Recently I did a four-day fast with a friend of mine.
It went from Tuesday morning to Friday at sunset.
And let me say that I use the term fasting loosely because although at one time I was very disciplined in fasting, I’ve let myself go quite a bit in this area.
But anyway, we were praying and agreeing for a couple of things, mainly breakthrough and direction. My main prayer during those four days was, “Lord wake me and my wife up from spiritual sleep, wake us up!”
I can honestly say that on the first day I felt like my prayers were reaching heaven, and then the rest of the week life happened, and there went my fervent prayers. They were more like a drive through, on the way to whatever I was doing at the moment, oh let me utter a quick prayer because I just remembered I’m supposed to be fasting and praying, so I better do it.
Well, despite my feeble efforts, Jesus heard my prayer and is answering…. but not the way I anticipated. Isn’t that how it usually goes?
Let’s digress for a second.
I work in the Collections industry, which at the end of the day, boils down to numbers. I was pulled into my manager’s office and told that my pay was being reduced because I haven’t met my monthly quota, and if I don’t meet my quota this month my pay will be reduced even further. And honestly the reduction is drastic. I’ve been trying to do my best, but it hasn’t been working. And there are a number of factors that contribute to that, not to mention that the way we collect debt is shady.
The funny thing is that I know that I know that God gave me this job when I needed it, but that’s another blog post. The other thing is I haven’t been doing good for a while, despite my best efforts, but by the grace of God, my pay remained intact.
So to say the least I was pissed, frustrated, and I wanted to give up, curl up into a ball, and just sulk. I get paid just enough to cover everything, that way Diane can stay home with Levi, raise him at home until it’s time to go to school, and she can continue to build her photography business, so hopefully we can actually live off of it one day. And again I’m trying my best but it’s not working. On the other side of the coin, I want out of my job badly because it is so shady, and I’m tired of it. I don’t want to work in this industry or environment any longer, not because I’m lazy, spoiled and ungrateful that I have a job in the midst of rising unemployment rates. It’s really become a moral issue. Nuff said.
So I’m freaking out, I tell Diane, she’s stressed because this is yet another issue added on top of some other things we’re facing. She’s tired and frustrated because we can’t ever seem to get a break. I tell her it’ll be ok, but inside I really don’t have any faith or grounding to base that on. The truth is I’ve been having some really hard times in my relationship with God, and I was becoming more distant and prayerless.
A day went by and I’d been thinking about it all, and I realized, “You prayed for God to wake you up”. HELLO! That’s like praying , “Use me Lord however you want, take me where ever you want”. I might as well have placed a large X on my chest. I also realize that the Lord had been waiting for me to pray this kind of prayer, and was all too happy to take me up on the request. And so instead of just answering my prayer and zapping me which is what I was hoping for, He’s put us in a circumstance to cause us to seek Him, which will cause us to pray, and wake up.
And it’s working.
Two weeks ago, Pastor Steven preached his last installment of the sermon series “Room 101: Facing your greatest fears”. One of his points really hit home after the Lord brought it back to my memory while praying. He spoke about how Elijah prayed for Elisha’s eyes to be opened so that he could see that they that were with them were more than they that were against them. Elisha’s eyes were opened and he saw the hills were full of horses and chariots of fire.
His point was that provision was already made ahead of time for the problem despite Elisha’s inability to see it. And it wasn’t a matter of God providing, it was a matter of Elisha’s eyes being opened to what was there all along. This is one of the verses I’m holding onto during this time. I keep telling myself, “the hills are full already, the hills are full”.
I gotta be honest, I didn’t anticipate my prayers being answered this way, but I’m so glad they are. I feel awake, alive, despite the trial. My faith is rising up as I’m reminded of God’s past faithfulness and provision every time we’ve needed it. And it’s causing me to have faith that this will be no different. I also know that this is an act of love because He won’t leave us where we are.
Something else that the Lord reminded me of was of a scripture He spoke to me through at the beginning of the year. James 1:1-4 states:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.
The disciples of that day were familiar with trials and suffering. It was a normal part of their Judeo-Christian experience. Also, their view of suffering was very, very different from ours in this modern church age. In this verse, Paul instructs believers to “consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds”.
Pure joy? Really? Yup, that’s what I said. But Paul explains why we can have joy, because trials are an opportunity for God to grow and mature you further, so that you lack nothing. And the reality is that God wants to continually make us more like Jesus. His ways just aren’t our ways.
Hebrews 5:7-9 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…”
The truth is, if Jesus suffered, we’re gonna suffer.
The good news is that we don’t have to fear the world because Jesus overcame the world.
But the other thing that trials offer is an opportunity for God to do something awesome on our behalf. He gets to show off. And He gets the Glory. He gets to show us how much He loves us by not only allowing a trial to perfect us, but He also gets to show His love for us by bringing us through and displaying His power and provision.
So at the end of it, we really are better off when we face trials. And I know that’s counter-cultural, but it’s true. I know this trial we’re in is gonna pass, and God will bring us through, displaying His love, provision and power, and we’ll be more complete because of it.
My prayer right now? God give me the reverent submission that Jesus had, to endure and trust, as we wait on you and we see the chariots of fire that have been there the whole time.