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April 2016

The Words of Bob Are Ended

No, I’m not quitting the blog! Just something I tell myself when I feel like I’ve said enough (or too much!).

I remember years ago I preached a two-part series on the book of Ruth. Each message lasted around an hour, maybe even more. People  enjoyed the first message, so I figured they’d like the subsequent one, too.

The audience seemed to, but toward the end, I noticed a lady in the front row who, after making eye contact with me, pointed to her watch. “It’s time to go,” I could hear her say in my head. “Finish up!”

The Bible has a verse (Job 31:40) that could have helped me wrap up faster. It’s a statement about the patriarch Job who suffered through the loss of his family, his wealth, and even his health. Quiet and resigned at first, he agonized inside and eventually erupted, venting his pent-up frustrations. In chapter after chapter Job analyzed his misery, cried out for justice, debated his friends, and argued with God. Finally, after numerous and extensive complaints, “the words of Job are ended.”

Falling silent–that’s a skill all communicators, including public speakers like church leaders, would do well to develop. Say what you need to, and then stop!

How much is enough? It varies. Sometimes, you have to take a while because that’s what the situation demands. Paul spoke all night to a church in the city of Troas (Acts 20:7-12) because he thought he might never see them again. Jesus spent an entire night in prayer before choosing the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12-16). So duration alone isn’t a problem.

But overdoing things is.

Solomon advises that you get to the point in your communication with God (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Don’t waste your time when you talk to the Lord. Respect Him with clear thoughts and honest emotions. You don’t have to hide what’s in your heart; He already knows what you need before you ask (Matthew 6:8).

And don’t dominate conversations. Controlling everything that’s being said shows that you care more about yourself than you do about others. Proverbs 18:2 warns that “a fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.”

If you esteem others, prove it by giving them a chance to express themselves. The Bible tells you how: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

When you slow down your natural impulse to jump in and solve their problems, that reluctance automatically limits the volume of your words. When you deliberate, you choose those words more carefully than if you blurted out whatever you felt.

And when you exercise such restraint, you find yourself gaining the courage and graciousness you may need to confront or challenge someone’s perspective. As Simon Sinek put it, “the confident ask questions to learn what will connect. The insecure just keep talking with the hope something will stick.”

Self-control fortifies the words you share. It makes them count.

Say a little less. Try it. See if you don’t find yourself more peaceful, settled, and patient. You’ll probably discover yourself listening better to others and even to Jesus. And you’ll learn more in the process. How will that change you?

Listening, learning, growing–isn’t that what you really want?

Pray Again

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Recently I visited a brother in the Lord who’s spent more than two months in the hospital. “That’s way too long!” I told myself. “Enough is enough! This can’t be God’s will!”

When I met him, I expressed my feelings and he felt the same way. Though his body was weak, his faith remained strong.

I’d brought along a communion kit so we could share the Lord’s Supper together, and I turned around to set up the elements. It took less than a minute, but when I turned back, he was out!

“Boy, that was fast! Kind of reminds me of my preaching!”

I prayed for him anyway because I believed that the Lord wanted him well.

Nothing happened; he continued to sleep. Did my prayer not work? Was God uninterested?

A few days later at the Sunday church service, I prayed for a sister in Christ who’d had non-stop back pain for three years. After we prayed, I asked her what the problem had prevented her from doing. “Anything,” she replied. So I asked her to do “anything” that she couldn’t do before. “Try touching your toes!” She complied and got more than halfway down.

“How do you feel?”

“Better!”

So we talked to God again. And she reached down a little lower. Progress!

It was getting late, so we prayed one last time. Greater  improvement; she could touch the top of her feet! Praise the Lord!

Why did I minister this way?

First, during a mission trip to the tiny south African country of Lesotho, our street teams were instructed that after we pray for people, we should ask them to do something that they couldn’t do before. Their behavior would either confirm that they’d been healed or that we needed to intercede again. We didn’t regard the latter as a failure; instead, it motivated us to press in for a breakthrough.

Second, Jesus modeled this behavior. According to Mark 8:22-26, He and His disciples “came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When He had spit on the man’s eyes and put His hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ He looked up and said, ‘I see people; they look like trees walking around.’ Once more Jesus put His hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Don’t even go into the village.’”

Christ had the power to heal this blind man instantly, but on this occasion, He stretched things out. While speculations abound as to why Jesus chose this method, don’t lose sight of the main point.

Sometimes, God works in processes. Every so often, we have to revisit issues. But let’s not fear repetition. Persist for God’s glory and human need – they’re worth it!

So what about the brother in the hospital? I looked in on him again because I believe in Christ’s will and power to heal. I could speak only briefly before he once again nodded off.

But whether he slumbered or was awake, I was determined to pray for him again. I told him so and that woke him up sufficiently that he joined in the prayer. And I’ll keep at it until the Spirit tells me to quit.

If you see no difference in a situation, pray again. If you witness a partial change, pray again. Keep praying until you see the blessing of the Lord unleashed!

with Bob Condly

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