The following is a post from the blog of reKindle Associate Kathy Klassen's: A Little Bit of Leaven
I sat down to have my daily quiet time with a heavy heart, heavy from people’s insurmountable burdens. I wasn’t weary of carrying them but feeling like I had less and less hope to offer. I had walked with them for awhile and while initially jumped in as a bearer of hope, over time when things didn’t improve, my faith had deflated.
None of us have to go too far these days before we are rightly burdened with another’s story of disproportionate struggle. While as Christians we state that Jesus can do the impossible, and we do our best to step out and pray to that end, His timeline and delivery are often not what we’d hoped for. Too often we measure the success of our prayer life on how he meets our expectations and we come up wanting.
I’d love to say after being in the faith for half a century, waves of doubt and disillusionment are few and far between. However, I suspect that I will never be completely free of them. In fact as much as Jesus consistently nudges his disciples to have greater faith, perhaps what he loved the most about them was that they kept coming back to him with their doubts and disillusionments. Yes they were somewhat slow to learn, but they always came back.
The Bible stresses that faithfulness is God’s success gauge, not results. A results-oriented prayer life actually weakens your faith it doesn’t strengthen it. When my faith waivers, most often it is misplaced. I am probably trusting in how I prayed, or who prayed, or how long we prayed and so on. Paul encourages Timothy by reminding him that the only condition that God puts on our relationship with him, is that we don’t disown him. He expects us to falter. He knows our faith is weak. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
When God covenants with us, we are bound to faithfulness, not results. God cannot be unfaithful. He just can’t. “All that have ever trusted in God have found him faithful and all-sufficient, and none were ever made ashamed of their hope in Him!” (Benson Commentary on Psalm 92:15) Yes while we are in the midst of the trial and our trust muscle is quivering, even then, God’s track record is that He doesn’t give up on us. Everyone knew Peter and the other disciples had run away. They had betrayed, disowned, denied, and yet the faithful resurrected Lord still came after them. We are definitely getting the better end of this covenant.
The question is not how often does God answer your prayers, or how long you pray or even what words you use, but rather that you keep coming back. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having a regular place and time where you meet with Jesus. I have vivid memories of coming downstairs for breakfast before heading off to school and seeing my dad sitting in this one chair in our living room. He only sat in that chair when he was having his quiet time. Underneath the chair were loads of various commentaries shoved under it, the resources he would access to assist him in preparing himself for the day. He didn’t have access to the world wide web like we do, where we can, with one easy click, access multitude commentaries for one verse (check it out – https://biblehub.com/ ). My point is that in my home, we all knew that when he was in that chair we weren’t to disturb him. It was a sacred space and time.
Each of us needs a sacred place and time that we build into our lives in such a way that those around us know, when we are there we are on holy ground. What makes it holy is not so much what happens there, but more the one we are meeting with. His presence is the ‘holy’ and we are the ‘ground’ and well I guess we benefit from the ‘rubbing off’ effect. It takes time to build this kind of respect and credibility, but should be non-negotiable. My dad never drew attention to what he was doing. He never said, “Hey look at me, I’m hanging out with Jesus.” That wasn’t his style. It was a quiet discipline that he stuck to and somehow it rubbed off. My brother does the same and his kids the same. I recall one time when my nephew was having bad dreams. He went and laid down on the floor by my brother’s bed. When my brother awoke, he picked him up and prayed over him and put him back in his bed. A little while later he came again. This time he said to his dad. “Dad can you just put a light on for me in my room and get me my Bible and I can just read until I fall asleep?” I recall my brother saying to me, you know I never had any idea they were observing me so intently! Somehow just like I observed with my dad, my little nephew had woken up and seen his dad quietly reading, day after day, after day, and well subconsciously it left its mark.
