The Final Stretch

06/10/2005

It’s the final stretch of the race. We can see the finish line, it is just ahead. Our energy is long gone, any clear thought has long since vanished--it’s all heart, soul, and the strength of God that keeps us going.

I have never run a marathon, but I have ridden a bike over 100 miles in a day. In Tucson, I rode for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, to raise money for research. That ride was 111 miles. I remember close to the end of the ride, we stopped and got off our bikes for a short rest. I’m not sure it was such a good idea—when we got back on I felt everything that hurt. We still had about 20 miles left in the ride, and we had been on our bikes for over eight hours. We persevered to the finish line, finishing at just after five o’clock that day. Many riders had long since completed their ride; some were still behind us, actually coming in after dark.

When my friend and I arrived back at the hotel (she had come to support me), I fell onto the bed. My friend asked me if I would do it again, I said, “Yes.”

I was exhausted…but elated! The goal that had begun five months earlier had been completed. And since that was my second 100-mile ride, I had also helped another person along the way to finish her first century ride…one mile at a time, as hour by hour we pedaled away.

Craziness?

Perhaps, but for a good cause, with good people, and thankful for the opportunity to use the good health we had been given for others who were struggling with theirs. Those who could not ride to find a cure depended on those who could.

Is the saga of completing this CD we are producing the same? It seems so. It has been a long journey, and especially this last six months as we have used all our energy in the process, kept our focus on what God is calling us to, and given much of our worldly security away in this endeavor. Now we are at mile 24 ½ in a 26-mile race and we are “running” on the pure strength of God’s will alone.

The other day, as the battles raged, I laid down on my bed to take a nap. I cried out to God, letting Him know how much we need Him, how we cannot endure much more—I offered everything once again up to Him, asking for His help to complete the race He has called us to. Then, I went to sleep. I slept for over four hours, and Jim came in to wake me up at 7:30 p.m. It was time to go to work. Time to go into the studio for another late-night session, usually lasting until after midnight. I felt rested, at peace and ready to continue on.

I do not mean to paint a bleak picture of the happenings here, please don’t misunderstand me on this. We are having a blast, we are seeing God work in amazing ways and we are astounded at all that God is doing with this music. The producer, Jeffery, is phenomenal! God has given him such a heart for this project, and he has brought everything but the kitchen sink to this music to make it the very best it can be. We watch as musicians file in and out, adding their parts, taking each song to places more wonderful than we ever expected. Starting with words sent via e-mail to my brother, Rick, followed by phone calls over crackling connections (can you hear me now?) as he shared the latest music he had written. A simple beginning that has grown beyond our wildest imaginings, and it’s not done yet!

We love the studio time with Jeffery, we laugh, we eat, and we clap…sometimes we cry, as we work through each song until it speaks to that sweet spot in our hearts, hoping and praying that it will one day be just what the “doctor” ordered for someone out there who is going through their own brokenness.

We have the health, we have the energy and we have the opportunity to do something here that might help someone, someday. We want to use this time wisely and appreciate it fully. Each time we come together to work through a new song, we pray together. We ask for God’s Holy Spirit to work through each and everyone who is involved in the project. To let this be what God intends, not what we intend. We ask for listening ears and willing hearts, to be used as God’s instruments in this process. Every time we leave the studio, we come out shaking our heads, astounded at what God has done.

We love it!
It is fun!
But the journey is challenging as it stretches our faith!

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him…
Those that wait upon the Lord, they shall
inherit the land”
Psalm 37:7,9 (Eng. Rev.)

I’m reading Andrew Murray’s book, “Waiting on God.” Andrew died the same year my “buddy” Oswald Chambers died, in 1917. Although, he was a lot older than Oswald Chambers at the time of his death.

I find it amazing that these men and their profound words of wisdom touch me so deeply today, almost 100 years later, and that they are so relevant to what we are living through right now with this project. I think the years go by, and the circumstances are different, but the struggles we all face each day don’t change that much. We are serving the same God, and we are battling the same enemy, Satan.

The enemy will use whatever he can to come against all of us in the race we have been called to run for our Lord. Satan will relentlessly call out his armies of deception, his warriors of destruction and his rumors of defeat any chance he gets. If we are not completely focused and surrendered in our relationship with Jesus Christ, we will fall prey to his tactics. We will not make it to the finish line. We will get off our “bike,” stretch a bit and give up because we find that it hurts too much to continue on. We will miss the inheritance we have been offered because we were not willing to wait patiently, resting in the strength of our Lord to carry us to victory.

