Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Your Most Important Conversation

Gordon McDonald, who probably knows as much as anyone about what happens when you don't spend enough time with God, has written an article for the Leadership Journal called, Your Most Important Conversation.

Here's a short extract.

Among my most frequently-asked questions to men and women in leadership who are struggling with spiritual malaise is, "What does an ideal week look like for you? Describe for me the priority activities that fill your week." Usually, I hear a list of leader-like activities with which we are all familiar: staff meetings, sermon study, consultations with church leaders, training seminars, budget meetings, counseling appointments, long-range planning functions. Sometimes there is comment about physical exercise (that's good) and family functions (that's even "gooder"). But what is missing all too often? Any allusion to a personal Sabbath: those times for activities that enlarge and cleanse the soul, times for inner conversation.

"What do you do in Sabbath time?" I am sometimes asked. I disappoint, I suspect, when I evade the formulaic answer. I discarded the gimmicks a long time ago. They didn't work for me. What became more important was outcomes. What do I do? Simple: whatever it takes for a renewed sense of conversion to Christ, a deeper awareness of the biblical way, an assurance that God's grace and power remain with me.

When I ask many leaders if there is time in their calendars for the pursuit of such outcomes, I get these kinds of responses:

  • I'm just too busy.
  • I don't have the slightest idea what I'd do if I took the time.
  • My mind is too full of thought; I can't concentrate.
  • I'm an extrovert. Being alone, being quiet, reflecting is not my thing.
  • I don't get any immediate result out of doing it.
  • It's boring.
Amongst other things, McDonald discusses William Wilberforce's habit of taking a weekly Sabbath - not so much the day as the intention. Apart from McDonald's own list of questions he might ask himself at such a time, he lists the much shorter one set out by John Newton, Wilberforce's great friend and pastor:

* To begin and end every day with God.
* To peruse Scriptures with a diligence and attention suited to the dignity of the subject.
* To spend the Sabbath entirely with the Lord.
* To choose for my companions only good people from whom I may derive some improvement.
* To become all things to all men in order that I may save some.

These aren't just Sabbath statements, and they may not be something everyone can grasp hold of in their current life situation. However, between the list that McDonald offers [see the article itself], and the list that Newton gives, there is certainly plenty to consider.

"The battle is won in the secret places of the will before God," wrote Oswald Chambers. "Never first in the external world. … Nothing has power over the (person) who has fought out the battle before God and won there."

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