Have you ever put off something that you knew you had to do, that you knew would make everything better once it was done, but you just didn’t want to go through what was required to get it done? How about with a relationship with someone you truly love? For some reason, intentional or not, knowingly or not, things are just not right and you miss the intimacy of the relationship, but are reluctant to try to make things right because you know deep in your heart you will have to humble yourself, will have to go back and rehash some old issues, and will eventually have to ask for forgiveness and be willing to forgive if the valued relationship is to be restored and able to grow? You really want things to be right, but you just dread the process because it is going to be personal, painful and require your undivided attention.
Well, I recently had to face up to such a relational issue that I wish I had done long ago. The week before Thanksgiving, I took the time to do a personal prayer retreat that was much needed and overdue. This was an uninterrupted, deliberate, desperately needed time for me to be alone with God. I had longed for this time for the last three years, but deep inside I dreading the experience and the process because I knew it was going to get really personal.
Though I have been serving the Lord as hard as I could for over 18 years in full time ministry, I realized that somewhere along the way, I had lost God’s peace, had lost the joy of His salvation, had worked myself in ministry to the point that I was at the end of my rope physically, emotionally and spiritually. I had neglected the most important relationship of my life—my relationship with my loving, faithful and compassionate Father, Lord, Savior and friend, the very One I was trying so hard to serve.
Secondly, I had neglected, abused and taken for granted my relationship with the second most important person in my life: my wife Lisa. I had been rude, irritable, hateful, disrespectful, and selfish and had not loved her as I should and as she deserved. As I continued to allow the Lord to search my heart, He showed me that I had also neglected and taken for granted my family, friends and neighbors—all because I had been too busy to have time for right relationship with Him, which was the key to having right relationship with them.
Thirdly, I was doing all that “I” could do to serve the Lord Jesus and make His love and forgiveness known to the nations. Seven days a week, I worked hard, diligently and relentlessly trying to get everything done the best I could. I was running so hard, so fast, trying to do the work of the Lord, that I totally neglected the Lord of the work. I was doing ‘all’ that ‘ I’ could do, but that in itself was the problem—I was not taking the time to be intimate, to know, to hear, to enjoy, or to be empowered by His Holy Spirit. I was trying to serve Him in my own strength and my own wisdom.
I would ask others to pray about this or that, I even threw up numerous requests and occasional praises to God during the day, but I wasn’t spending the quality or the quantity of time with Him and in His Word, that was deliberate, intimate, personal, relational, and un-distracted. With all the ‘noise’ in my life, my family and the ministry, I wasn’t able to hear His voice because I wasn’t spending the time with Him required to have ears to hear His voice.
I know His voice because I have heard Him many times before when I was in tuned to it through spending time with Him. But now, I had become so busy, so distracted with all that had to be done in ministry, I just ‘assumed’ that since He knew my desires and my efforts to serve Him that He would do what I needed Him to do without my spending time with Him. I was working hard and long, but was not asking for His guidance, strength or help, nor was I listening for His voice. I was trying to follow His Word, I was trying to live a Godly life, trying to make the ministry as effective as possible, but I was doing it in my own strength and my own wisdom.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit reminded me that what God most desires and requires of me if I am to truly honor Him, effectively serve Him, and allow Him to be glorified in and through my life, is that I maintain a true, intimate, personal relationship with Him on a daily basis. Only then can His will be done in and through my life and His joy, peace, and power be manifested. Only through that intimate personal relationship can my life be pleasing to God and can I have peace and contentment in my own life and in my relationship with others.
I am so thankful that my God loves me enough, that He would allow me to get to the point of being so desperately hungry for His touch, for His voice, and for His peace and a renewed anointing of the Holy Spirit, that I would call out to Him, ask for and receive His forgiveness, and be renewed in my relationship with Him and with others. Best of all, He did all this without shaming, leaving, forsaking, or giving up on me! What I had been dreading—God the Father had been longing for. What I was ashamed and reluctant to admit, He already knew and was willing and able to forgive with open arms.
Our greatest need and our greatest work are to know Him, to walk with Him, to hear and to obey Him. In doing so, He will live His life and accomplish His purposes in us and through us!