Are You Ready for a Fresh Gust?

Have you ever been in a sailboat when it seemed there was absolutely no breeze? While experienced sailors somehow can catch the wind when there is no wind, amateurs like me often find ourselves dead in the water, going nowhere.

Sailing is such an apt metaphor for life. Winds come and go, blowing from one direction or another. But no matter what winds we encounter, we must resolutely set our sail and rudder toward our desired destination.

Yet this is a mystery in some ways. Even Solomon, known for his great wisdom, admitted he didn’t understand how ships can stay on course, even amid adverse winds (Proverbs 30:18-19).

So here’s a question to ask: Which way are the winds blowing in your  life today? Are you experiencing pleasant breezes or fierce, unrelenting windstorms? Or perhaps you find yourself wearily praying for a “second wind” or a gust to help you get unstuck from your present doldrums.

From time to time, we all need a fresh gust of wind. Whether in our family, our finances, our ministry, or our career, things get pretty stale if no wind is blowing.

Although I’ve tended to shy away from sharing “prophetic” impressions in my blogs, recently I sensed God speaking to me through the metaphor of sailing. Even though the past few months have been fantastic in many ways, I sense that they’ve just gotten me ready for what’s ahead.

As I was praying about these things, I felt that God was saying quite distinctly, “Get ready for a gust  in August!” I took that as very good news. I’ve never liked to drift listlessly in the water, so it was great to hear that a new blast of wind was on the way!

However, I’ve also experienced times in my life when God sent a fresh gust of His Spirit and I wasn’t prepared. A strong breeze does a sailboat no good if the sail isn’t ready and the rudder isn’t set. Even worse, it can capsize the boat if the sailor isn’t paying attention!

Will God truly send “a gust” in Au-gust? We will find out soon! But one thing is for sure: It’s best to be ready.

Sailboats are a lot like eagles, for both rely heavily on wind currents to supply their propulsion. We’re promised in Isaiah 40:31, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

The message here for eagles, sailboats, or Christians is clear: Continually needing new strength and inspiration, we must wait expectantly for God to send a new gust of His divine wind. And based on Isaiah’s promise, we can expect a gust of God’s Spirit anytime, and any month, we’re willing to wait for it.

So now’s the time to prepare our hearts to be ready when it comes!

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Your Whac-a-Mole Options

whac-a-mole-arcade boys

When a friend recently asked me how I was doing, my response was troubling.

“My body and mind seem to be slowing down,” I said, “but my responsibilities seem to be speeding up. That’s a bad combination!”

As I later reflected on that conversation, the Whac-a-Mole arcade game came to mind. As the game begins, the moles pop up fairly slowly, but their speed continually increases until the game finally ends.

This prompted me to think of a story about three young boys who took different approaches when they played Whac-a-Mole at the county fair one day…

The first boy just did his best. As the moles first began to emerge, he had little trouble whacking each one. But by the final moments of the game, the moles were getting the better of him. Unable to keep up with the frantic speed, he became exasperated.

The second boy, after watching the plight of his friend, came up with a clever plan to foil the pesky moles. After easily whacking a few moles at the beginning of the game, he calmly went to the back of the machine and pulled the power cord before things got out of hand.

“Why did you do that?!” his friends demanded. “You can’t just stop the game in the middle.”

“I outsmarted those moles,” the boy explained. “I cut the game off before the speed got too fast for me.”

But his two friends pointed out the folly of his logic. By pulling the plug, he had ended his chance of scoring any more points. Yes, he had avoided the frustration and feeling of failure that comes when you can’t keep up—but this impulsive act had diminished his final score.

The third boy had watched his two friends and devised a better solution. He alertly noticed a speed control on the side of the Whac-a-Mole game, and he turned it to the slow, “senior citizen” mode. All the moles still popped up, but practically in slow motion. This young man ended up getting the highest score, because he could easily keep up with the speed.

What are the lessons in this story?