“And, the resting in Him is nothing but being silent unto Him, still before Him. Having our thoughts and wishes, our fears and hopes, hushed into calm and quiet in that great peace of God which passes all understanding. That peace keeps the heart and mind when we are anxious for anything, because we have made our request known to Him. The rest, the silence, the stillness, and the patient waiting, all find their strength and joy in God Himself.” (Andrew Murray-Waiting On God)

The waiting can look so different, depending on what we are waiting for. It does not necessarily mean we do nothing while we wait. Quite the contrary, there can be much to do to complete the task at hand. The question simply becomes, will we pray and wait patiently for God’s peace to keep us filled in the process, to guide us in each step and to allow His perfect timing to bring it to completion? If we will not, we will be miserable! We will run out into the battlefield, flailing our arms, screaming in terror and losing all sense of direction because nothing seems to make sense anymore! Sometimes, that’s just what I’d like to do! But God says:

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
All ye that wait for the Lord.
Psalm 31:24 (Eng. Rev.)

“The lesson is this: It is with the heart that we must wait upon God. ‘Let your heart take courage.’ All our waiting depends on the state of the heart….Proverbs 3:5 may help to make my meaning clear. Speaking of a life in the fear and favor of God, it says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.’ In all faith, we have to use these two powers. The mind has to gather knowledge from God’s Word, and prepare the food by which the heart with the inner life is to be nourished. But, here is the terrible danger of our leaning to our own understanding, and trusting in our own comprehension of divine things…My mind is utterly unable to create or maintain the spiritual life within me. The heart must wait on God for Him to work it in me…And so, the Christian always needs, when he has studied or heard God’s Word, to cease from his thoughts, to put no trust in them, to awaken his heart to open itself before God, and seek the living fellowship of Him.” (Murray-Waiting on God)

Sounds like lunacy, doesn’t it? He’s got to be kidding? God gave us a mind to think, to reason, to logically work things out so they make perfect sense to us, didn’t He?… or did He? What if God has spoken to our heart but not given our mind all the reasons why? What if we hear God clearly when we are alone with Him, but when we go back out into the world we start to get distracted with our needs, our wants, our time schedule or the plans we made for our future? What then? Do we say, “Forget it?” Do we tell God to go away and leave us alone? Or do we offer Him our heart, fully, completely and without reservation--no matter what the cost of time, energy, money or even the respect from those around us?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead
fear the Lord and turn your back on evil. Then
you will gain renewed health and vitality.
Proverbs 3:5-8 (NLT)

As I was being viciously attacked the other day by the enemy, the lies and deceptions started to invade my mind and I started to lose direction and focus on what God is calling us to and most importantly on my relationship with God. Then I read in James 4:7-8 (NLT), “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.”

In humbling myself, I had to say, “I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have the strength on my own to complete the task we have been given.” I once again had to surrender all, every ounce of energy, every thought of independence and every idea of how I think it should be. I had to turn my back on the devil’s lies, and as I have recently heard, say, “No Thank You” to the temptations that are being offered.

“Remember the difference between knowing with the mind and believing with the heart. Beware of the temptation of leaning upon your understanding, with its clear strong thoughts. They only help you to know what the heart must get from God—in themselves they are only images and shadows.” (Murray)

Isn’t that something? Our “clear strong thoughts” are only “images and shadows?” So what’s the real deal? The real deal is God, and God alone. Trusting in Him. Not always knowing, not always even caring about what the world wants us to care about, but following Jesus right into the fire if need be, because that is where He has called us. We are refined there, we are joined there by Jesus Himself, and we are saved there, because in that fire we discover who God really is in our lives.

