I received a text message from a friend today who asked me to pray for his pursuit of Jesus.
Initially I was confused, because he is one of the most faithful men of God that I know. He is fair and loving to his wife. He treats his daughters like they are royalty. He works incredibly hard with very little complaining. And he’s an eternal learner.
Let me preface by saying that the story I’m about to tell you is a tragedy, however, it is not specifically a tragedy related to my friend.
A 31 year old Memphis pastor with a wife and two kids was sitting in his car, reading his bible with his coffee on the dash. He was preparing for a marital counseling session for a couple from his congregation when he experienced an unwarranted aneurysm. Multiple hours later, after missing his appointment with the couple, he was found dead in his car with the coffee on the dash and his bible on his lap.
My friend was impacted and baptized by this pastor, which makes it a little more personal and therefore provides a need to spiritually and emotional balance the unbelievable loss that Memphis, TN experienced.
When my friend and I spoke today, the Lord told me to communicate a movement of service. Holding back my tears I was able to tell my dear friend that he wasn’t far off the track, but that God wanted him to move his focus from learning to serving. From reading to hosting. From debating to discussing.
In this moment of despair, as he hopes to be remembered for more than how many books he’s read, my friend asks me about intimacy. About living a live where he is remembered for more than just his education, but his listening to Jesus and living out the gospel.
In response to the request of my friend, I told a personal story that I don’t tell often. I described to him the day that I first embraced a practice of praying in tongues as a spiritual discipline. It was maybe the most vulnerable day of my life in terms of living out my faith. I was scared. I was nervous. I was unsure. But I was willing to endure all of those emotions in order to experience an intimacy with my creator that I had only heard stories about. The reason I told him this story was not an old school charismatic ploy to get someone to speak in tounges, but it was an attempt at encouraging spiritual vulnerability.
My encouragement was this: “Ask the Lord to show you a picture or tell you a word for me, and be brave enough to tell me the first thing that settles on your heart.”
Less than an hour later I received a text message that encouraged my heart more than I expected. Beyond anything else, it proved to me that my friend, although in a relatively low moment of insecurity in his faith was both willing and able to listen to Jesus. Which, some would argue is the most important aspect of faith.
So, allow me to graciously encourage you, in the midst of your despair, to listen to the voice of God. The secret is that it may sound a lot like you, which means that you must rely heavily on spiritual discernment. This is not easy, my friends. A life of spiritual intimacy with your creator demands an interesting balance of risk and reward, of will and willingness. I believe in you, and if you need to take a risk at hearing, you’re welcome to take a risk with me. Send anything you believe is from God, including words, pictures, prophecies or otherwise to firstname.lastname@example.org.
for the good of man, to the glory of God