In Partnership with God—Part 3
From the Roadmap series
The choice to live by a Christian value system, to seek eternal rewards above immediate gains or satisfaction is one that requires commitment and sacrifice. It takes giving something up. Aligning our life to heavenly priorities may not come naturally or happen automatically just because we are Christians. We have to develop a personal passion for it, even if we don’t necessarily always feel that passion.
What are you willing to set aside or postpone or even give up altogether? Here is a story of a Chinese couple’s devotion to the Lord, which was manifested simply out of love and a profound sense of values.
Eric Fellman speaks of meeting a Chinese couple in Hong Kong, while traveling to China: A friend took me down a narrow alley to a second-floor flat to meet a man recently released from prison in China.
A Chinese man in his 60s opened the door. His smile was radiant, but his back was bent almost double. He led us to a sparsely furnished room. A Chinese woman of about the same age came in to serve tea. As she lingered, I couldn’t help but notice how they touched and lovingly looked at each other. My staring apparently didn’t go unnoticed, for soon they were both giggling.
“What is it?” I asked my friend. “Oh, nothing,” he said with a smile. “They just wanted you to know it was okay; they’re newlyweds.”
I learned they had been engaged in 1949, when he was a student at Nanking Seminary. On the day of their wedding rehearsal, Chinese communists seized the seminary. They took the students to a hard-labor prison. For the next 30 years, the bride-to-be was allowed only one visit per year. Each time, following their brief minutes together, the man would be called to the warden’s office. “You may go home with your bride,” he said, “if you will renounce Christianity.” Year after year, this man replied with just one word, “No.”
I was stunned. How had he been able to stand the strain for so long, being denied his family, his marriage, and even his health? When I asked, he seemed astonished at my question. He replied, “With all that Jesus has done for me, how could I betray Him?”
Most of us haven’t been called to endure hard labor in prison or to give up the person we love for 30 years. What we face each day is likely much more mundane choices, often nothing dramatic, and consequently we might not realize how crucial the choices we make from day to day may be to our future, both here on earth and in heaven.
We each need to seriously consider from time to time the health of our relationship with the Lord and how much we’re willing to commit to protect and nurture it. There are many activities that we can engage in that are simply time-consuming distractions, things that can take up minutes or hours that could be better spent in strengthening our walk with the Lord. Some distractions are not only nonproductive, but they can be detrimental to our spiritual growth.
Setting aside time or making time for spiritual pursuits is not the end goal. That is simply a means to an end. We have to dedicate time to building a deep, quality relationship with the Lord. We could be putting in the time but not accomplishing the goal if we’re not really connecting with Jesus.
Here’s a word from one of the great missionaries of the past which certainly makes clear his love for the Lord and his priorities when it came to connecting with Jesus. This is an excerpt from the diary of C. T. Studd. He wrote:
The Lord is so good and always gives me a large dose of spiritual champagne every morning which braces one up for the day and night. Of late I have had such glorious times. I generally wake about 3:30 AM and feel quite wide awake, so I have a good read, and then have an hour’s sleep or so before finally getting up. I find what I read then is stamped indelibly on my mind all through the day; and it is the very quietest of times, not a foot astir, nor a sound to be heard, save that of God.
If I miss this time I feel like Samson shorn of all his hair and so of all his strength. I see more and more how much I have to learn of the Lord. I want to be a workman approved, not just with a “pass” degree, as it were.
Oh! How I wish I had devoted my early life, my whole life to God and His Word. How much have I lost by those years of self-pleasing and running after this world’s honors and pleasures.
What a life the Spirit lives out in us when He possesses us. It is so simple, too. Just to remember, “I have been crucified with Christ.” I am dead. “It is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me.” My part is just to let Him live in me.
—C. T. Studd
C. T. Studd was so in love with Jesus, and so aware of his need for God’s Spirit, that he knew he had to have that time each day, and he made that sacrifice out of love.
That’s not to say that the goal is to get up at 3:30 in the morning to have time with the Lord. Each person is different, and what works for someone in their relationship with the Lord might not be so effective for someone else. There are basic components that help to build our spiritual life, such as reading the Word, praying, hearing from the Lord, meditating, praising, listening to uplifting music, or simply being quiet in His presence and resting in Him. But how you go about having quality time with the Lord is a personal decision.
Whatever you need spiritually, that is what you need to be fighting for, because that’s what’s going to help you progress and grow and be capable of fulfilling what the Lord will ask of you. It is your responsibility to make sure you get it.
It comes down to personal conviction and discipline in your relationship with Jesus. Obstacles can so easily come between you and that quality time. Only you can decide if you’re getting fed, nourished, and creating a spiritual vacuum for the Lord to fill.
