If I Only Had the Time…
Most of us know the old saying, “If I only had the time…” Now and then God graciously puts us to the test. A two-month sabbatical, given through our ECC executive leadership team, is now mine to steward. It officially begins next Sunday, October 22, 2017. For years I have found myself muttering under my breath, “If I only had the time, I would…” and a long litany of possibilities comes out of my big, fat mouth. “If I only had the time, I would read more. If I only had the time, I would write more. If I only had the time, I would rest more. If I only had the time, I would take longer walks. If I only had the time, I would travel some. If I only had the time, I would stop and smell the roses.” Well, that last one is not exactly me, but you get the idea. My intention, with Sue’s help, is to unplug from the rhythm of work, both at ECC and LCU. I will not be in the church office or the university classroom. In full disclosure, I desperately need this time away. Forty-one years of ministry has taken a toll on my spiritual aquifer. It is time to allow the Holy Spirit to refill my inner world. All of this time business has prompted me to ponder excuses we sometimes make for not cooperating with the Spirit in our ongoing formation. I am slightly adjusting my “time” sentence. I hope the following encourages you.
“If I only had five minutes to be with the Lord…” I would prostrate myself before Him. I did this very worship-act this morning and I have decided to make each Monday of my sabbatical week, “Prostrate Monday.” I am incapable of telling you how beneficial and how worshipful laying myself before the Lord was and is to my life, but something tangible and righteous happens when I get my big, old body stretched out there in His Presence and simply listen. Confession, repentance, worship, and celebration all come together in a seamless blanket of grace. Do you have five minutes to give to Him?
“If I only had fifteen minutes to be with the Lord…” I would take the beautiful prayer acrostic, ACTS, someone fashioned years ago and I would pray my way through fifteen glorious minutes of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication before our good and great God. Do you have fifteen minutes to give to Him?
“If I only had thirty minutes to be with the Lord…” I would read Matthew 5-7, our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. I would read it aloud. I would read it on my knees. I would read it and let it read me. With the eight minutes or so remaining, depending on how quickly I read, I would stay on my knees and pray over whatever God, by His Spirit, chose to emphasize in my heart. I need large reminders of what a Kingdom person looks like and Matthew 5-7 is the just-right passage. Do you have thirty minutes to give to Him?
“If I only had an hour to be with the Lord…” I would read aloud John 17 while standing before the Lord in the same way a typical first-century Jewish man or woman would have done during prayer. I would pray with my eyes wide-open and my hands lifted heavenward. Just like that same man or woman would have done. I would pray over three specific prayers that marked Jesus’ prayer-life in John 17. First, I would pray for protection in light of spiritual warfare (John 17: 15). Jesus prayed, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” I would ask God to reveal to me what areas of my life need His protection today. I would ask Him to reveal to me who needs that same protection today. I would wait and listen. Second, I would pray for ongoing sanctification (John 17:17). Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” I would ask God to reveal to me what areas of my life need to come under His Lordship. I would ask Him to disclose to me specific areas that I have not surrendered, specific areas that need His healing, cleansing, and holiness. I would wait and listen. Third, I would pray for future glorification (17:24). Jesus prayed, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” I would remind myself that Jesus has my future in His magnificent hands. I would stand confidently before Him, in full assurance, that His finished work on the cross is sufficient for me (Philippians 1:6). If I were home, I would walk through each room of my house and pray for protection, sanctification, and future glorification for all my loved ones. Do you have an hour to give to Him?
“If I only had one day to be with the Lord…” I would spend an entire day in the Gospels. I would read them in their entirety, all four, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I would keep Thomas a Kempis’ good reminder on my heart all day. “If you keep Jesus in everything, you will certainly find Jesus. If, on the other hand, you seek yourself, you will find yourself – but to your ruin” (The Imitation of Christ). I would take a long walk. I would find a spot that renews and refreshes me. I would sit quietly in that spot. I would sing as Jesus gives me a song in my heart. I would listen to His promptings and His encouragements. I would be unhurried in His Presence. Could you find a day in the near future to spend alone with Him?
“If I only had the time,” I have often said. Well, now I do. Pray for me. I will be blogging my experiences each week, as a way of processing what the Lord is teaching me. Like you, my formation continues. I am recalling something Miles Stanford once wrote in his devotional classic, The Green Letters. “Let us settle it once and for all – there are no shortcuts to reality…Unless the time factor is acknowledged from the heart, there is always danger of turning to the false enticement of a shortcut.” We have today. Nothing more and nothing less. By God’s grace, find time to be alone with Him. Press on.