important that you do it. Celebrating incremental victories is important in all of life. If you’ve only lost an inch in your waist-line, celebrate it & believe God that soon you’ll be able to look at that side view of yourself in the mirror without getting that sick feeling.
Elijah saw a cloud so small it could be compared to a man’s hand but he respected it & kept praying until it turned into a deluge of rain.
David encouraged himself with the fact that he had killed a Bear & a Lion & it gave him the faith to kill a ten foot giant with a rock. Next...
7. ENJOY LIFE
George H.W Bush may not go down in history as a great president but every time he jumps out of a perfectly good airplane to parachute- I cheer him on from the safety of my couch. What a guy.Isn't he in his nineties now? While he’s jumping I’ll be fishing.
Each morning when we rise we’re faced with the decision to either save the world or savor the world. It really makes it hard to plan the day. My suggestion is, -do both. First pray & ask God for directions, then smell the roses. The Bible tells us…. God has given us all things to enjoy. I’ve said it before but I truly believe I’ve had more impact on the lives of people [if I've had any] by being jovial & of good cheer than with a lot of sermons I’ve preached. The sermons are not only important they are imperative but it’s also important that we spread good cheer whatever the endeavor we’re engaged in.
I know things don’t look good right now folks but Messiahs coming & He’s coming soon. Soon & very soon the right foot is going to step into the stirrup & the King of Kings will swing into the saddle. Things will be set right & …he shall reign forever & ever. Praise His Name!!
8. DEVELOP NEW INTERESTS
I never touched a computer until I was in my sixties & you’d be surprised how much I’ve learned. A few years ago if you’d have told me I’d be writing a blog I would have thought you “off the rails.” I want to say fully alive, don’t you? Writing keeps me praying and thinking .
9. STAY IN THE WORD
If you expect to be able to withstand the shaking that’s coming you will have to be anchored in the Word of God. We will have to study the Word & build a dynamic relationship with God.
Some simply won’t stay alive when hell begins its all out vile assault against the faith. Some will leave because someone said something to hurt their feelings. They have spiritual myopia & can’t see further than their neighbors faults.
Some won’t stay alive to Christ because of what the church treasurer, a deacon, the choir leader or the pastor did. It really doesn’t matter why they leave; it just means they weren’t rooted enough in the Word to survive the shaking.
Some will leave the faith because of what an unscrupulous TV evangelist did or said. But mainly people will lose heart because they don’t read the Word of God & read it every day. It’s God’s Word that will fortify the heart & mind against error.
I don’t have to tell you there are going to be dark days ahead. Back during World War 2, Ruth K. Jones was reading 2 Timothy 3:1—This know that in the last days perilous times will come…. Moved by the Holy Spirit, she picked up her pen & wrote;
In times like these, we need a Savior. In times like these we need an Anchor. Be very sure, be very sure, your Anchor holds & grips the solid rock.
Where is your anchor today? Is it upon the solid rock?
We’ll not only stay alive but thrive in the worst of times if we’re anchored upon the Word of God, &
Christ Jesus, the only solid rock.