Back to my quiet time. I am an avid journaler. So this morning, like all others, began with me pouring out my heavy heart, my frustrations and sense of hopelessness in praying for people. I love that I can have a melt down with Jesus and know that he isn’t loading up a barrel of judgement or criticism to blast me with. Like the disciples I too bring him my quirky questions and tattered faith. He truly is a safe place to go with it all – a holy ground.
I suspect we often misread the tone of Jesus exhortations to his disciples regarding their lack of faith. On the written page his exhortations can at times seem quite corrective and abrupt. However it would seem the disciples felt so loved by Jesus that these admonitions didn’t land as rejection. If they did, I doubt they would have kept coming back for more.
My regular reading that morning took me to Matthew 9, a chapter filled with healings, exhortations, deliverances and the like, a typical day for Jesus. Sometimes people ask each other, what does a typical day look like for you. For Jesus very simply, “[He] went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. (Matt 9:35)” I skipped over that to the next verse and then had to stop. Unbelievable. Jesus’ daily routine somewhat resembled mine this morning. His day was also filled with confronting people with impossible situations. And crazy enough His heart was heavy too, as he comments on how harassed and helpless and lost they all are. He even seems himself overwhelmed, so much so that he instructs the disciples to get help – he tells them to pray for more labourers. Jesus wasn’t a hero leader, drawing attention to Himself. He was desirous that others would join Him in His mission. More help was essential if we were to bring hope to the harassed and helpless.
Instead of feeling rebuked for my tattered faith, I was feeling understood and
encouraged. I found myself journaling fresh insights and prayers of my own. Hope began to trickle back into my soul. I am one of those labourers Jesus prayed for. As a labourer and disciple of His, I found my frustrations turning into quiet prayers: “Oh that I would see the sheep the way you do? Oh Lord fill my heart with compassion and with faith. Oh Lord, I long to be a bearer of good news, like you were.” All of a sudden ‘good news’ had a completely different meaning and scope for me. Instead of ‘good news’ being the salvation gospel message which I often referenced it to be, I saw it more as a personalized bite sized morsel unique for each on the road. The question that formed in my mind was more “What is the ‘Good News’ Jesus has for this one today?”
A couple days following this insight, I was scheduled to meet with someone I really didn’t care for. It happens! If I’m completely honest, I also had some preconceived judgments floating around in my head and heart. I continued on in my quiet time, doing what I often do. I stop and have a gander through my schedule. Who will I be meeting? I pause over each appointment and ask the Lord if there is anything particular He wants me to lean into. This morning my question had a new glimmer to it: Was there any ‘good news’ He had for me to offer today? As I got to this one individual, the one I wasn’t crazy about meeting with, Jesus had a very clear line of thoughts and questions lined up. I wrote them down. They were quite different than what I was thinking. My day progressed and when it came time to meet this individual and I entered that zoom room, I had a different heart posture entirely. As I leaned in with the ‘good news’ Jesus had laid on my heart, I was gob smacked. Those very questions just shaped the whole meeting and it ended up being so warm and friendly. It shifted my whole posture towards this person and I believe theirs towards me. Wow, this ‘good news’ thing really works! Jesus does really have ‘good news’ for everyone – a customized plate serving for each person, ready to be dished out if we are willing to be the waiters that deliver it.
I often feel helpless cause Jesus isn’t answering my prayers the way I want, but maybe my prayers need to change. Instead of me asking Jesus to do this or that, what if I began by asking Jesus ‘What is the Good News that you want me to share with this person.” The beauty of this question is that whether someone is harassed or helpless or even having a good day, we all are eager, ripe and ready for Good News, and that is what Jesus brings. Even a rebuke from the loving Jesus is good news.
I’m not sure what a typical day looks like for you. Can I encourage you to first of all grow in the discipline of securing a sacred space and spending time in it. Don’t make a big deal of it. Just do it. Make it ‘typical’ such that others looking on gradually recognize you are on ‘holy ground.’ Don’t be religious and rigid about it. You will miss days. Part of your spiritual DNA is to be faithful like your Father. You can do this. And one thing you know for sure, He won’t stand you up.