With so many other demands for our attention, keeping our spiritual lives in focus is no small task. We live in a material world where much of what surrounds us is at odds with the spiritual life. We are surrounded by things we can see, feel, smell, touch, and taste; and in this environment, it is all too easy to forget that we are spiritual beings. Our souls need a connection with the power that created us. It is not enough to simply acknowledge that we are spiritual entities. We must physically stop, focus our thoughts, and set aside the never-ending to-do lists and the clutter that fills our brains, and then deeply imbibe the essence of the Spirit that makes us who we are. Doing so gives our spirits strength and flexibility, clarifies our purpose, and strengthens our resolve.
The Lord has made all that we need available to us. And it’s a good thing He did, because without that divine correlation that links our spirits to the source of our spirituality, our earthly works would be in vain and ultimately fail. Jesus said: “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV)
Here is a story that illustrates the practical benefits of time with the Lord.
A woman of nervous temperament visited the world-renowned physician, Dr. Howard A. Kelly. The cares of life threatened her physical strength and even her reason. Having given her symptoms to the physician, she was greatly astonished at his prescription: “Madam, what you need is to read the Bible more!”
“But, Doctor,” began the bewildered woman.
“Go home and read your Bible one hour a day,” the great man reiterated with kindly authority, “then come back to me a month from today.”
At first, the woman was inclined to be angry. But she reflected with a pang of conscience that she had neglected the daily reading of God’s Word, and “the secret place of the Most High” where formerly she had regularly communed with her Lord. In coming back to her God and His Word, the joys of her salvation returned.
When she presented herself to the doctor a month later, he said, “Well, I see you have been an obedient patient. Do you feel as if you need any other medicine now?”
“No, Doctor. I feel like a different person. But how did you know what I needed?”
Taking up his own worn and well-marked Bible, he said, “If I would omit my daily reading of God’s Word, I would not only lose my joy, but I would lose my greatest source of strength and skill. Your case called not for medicine, but for a source of peace and strength outside your own mind. My prescription, when tried, works wonders!”
If you’re already maxed out, busy beyond description, facing emergencies and crises, and just generally stressed and tired, then this challenge to grow in your relationship with the Lord might be overwhelming. It might seem too difficult or too much for you.
Well, you’ll be happy to know that God is not in a hurry. As was said earlier, your walk with the Lord is a lifelong process. You can’t expect to be an overnight spiritual wonder! You have to give it time and have patience. It takes time; it’s a step-by-step journey of progress.
Although God could instantly transform us, He has chosen to develop us slowly. Jesus is deliberate and methodical in developing His disciples. He prefers to work in incremental steps in our lives.
Be patient with God and with yourself. One of life’s frustrations is that God’s timetable is rarely the same as ours. You may feel frustrated with the seemingly slow progress you’re making in life. Remember, God is never in a hurry, but He is always on time. He will use your entire lifetime to prepare you for your role in eternity.
How you live your life—which means how you spend your time—is who you are, and that will create your legacy. The things that are important to you define your character, and what you give your time, attention, and finances to shows your true priorities. And at the end of your life, it will be obvious what you invested your life in and how you lived in partnership with God.
Rick Warren tells a beautiful story in which he remembers his father, who was a minister and a missionary. May we all continue to live our lives with such passion for the Lord, the lost, and the mission:
My father was a minister for over fifty years, serving mostly in small, rural churches. He was a simple preacher, but he was a man with a mission. His favorite activity was taking teams of volunteers overseas to build church buildings for small congregations. In his lifetime, my dad built over 150 churches around the world.
In 1999, my father died of cancer. In the final week of his life the disease kept him awake in a semi-conscious state nearly 24 hours a day. As he dreamed, he’d talk aloud about what he was dreaming.
One night near the end, when my wife, my niece and I were by his side, Dad suddenly became very active and tried to get out of bed. Of course, he was too weak, and my wife insisted he lie back down. But he persisted in trying to get out of bed, so my wife finally said, “Jimmy, what are you trying to do?” He replied, “Got to save one more for Jesus! Got to save one more for Jesus! Got to save one more for Jesus!” He repeated that phrase over and over.
During the next hour, he said the phrase probably a hundred times. “Got to save one more for Jesus!” As I sat by his bed with tears flowing down my cheeks, I bowed my head to thank God for my dad’s faith. At that moment Dad reached out and placed his frail hand on my head and said, as if commissioning me, “Save one more for Jesus! Save one more for Jesus!”
I intend for that to be the theme of the rest of my life. I invite you to consider it as a focus for your life, too, because nothing will make a greater difference for eternity.
We are so privileged to know the Lord. We know the truth, we have peace in our hearts, we have the treasure of God’s Word, and we have the privilege and calling of sharing His salvation and love with others. And when we’ve fulfilled God’s plan for us on earth, we know we’ll spend eternity with Jesus and our loved ones in heaven. And all of that as a result of our life partnership with God! It doesn’t get better than that! Praise the Lord!
Copyright © 2017 The Family International.