  • If you play Whac-a-Mole at the regular speed, you’re likely to become overwhelmed and frustrated at the end.
  • When you become overwhelmed and frustrated, at times you might feel tempted to simply pull the plug.
  • But the better solution is to adjust the speed control, acknowledging that you aren’t as fast as you used to be.

You’re probably thinking at this point, “Jim, I see no way to adjust the speed control in my life. The ‘moles’ just keep popping up, totally out of my control.”

Believe me, I’ve had similar thoughts. Finding life’s “speed control” seems difficult, if not impossible.

But here are a few thoughts that can liberate you from your Whac-a-Mole dilemma…

  1. First, consider this amazing truth: Some of the “moles” popping up can simply be ignored!

Like a batter in baseball, you mustn’t swing at every pitch people throw at you. You have to be patient…know the pitches you can hit…and say “no” to curveballs that are out of your strike zone.

  1. Next, you need to acknowledge that you’re not Superman or Superwoman.

Yes, it’s humbling to admit you need to slow down life’s Whac-a-Mole game a bit. But that option is preferable to going insane or simply pulling the plug.

  1. Finally, you need to recognize that God has given you permission to rest…to take Sabbaths and vacations…and simple to SLOW DOWN.

“Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?” (Jeremiah 2:25 MSG).

What great advice! Slow down. Take a deep breath. Quit being in such a hurry.

As I’ve reflected on the lessons I learned from the Whac-a-Mole story, I find myself meditating on this great principle from Scripture: “Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15 NLT).

As we return to the Lord and learn to rest in His presence, life will slow down a bit. Noise will give way to quietness. New strength will come, and confidence will rise. We might even enjoy life—really enjoy life—for the first time in years.

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Whatever Doesn’t Kill You…

 

When I went through a rather traumatic experience recently, I found myself reflecting on a commonly held maxim of today’s pop culture: “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” Depending on your taste in music, you can find this statement in recent songs by Kanye West or Kelly Clarkson.

I’ll have to admit, there’s something rather uplifting about this premise. It’s great to hear that you can be made stronger, instead of weaker, during the storms of life.

But is this axiom truly Biblical, or just wishful thinking?

It turns out that the originator of the “Whatever doesn’t kill you…” statement appears to be nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He is more famous—or infamous—for launching the “God Is Dead” movement. But that alone doesn’t mean we should totally dismiss his view that whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

As I’ve pondered this, I’ve concluded that Nietzsche’s statement is a half-truth, something that can be either true or false depending on other factors. Let me explain…

There’s no guarantee that you will be strengthened by the traumas of life. We’ve all known people who experienced traumas and didn’t end up stronger—they just ended up traumatized. However, I bet you also can point to people who truly did become stronger as they overcame adversity.

You see, the evidence is pretty clear: Some people become BITTER when dealing with adversity, while others grow BETTER.

So what causes this stark difference in outcomes? Basically, the key is how we respond to the trauma. When faced with hardship, we have a fantastic opportunity to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:1). Instead of being destroyed by our trials, we can “go from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7). When the flood waters come, they can lift us higher instead of drown us.

However, there’s nothing automatic about this. It’s a choice. A lifestyle. A recognition that God’s strength can be revealed amid our human weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Jacob wrestled with God one night and ended up limping as a result (Genesis 32:24-31). Was he stronger after that experience? Certainly not physically stronger.

But spiritually Jacob was infinitely stronger after this divine wrestling match. The transformation was so great that his whole identity shifted from “Jacob” (the scoundrel and deceiver) to “Israel” (a prince with God).

Ironically, the traumas of life ARE supposed to “kill” us, in a sense. But this doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll immediately exit this world for heaven. Rather, it means we’ll increasingly die to ourselves and then experience more of God’s resurrection power.

The apostle Paul said it this way: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). You can’t get any stronger than that.

I don’t know what you’re going through today. But I DO know this: God is faithful. He has a good plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11). And if you look to Him in your adversity and weakness, He will fill you with His supernatural strength.

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