I've come to the conclusion that we don't have time to waste. God needs us to wake up, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. We've only got one shot at this life (go ahead, sing Eminem), we're not buddhists, we don't come back again, this is it. Yet so often we live without eternity in mind, like there's going to be some second chance. Your second chance came when Jesus walked into your life. Now go and grab life by the 'you know whats' and get out there and LIVE.
As a pastor I so often hear people say; ‘I’m burnt out’, ‘over burdened’, ‘too tired’, ‘too weary’, ‘I’m running on empty’… you fill in the blank. Have I been there? Absolutely. Have I found a solution to the problem? Yes.
As much as I hate to admit it, at the end of last year I might as well have been the person saying those lines to you, until God woke our family up, quite literally. I had gotten by on grabbing "quiet times" when it worked into the schedule, instead of making it the first thing in my life. Granted, there are seasons, babies, life changes, and so on that bring on a stretch, but there really is never an excuse to not put God first.
In December of last year, Paul felt God ask Him to do a 40 day fast of various things, one of those things being sleep in the morning. I sat there in awe of his decision, and totally pumped for him, but in that moment sleep was still my treasure and I made a conscious decision to continue to let the kids be my alarm clock each morning. Well, for two mornings that worked. I would hear my husband get up, pour a cup of coffee, turn on worship music in our study, and begin to pray. It was inspiring to say the least, but I was still clutching my pillow and dozing back off into dreamland… Until God woke me up.
On that second morning, I felt a still small voice whisper to me… “Do you remember when I asked you to start getting up early with me each morning… Two years ago? Well that hasn’t changed. I just went silent on the matter until you obeyed the last thing I asked you to do.” (I mean, c'mon... I was pregnant with my 4th child, pioneering a church, had 3 other kids, was leading people, busy busy busy... In my mind I had every excuse to keep sleeping the next two years away...)
BAM! I was awake. Awake in the physical, and awake in the spiritual. I jumped on that 40 day fast with my husband like it was going out of style. And today the fast is no longer just a fast, it has become an every day part of our lives. I just have to tell you, taking back the mornings in our household has literally changed everything. I can sleep when I'm dead.
Of course, the attack from the enemy since January has been relentless (What's new? He hates us), but the fact that we’re full of The Spirit, finding rest in His Presence, and digging out wisdom from His word each morning, well...it just keeps spilling out into every situation and decision we make. We're not perfect, but we are more aware of our maker and His presence in our everyday lives. We are on the offensive and no longer on the defensive. We may be physically tired sometimes, but we are more spiritually alive and awake. If I leave it up to chance, garbage will most likely be the product of eating ‘whatever’ spiritually comes my way as each day goes by. You'll begin to fill yourself with whatever your hungry for. If that's God, you'll produce fruit in his likeness. If you don't know what you're hungry for, you'll eat whatever is in front of you, and the product will be 'whatever'. We must be intentional.
Paul and I didn’t need to maneuver the schedule in our personal lives, or even change the church schedule. We didn't need to stop doing anything we were doing because changing a system wasnt going to fix what was broken. We were just missing the essential ingredient. So we began to put first things first. We started BEing in the presence of God, and BEing who we needed to BE so that we could DO what we were called to DO and quite frankly what we needed to DO. We can’t truly thrive unless we carry the presence of God into every situation of our lives. So often we leave His presence in church after Sunday, or go after it only in our quiet times... His presence is readily available to us whenever and wherever we go.
Most people stop DOING what they’re doing thinking that will solve the problem, but neglect fixing the “BEING” piece of the puzzle. If you don’t learn how to BE in the midst of every season you’ll just keep quitting everything God is actually asking you to DO. Don't get me wrong, I know there are seasons where we're doing too much, so please don't hear what I'm not saying. Boundaries and the word "no" just need to be used before you get to that point (or from this point on).
Just look at the story about Elisha, and the widow with the empty vessels... As long as she kept bringing in the empty vessels, God kept filling them up.
2 Kings 4:1-7 NIV
4 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”
2 Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
3 Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
5 She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”
But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
This woman was in crisis, empty, and ready to die. She had levels of stress that would have kept her out of the presence of God, striving to come up with a man made solution to save her and her sons life. But along comes the man of God, and asks her what he can do to help her, just like God does every day if you only incline your ear to hear.
He asked her what she had in her house... And she replied, "nothing except a small jar of olive oil."
You see, what do you have in your house? I'll answer for you; you have you, and you have time. Yes you. We've got to stop saying "I'm too busy" and start to set some healthy boundaries. Set your alarm earlier and go to bed earlier. Give your time to God in your emptiness and just watch how He will fill you up to overflowing. If you fill your emptiness with a whole bunch of other things that are temporary fixes, there is no room left for God to fill you up.
It’s a wake up call to all of us that think we can survive through life, instead of thrive IN it. As Christians we’re not called to survival, but abundance. This story can be a wake up call to all of us if we'll let it.
We have got to DO what it takes to FILL UP with the OIL that is accessible to all of us. Don’t be found wanting, when you have a God who is willing to fill you up.
Each and every one of us have much to accomplish on this earth, bringing the Kingdom of Heaven into every sphere of influence that God has given us. But we can’t bring the Kingdom, if we aren’t aware of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like… That’s why I love the parables; they explain to us the huge shift that took place when Christ came. Even Jesus had to get away on His own to be with His Father, so He could know what to do with and for the multitudes that surrounded Him. He only did what He saw The Father do. He knew that He had to BE in The Fathers presence so He could know what to DO.
Our generation runs the risk of being biblically illiterate, lacking revelation, only having ideas and philosophies about God. That's not relationship, that's religion. To be honest, I don't want to hear your ideas about God, I want to watch God move in your life. That only comes from taking time in His word and in His presence. We need to not pick and choose our favorite parts of the Bible, but understand it in full, and then bring the full Gospel to a world who truly needs the good news that we have to give them.
So... It's time to wake up. I could have every excuse not to, and can even think of a few off of the top of my head, but I don't want to get to the end of my life and say "Sorry God, I was too tired to hang out with you." Live with eternity in mind...
We truly don't have time to waste... This IS your one shot.