Tomorrow marks the last day of my “Give God 5 a.m. for 30 Days” adventure, and I’m not sure I’m ready to give up this unique season of leaning in to hear Him in the morning quiet. I am reluctant to fly solo and forge ahead in my daily agenda when I have become accustomed to trusting the guidance of the Holy Spirit – the leading I’ve discovered that can only be birthed out of dedicated time and quiet for listening, for prayer, for undiluted and undivided devotion. Maybe that’s the source of my unwillingness to let go right there – my devotion has not always been pure and focused during these 30 days, I don’t have clear answers to all I was seeking, there is so much unfinished business, and the deepest part of the journey was late in getting started because I stuttered on the way to letting God have His way with me in the randomness of what He was bringing up.
I did all the “God things” making time in the early morning with my Creator, but too often I became disconnected from prayer, listening, the Word, straying into study and reading time, soaking up and lavishing the wisdom of some of my favorite Christian writers when God laid something random and unexpected on my heart – all good stuff, solid biblical advice and direction, but I missed out some days on the leading of the Spirit that only comes from meditating on Scripture, the authority of the Godhead calling me back to obedience found in the truth of his Word, the One true voice that matters most in how I choose to move forward when I take time to listen. I began to make choices based on what past experience told me to expect, instead of seeking God’s perfect will, instead of relying on His promises, on a hope that will not lead to disappointment.
In the sheer panic of Day 30 looming, I began to engage full throttle this morning in a concentrated fight to get my life back in line with my priorities, core values, purpose and dreams. The enemy is being coy with me, disguising what I might easily recognize as idolatry with a less obvious lure of misplaced priorities, affections, interests and loyalties. I have to ask the hard questions … What is dominating my thoughts and affections? Where am I investing my time, attention, and effort?
I return to my touchstone scripture passage – Psalm 86. It is where I go to reconnect with God when I have strayed, when I feel like I have failed or disappointed Him …. as if that’s even possible. It reads like a manuscript to a play – with a God part, and my part, and it leads me back to Him every time.
1 Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer;
answer me, for I need your help.
2 Protect me, for I am devoted to you.
Save me, for I serve you and trust you.
You are my God.
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord,
for I am calling on you constantly.
4 Give me happiness, O Lord,
for I give myself to you.
5 O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
6 Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord;
hear my urgent cry.
7 I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
and you will answer me.8 No pagan god is like you, O Lord.
None can do what you do!
9 All the nations you made
will come and bow before you, Lord;
they will praise your holy name.
10 For you are great and perform wonderful deeds.
You alone are God.
11 Teach me your ways, O Lord,
that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
You have rescued me from the depths of death.[a]
14 O God, insolent people rise up against me;
a violent gang is trying to kill me.
You mean nothing to them.
15 But you, O Lord,
are a God of compassion and mercy,
slow to get angry
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
16 Look down and have mercy on me.
Give your strength to your servant;
save me, the son of your servant.
17 Send me a sign of your favor.
Then those who hate me will be put to shame,
for you, O Lord, help and comfort me.
I prayed that God would send me a sign of His favor, that I would know that in a Pass/Fail grading system, I had not failed this 30-day test. When I turned to today’s In Touch daily devotion on Philippians 1:12-18, I knew God had designed the perfect Final Exam for me to reflect back on these 30 days.
Paul’s Joy That Christ Is Preached
12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters,[a] that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.
Can I say that everything that happened during the 30 days I used as an opportunity to spread the Good News?
13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard,[b] knows that I am in chains because of Christ.
Does everyone know I am a Christ-follower? Is it obvious in my behavior, my language, my heart attitude?
Have I influenced others by sharing my story during this 30-day journey? Have I brought anyone more confidently before God, or encouraged anyone else to share their story, the message God has laid on their heart? Have I moved anyone out of a fearful stance so they could speak boldly for Christ?
15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.
There were times I was unsure about the motives of those who posted comments to blog posts. Some wanted to boost rankings or exposure of their own websites by asking for a trackback to their site, and you all know I received some sexually explicit comments early on as a new naive blogger. Still others asked for blogging advice or had questions about different aspects of my theme. I received some comments in foreign languages that I didn’t understand, and I received some incredible insights from some of you that gave me new understanding. Yet, none of that matters … what matters is that I am sharing Christ in my life through this blog, simply planting the seed and trusting the Lord to nourish it and bring it to harvest when the season is right no matter what kind of ground the seed falls on. Would any of us doubt that regardless of the intent of some of those obscene comments, God may very well have allowed my message to settle there in that impure heart and begin to stir a desire to know Him? I know my job is only to be faithful in planting the seed – the rest is up to the Master Cultivator. I have been blessed to be able to share the message of Christ without hindrance and create a forum for others to share God’s glory, too.
So, did I do it perfectly? Absolutely not! But I am comforted by Paul’s words in Galatians 3:3 – “How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” Epic!
For those who have followed the journey, I would love to know if God has spoken to you through a story, a reflection, a question raised for you to think about on the blog.
A new adventure begins Wednesday for me … I hope you’ll join me for the next 40 days of “The Lenten Fast”.