Dear brothers and sisters, I solemnly assure you
that the Good News of salvation which I preach
is not based on mere human reasoning and logic.
Galatians 1:11 (NLT)

Many of the ways of God make no sense to us. Why would God call Abraham to, "Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much--and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you." Genesis 22:2 (NLT) Why would God ask this of him after He said, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” (Gen 21:12 NLT)

Was God making a mistake? Was Abraham making a big mistake in following God’s directions? How many times did Abraham want to turn around and go back home? How many times did he battle that thought, that temptation to not obey God, or question whether he had really heard God in the first place? I’m sure he thought of little else on that three-day journey except where he was going and why he was going there. It’s easy to read now, about what Abraham did. It’s easy to see now that it all turned out just as it should have. But Abraham didn’t know, and yet Abraham was “willing to do whatever God told him to do. His faith was made complete by what he did—by his actions.” He was known as “the friend of God.” (James 2:24)

What terrifying thoughts Abraham must have had on that three-day journey with his son! What was his wife thinking? Was she back home, wondering why they had gone off, or did Abraham tell her what he was about to do for God? Did she have to wait six days to know the final outcome? God didn’t call Abraham out to the backyard to complete the task quickly, He sent him on a three-day journey. Abraham had time to think and reason… I cannot even imagine such a journey of sacrifice--but if we think that journey must have been hard, think about how the journey home would have been had Isaac actually been sacrificed…Abraham’s heart would have been shattered, because he had just murdered his much loved son, and he would have been headed home to tell his wife what he had done. Their marriage could have been over, on the spot!

But, that is not the end of the story. That is not how the story went at all. It had a great ending! God was not calling Abraham to sacrifice his son, God was calling Abraham to sacrifice his very own heart. To give it fully to God, no matter what, and in doing so, he was called God’s friend. A man of great faith! Abraham’s son was spared and did become the one through whom his descendants would be counted. God had a plan, a perfect plan, but Abraham had to trust him with it. During what were probably the longest three days of his life, Abraham had to trust God with his heart and not with his head, even when it made no sense at all.

“Cultivate the greatest confidence that though you cannot see into your heart, God is working there by His Holy Spirit. Let the heart wait at times in perfect silence and quiet; in its hidden depths God will work. Be sure of this, and just wait on Him. Give your whole heart, with its secret workings, into God’s hands continually. He wants the heart. He takes it, and, as God, dwells in it.” (Murray)

On that trip to Moriah with Isaac, where was Abraham’s heart? It was in God’s hands continually. There is no other way he could have made that trip, climbed that mountain, built that fire and raised that knife up to kill his son…no other way. When the angel of the Lord shouted to him, telling him to “Lay down the knife,” what was Abraham doing? He was “listening.” (Gen. 22:11 NLT)

That is what we are called to do. Not to think it to death, not to mull it over until it makes sense, not to back off because it seems to be leading to our destruction or the destruction of those we love, we must listen and obey God at all times. When we do, God will “bless us richly.” (Gen 22:17) Abraham is not an isolated case; Abraham is only one, but perhaps the best, example God used to teach us all a lesson about life and about our love for God. He is the same God today that He was then, and He will be the same God tomorrow that He is today. Abraham was a man who loved his son, but he loved his God even more. God didn’t need to know that, He already knew it. Abraham needed to know!

When we are nearing the end of the race, whatever race it is that we have been called to, that’s when we find out if we love our God even more than life itself, because when we get near the finish line it gets extremely difficult! Many drop off before the end, succumbing to exhaustion, fear and confusion, they turn back and go home…there must be some mistake. This can’t be what God meant…

We must continue to always keep our focus on God and listen to His instructions to our hearts as He calls us forward! We have to fall down before God in His Throne Room and pour out our hearts to Him, telling Him we cannot go one more step if He will not continue to carry us…and if we listen closely, if we look with the eyes of our heart, we will see God gently smiling, saying, “My child, you are exactly where I always wanted you to be, it’s going to be all right…you’re in My hands.”

God guides us along, and it is like riding a wave of God’s power and His strength as He lifts us up to see things we have never seen before. On the wave of His Holy Spirit we will cross the finish line with joy in our hearts finding true fulfillment and satisfaction in Him.

There is no greater joy! There is no greater purpose for living! There is no better reason to endure to the end because nothing on this earth compares to the satisfaction that is found when we are poured out like a drink offering to the One who loves us most!! It causes us to fall to our knees, admit our weakness and begin to live in the strength and fulfillment of our Lord as never before.

The journey most probably will be rough, the road most probably will be long, but the end will be glorious because we serve a Glorious God!

For every child of God defeats this evil world
by trusting Christ to give the victory.
1 John 5:4 (NLT)

Mile 24½ and counting…we’re almost there.

Diane