How Much Of God Do You Want?
“I had become someone I never thought I would become. I was in complete darkness…I would sleep in my clothes for as long as I could. I began wishing that I would die. The emotional pain was unbearable.”
Comments made “before” a man fully surrendered his life
“I only wish that everyone could feel the love that I experienced. I’m able to forgive others and genuinely love them. I feel like I have been re-born…elusive peace has now been found.”
Comments made “after” he fully surrendered his life
“I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk, or a snooze in the sunshine…I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy three pounds of God, please” (Wilbur Reese).
Recall what I’ve said before, that one of the most difficult challenges associated with pastoring is not sermon preparation, leading a church, or taxing counseling appointments; it’s witnessing the tragic results of spiritual dehydration—watching people die spiritually with living water just steps away. Most are not Desperate for More of God. Sadly, we are too busy and too self-absorbed to drink of the living water of which Christ often spoke. The excuses are broad, the solution is narrow: “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst” (John 4:14). Very few are truly hungry and thirsty for God.
In today’s culture, there are countless enticements that pull us away from a fully surrendered life. It is my firm belief that, second only to salvation, the fully surrendered life is the most important aspect of the Christian life…to truly know God: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Very few of us ever experience this close relationship with God. The fully surrendered life involves things such as humility, dying to self, vibrant prayer, and heart-felt worship. This isn’t meant to discourage, but to convict. Conviction is a wonderful gift from God used to turn the heart back to Him.
The Puritans used the phrase, “The same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay.” In the same way, we can allow the Word of God to soften our hearts, or we can resist and become hard as stone. Let’s be honest: how many can truly say like Jeremiah, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9)? How many have truly experienced Jesus’ words in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water?” How many can truly relate to “times of refreshing” found in Acts 3:19? How many really understand the words of John the Baptist when he cried out, “After me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11)? Many have head knowledge, but they’ve never truly experienced the presence of God.
On New Year’s Eve 2011, I spent some time alone in a cabin to slow down, reflect, and pray—to renew my mind. The importance of time alone with God is invaluable. Renewal begins and ends with prayer. To renew means “to reestablish something after an interruption.” Life can easily interrupt fellowship with God. We are renewed through prayer and time alone with Him—mighty fillings of the Spirit often occur after extended times of prayer.
During this private time of revival, I was reminded that the overall spiritual condition of Westside Christian Fellowship will be a reflection of my prayer life. E.M. Bounds believed that without prayer in the pulpit, “The church becomes a graveyard, not an embattled army. Praise and prayer are stifled; worship is dead. The preacher and the preaching encourage sin, not holiness…preaching which kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer, the preacher creates death, and not life.” You may ask, “What does this have to do with me; I’m not a pastor?” Everything! Prayer moves the hand of God. The same could be said about your home. The overall spiritual condition of your family will be a reflection of your prayer life. The fully surrendered life and prayer go hand-in-hand.
Moses spent time on the backside of the desert before leading Israel out of bondage. Elijah heard the still small voice of God alone in a cave. Jacob wrestled with God in the stillness of the night and his name was changed to Israel. John the Baptist lived alone in constant prayer with God. Jesus often retreated to isolated places for extended times of prayer. How then are we to lead the church, and our families, in these dire times if we do not cultivate a strong prayer life? The depth of our relationship with God is in direct proportion to the depth of our prayer life. Prayer matters. The fully surrendered life begins and ends with prayer. We must be Desperate for More…