The world has been interrupted by COVID19. The Olympics are postponed. All of us had things we were looking forward to canceled.
The apostle Paul knew all about having his plans blocked, including his visit to Rome. But in his letter to the Romans he told them,
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Rom 12:11–12
1. Stay Urgent – Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
It’s easy to lose motivation when you lose momentum, BUT for many this is an opportunity to assess what’s really driving your life.
Are you driven by the things God cares about? Is your fervor SPIRITUAL fervor?
People with an eagerness to serve find a way to add value to others even from a distance. Paul always found ways to advance the kingdom even from prison, he shared with guards, wrote letters, wrestled in prayer and welcomed visitors.
Let the fact that you have less opportunities in front of you lead you to the ones that really matter. Craig Groeschel says, “Limitation breed innovation.” In the Hope Quotient Ray Johnstone says,
The leader’s most important job is to stay encouraged. – Ray Johnstone
When you lose your fire, you lose your followers. All of us, leaders or not need to stay spiritually urgent in our mission to serve and spread the gospel for the sake of our families, friends and our own souls.
2. Stay Joyful – …be joyful in hope…
You fight for joy by fighting for hope. The good news for followers of Jesus is we have an unshakable hope. In uncertain times we have certain hope.
The best way to fuel you hope is to feed on God’s Word! Paul said,
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Rom 15:4
Endurance springs from being encouraged by the stories of those who went before us. If God didn’t fail them, He won’t fail us.
God’s past provision points us to his future promise.
Looking back with humility, leads us to look forward with Hope. Learning from God’s past faithfulness, assures us of God’s future provision. With God there’s always hope.
As Sam said to Frodo in The Two Towers,
It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something. Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam? Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.
The Bible is full of stories of people who had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t, because they had and an unshakable hope that this present darkness is but a shadow and will eventually be dispelled by God’s great light. This hope leads to…
3. Stay Patient – …patient in affliction…
Your ability to be patient is directly proportional to your hope in God’s promises.
Patience is NOT the resignation that things will always be this way, it’s the ability to deal with the troubles of today looking forward to the day they will go away.
For some reason, I enjoy disaster movies, but living through one is not the same. At first, the new reality comes with the excitement of new possibilities, but slowly the restrictions start to take their toll and you start to realize this is not an extended spring break. And without patience we won’t weather the storm.
If your plans have been blocked, ultimately God has allowed it to be blocked, God’s got other plans for you during this season. And part of that plan is to grow your patience. James said,
For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:3–4 NLT
God is using your problems today to grow your patience, so let it grow!
4. Stay Prayerful – …faithful in prayer
It’s amazing how easy it is for us to fill up our time with anything but prayer. One leader says the reason prayer is so hard for us is…
“Nothing about prayer appeals to our flesh.”
Many of us are literally stuck in our homes. If you are not carving out time to pray now, when will you?
The word faithful here means, “to continue to do something with intense effort.”
I want to challenge you to use this opportunity to take your prayer life to “a whole’nother level.” I’ve rarely met someone who is content with their prayer life! Most Christians, even the strongest among us, usually have a lot more room to grow in prayer.
I’ve personally been seeking to step up my game in the last year or so. Having lists I pray for everyday including my family, the individuals in my church, my discipleship group, and the Joshua Project unreached people group of the day and the country of the day in Operation World.
If you don’t have a plan, get one. I use the PRAY acrostic (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield) based on elements from the model of the “Lord’s Prayer” that Jesus taught us. For me I have been setting a timer so that I can dedicate time to prayer alone. Even if you need to start with just 5 mins a day, 5mins is better than no mins.
What is your next step for growing in your prayer life?
Let’s review Paul’s passionate plea to the Romans:
- Never Stop Serving Urgently
- Never Stop Hoping Joyfully
- Never Stop Waiting Patiently
- Never Stop Praying Faithfully
As Gandalf wisely told Frodo in the Fellowship of the Ring,
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
You didn’t choose for your plans to get blocked, but they did. What will you do now?