David: The Way Of The God Chaser — Part 3
Extracted from ‘In the Footsteps of Giants’ by Wong Kim Tok
(Click here for Part 2)
Recovering Passion in the Devotional Life
Even though we may be God chasers, our passion sometimes dissipates and wanes. The flame is about to die out. What can we do? I would suggest a few steps:
a. Re-centre our lives around the glory of God
The first step in recovering our passion for God is to make God the centre of our lives again. When God is not our primary focus, our energies are spent on secondary pursuits that drain us rather than energise us. Our focus in life and ministry gets blurred, and sometimes, we lose our way. Important relationships get shoved out of the way or are neglected. We get exhausted, and in extreme situations, depression sets in. Self and the flesh soon take over.
On the resetting of our centre, Thomas Kelly (1893-1941), a Quaker devotional writer who wrote The Simplification of Life has this to say:
“For over the margins of life comes a whisper, a faint call, a premonition of richer living which we know we are passing by. Strained by the very mad pace of our daily outer burdens, we are further strained by an inward uneasiness, because we have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence — a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power. If only we could slip over into that Centre! If only we could find the silence which is the source of sound! We have seen and known some people who seem to have found this deep Centre of living, where the fretful calls of life are integrated, where ‘No’ as well as ‘Yes’ can be said with confidence… Life is meant to be lived from a Centre, a divine Centre.”.
“… Life from the Centre is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time. And it makes our life programmes new and overcoming. We need not get frantic. He is at the helm.”
b. Renew our love for Jesus
Many committed disciples live busy Christian lives. If we were wise we would have fitted in our devotions in the midst of ministry and other commitments. But even though we may have done so, our devotional life can get mechanical.
Periodically, schedule in protracted time with the Lord. Some spend a day in prayer. Others may feel the need for a spiritual retreat focusing on specific themes that strengthen their relationship with God.
A good way would be to plan these retreats following important events in the Christian calendar like Good Friday/Easter, Advent, etc. Using this approach, you might include a retreat in early January to listen to what God may want you to do for the new year and one towards the end of the year focusing on how the year has been.
If you are not into liturgical calendars, these periodic retreats could be thematic, focusing on God’s direction, holiness, love, listening to God, evaluating the year or your relationship with God and so on. The main purpose of the retreats is to focus on Jesus.
God has called us to fellowship with Him through Jesus Christ. Oftentimes, we get into “servant mode” and think only of ministry when we should always be in “son mode”, being in love with God the Father.
It was precisely this servant mode which I was in that resulted in me coming down with a stroke. This was in 2002. It came about because my wife and I were very busy with reaching out to postgraduate students from China. It was a very exciting and fruitful time. Discipling the new believers meant that Dolly and I usually met them one-on-one on campus. We had also started full-time language study of Mandarin to help us connect with the students. Bear in mind that I was 55 years old then! These classes in NUS (National University of Singapore) took four hours every day followed by as many hours or more of revision and homework for over a year.
On top of that, we were discipling people in church, teaching and preaching in The Navigators and in church. And did I mention we also had two teenage boys to take care of? Limited sleep, a less than careful diet and the lack of exercise all spelled “S.T.R.O.K.E.”, and I was already on medication for hypertension.
While lying on the hospital bed on the second morning listening to some Christian music, I was moved to tears by the old hymn, “My Jesus I Love Thee, I know Thou art Mine”. The Lord was asking me whether I loved Him the way the hymn described.
That morning, I rededicated my life to Christ and sought to enjoy His presence and take delight in Him. I realised I expressed my love for Jesus through my work of service but it was not what He wanted. He wanted to hear my love, not my works. Since then, I have learnt to enjoy the presence of Jesus.
When I read and study the Bible, I seek to hear Him speak to me. I desire and welcome His presence not just in the Word of God, but also in all that I do. When I jog, I give thanks to God for the scenery (trees and flowers, the beautiful sky, and so on). To this day, I am limited in physical energy and capacity but I thank God that my limitations remind me of my dependence on Him and the priority of walking with Jesus. I thank God for this permanent reminder to walk with Jesus and to love Him always.
So why wait until you get a health scare to renew your love for Jesus? You will never regret those wonderful days of meeting with Jesus face to face to come forth refreshed in love. God chasers gladly make these times with Jesus a priority.
c. Replenish our empty cisterns
Whenever we serve God, we spend something from our inner spiritual reservoirs. If we don’t replenish them, they will run dry. I wonder how many of us have been so busy serving and not realising that we have been running on empty. We fail to notice the silent warning lights on the fuel gauge blinking on and off. We do not have time to check.
Oftentimes, we get a spiritual high when we serve and minister. Be warned. Those highs are not necessarily signs that all is well. I know that after I have preached a sermon that came from my heart, I experience a big high. That simply means that I have exercised my spiritual gift of teaching. But every thought or point that I spoke on becomes old stuff the moment it leaves my mouth. I have to get back in the Word and prayer afresh to replenish my inner reservoir. If not, the hearers will only hear tired words, dry sermons and the same old ideas recycled again and again.
Jesus was on the way to Jairus’ house to heal his dying daughter. On the way, a woman who was suffering from a blood disease for 12 years approached Jesus and touched His cloak. She was immediately healed. Although Jesus did not see who touched Him, the Scripture says that “at once Jesus realised that power had gone out from Him” (Mark 5:30). Jesus the Eternal Son of God felt power leaving him! If Jesus felt it, how is it that mere mortals can seem to do endless ministry without feeling that loss of power? It is a mystery. Yet it is no real mystery when we see so many cases of burnout and dried out cisterns around, yours sincerely included.
The book of Colossians has a major theme: the fullness of Jesus. This fullness is available to us not only in salvation but also for our growth and ministry. May we walk in this rich fullness through His Word and presence, enabled by the Holy Spirit.
Practically speaking, there are also great classical writings which we can enrich ourselves with. Apart from the Word of God, I have found the following extremely stimulating:
The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards
Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Howard Taylor
The Writings of A W Tozer, in particular The Pursuit of God
Sayings of the Desert Fathers by Benedicta Ward
Some of these are available online for free, or you can check with Christian Classics Library. Do not be surprised if you end up re-reading some of them as these books are so rich in thought. These saints are God chasers and they will spur you to be a God chaser yourself.
Discussion and Reflection
1. How would you assess your level of delight in God?
2. Which spiritual discipline gives you the most pleasure?
3. What is one substitute (even a sacred substitute) which could replace your desire for God?
4. How full is your spiritual cistern? Is it dry, half full or overflowing? If it’s the former, what will you do to fill it?
“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with long-ing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul. ‘Rise up, my fair one, and come away’, then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
—A W Tozer