Sunday, August 28, 2016

While You Were Sleeping

It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors;  For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep (Psalms 127: 2 NASB)

Argentina 1986
Worry is a form of unbelief.  When God assigns us a task to do, anxiety can set in as to whether we are up to accomplishing it.  Where God guides, he always provides.  I once learned that the sovereign Lord could provide for us even as we sleep.

 My wife and I were leading a discipleship training school with Youth With A Mission.  We had been training for several weeks, gearing up to do creative ministries (music, mime, and dance) to share the Gospel on the streets of Chile and Argentina.

How did I get here?
I found myself riding on our old gray bus, traveling from Virginia to Miami, Florida with a couple of dozen students.  From there we would fly to Santiago, Chile and share the Gospel for two months in South America.  As we drove down Interstate 95, my mind wandered back through the past several months. We assumed the leadership of the training school in an unexpected fashion, but we were sure that God had led us to this role.  I had never led a school of this type. And, as a matter of fact, I had never even been on an evangelistic team outreach, other than a couple of days of isolated experience.  I wondered if I should tell my students of my inexperience, but decided that what they didn’t know would not hurt them.  Time would tell if this was true.

The bread of painful labors
I didn’t want the students to be fearful because I was nervous enough for all of us. All the way down to Miami I rehearsed in my head how I would lead my first street meeting. The more detailed the plans were in my thoughts, the less sure I was that I could enact those plans.  My mind started to race.  Each new strategy in my imagination never seemed to be quite right.  Our scriptural reference refers to eating “the bread of painful labors.”  When we plan our agenda in more detail than God has revealed it to us, it always turns into a hard assignment.

My goodness, I’m the leader!
We arrived in Chile and boarded a bus for Argentina.  Upon arriving at the border, we found a three-hour delay for buses going through customs. A few of the students asked if they could depart the bus.  I noticed they took their instruments with them. I quickly fell asleep, probably due to a tired mind.  Later, I’m not sure how long; I awaken to the sound of music. I peered through the bus window and saw the students who had left with instruments, surrounded by a crowd of people. I rapidly ran to the door and thought to myself; I am the leader I need to get out there. Then it dawned on me that they were doing pretty well without me; maybe I should try and not mess it up.  So I just watched them play music and share Christ in our first street meeting.

What is the takeaway from this little story?  When the Lord gives us a task to do, He goes before us to make it happen. God had the time, the place, and the people necessary for our first experience in street evangelism prearranged.  My worry was an exercise in futility.  I think God must have chuckled a bit as he saw the expression on my face when I realized He had put everything together while I was sleeping. When I arrived back to Virginia I told other training leaders that I think I had developed a new evangelism strategy. It’s called, “He gives to his beloved even in his sleep.”

Ken Barnes the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Grasping After The Wind

Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind (Ecclesiastes 6:9 NLT)
It is much better to dwell on what you have rather than on what you don’t have.  Doing otherwise can launch us into a life-long journey of trying to grasp something you can never obtain.

The famous commentator Matthew Henry once said, “People who are always content even if they have very little are much happier than people who are always craving more even if they have much.”  Dreams can be powerful things.  God often gives them to people, and they are strong motivations, but we must make sure they are from God and not just from our own imagination.  Dwelling on what we don’t have is a recipe for frustration and discontentment.  God often gives us more, but it is usually never enough when fixated on what we lack.  A very wealthy man once replied, “just a little more,” when asked how much money is enough.

So what is the solution?  Should we all take a vow of poverty?  We have tried that in Chrysostom, and it works for some but not for all.  We usually exchange one craving for other, giving up earthly pleasures but replacing them with striving after personal piety.  We are just substituting one fleshly pursuit with another.  The solution, as the writer of Ecclesiastes, tells us is to seek satisfaction from the reality of what we have, not the fantasy of what we don’t possess.  Finding fulfillment in anything but God is like pursuing a mirage. It looks good from a distance but when you get there it’s gone, and you find yourself grasping after the wind.

Image used with permission by Microsoft.

Ken Barnes the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing