A pastor, known for his lengthy sermons, noticed a man get up and leave during the middle of his message. The man returned just before the conclusion of the service. Afterwards the pastor asked the man where he had gone. “I went to get a haircut,” was the reply. “But,” said the pastor, “why didn’t you do that before the service?”
“Because,” the gentleman said, “I didn’t need one then.”
Everyone has struggles, things that need to be overcome. They may be small or big, simple or complex, physical, emotional, or spiritual, but we all have hurdles that need jumping.
Sometimes we’re well motivated to do so; other times we take procrastination to a new personal best. At times, we have a plan and know the steps to take; with other difficulties, we’re in completely brand-new territory and can only take baby steps. We succeed against some opponents but fail at others.
One reason why we don’t overcome spiritual challenges is we accept merely what already is. We settle. We love to be content. We don’t believe in bigger or better or more. We don’t hold hard to the idea that we need more than we have. We don’t look to grasp more of what God wants to give. We should look to God to fulfill us.
Let the Lord know what you need. You may have a lot, but you need more. As scripture says, “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:19
Now I know most of the time we work on the idea that we have more than we need. Right? I’m supposed to tell you, and I do, that you have more than most, and we have everything we need. But the material and financial worlds shouldn’t be confused with the spiritual world. Just because you have plenty in one doesn’t mean you have plenty in the other.
The truth is often we don’t see ourselves as we are.
Some shine themselves up pretty good in their own eyes, seeing their successes as their due or because of their traits, multiplying the times they do well, but not taking note of some of their less than admirable qualities, downplaying negativities, discounting debatable habits or characteristics. Others do the opposite, stressing their weaknesses, failures, and less than stellar abilities instead of recalling how far they’ve come, how little they had to work with, the number of times they rose to the occasion.
We need to see ourselves, in our strengths and our weaknesses, where we help and where we hurt, how we provide and how we detract. We ought to look at our reactions to others and question is that God working in me. We should listen to ourselves talk and make sure the Lord’s words are our words. We need to feel our own heart to hear if the Spirit is moving in it, softening it, molding it, shaping it to fit God’s compassionate will for us and others.
It’s not possible to overcome our spiritual challenges if we don’t know what our spiritual challenges are.
One person said this about the importance of seeing himself truly. “I really wanted to just quit my 9–5. Even though I had no savings and hadn’t started making any money on the side. I didn’t care about that because I hated my job so much and I just wanted to escape.
I didn’t want to live in reality because the reality was that I couldn’t just quit. And that reality was painful. More painful than I’d be able to handle, I thought. So, I just complained and sulked and took no action.
I didn’t want to accept my reality because wouldn’t that be admitting defeat? If I accepted it… then what? Where would my drive go? Didn’t I have to hate where I wanted to be to get to where I wanted to go? No. (That’s a)nother myth. It was only when I totally accepted that I wasn’t where I wanted to be, when I stopped judging myself for not being where I wanted to be, that I started working to get to where I wanted to be.
It’s only when you accept your reality, no matter how much you think you don’t like it, that you can change it.”
This may sound harsh but until we see where we’re failing, we can’t find our way to succeeding. If you don’t have what you need, you’ve got to go get it. If you aren’t yet what you want you to be, you’ve got to go and get it.
We want to have the ability to face whatever comes our way, to stand up to it, and overcome. Christ tells us this isn’t possible, at least not if standing up on your own two feet is your one and only method of battling big things. If you need more than you have, then prayer is what you need.
Jesus, with Peter, James and John, came down the mountain to find the disciples arguing with some scribes. Jesus asked them what they were arguing about. A weary father came forward and said he brought his son, who had been suffering with violent seizures since he was young, to be healed. The disciples tried to heal him but couldn’t. Jesus ended up healing the boy.
After everything was over, the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast out the demonic spirit. They had done it before. It wasn’t anything new to them. Humiliated because they couldn’t do what they promised in front of a big crowd, this time had proven different.
Jesus answered, “This kind can only come out through prayer.” In other words, insufficient prayer was why they couldn’t do it.
Now Jesus didn’t mean they hadn’t prayed enough over the boy. This wasn’t about not saying a big enough prayer for the situation at hand. After all, Jesus had cast out the demon without praying: “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” That was it.
But Christ was ready to move a mountain when it came. He was ready to still a storm when it arose. He was ready to bring down a demon when it showed up. He was ready to save a boy when the boy came in need to him.
He meant they had not prayed enough period. It was about not saying enough prayers for the many situations they faced. They hadn’t prayed over a long enough period of time, over themselves, over their troubles, failures, even demons. Not enough prayer leads to not enough power.
The disciples wanted to be superstars without doing the work.
We don’t pray because we think we can handle situations. We think we have a good marriage because we have a great spouse. Or the reason there’s been reconciliation in our relationships is due to us being wise. Or the reason we have a good job is because we’ve been working so hard.
We can usually handle things until a situation arises where our normal mode of operation can’t fix the problem. It isn’t until we don’t have what we need that we see how much more is required.
Jesus told his disciples prayer is sometimes the only power stronger than what they’re facing. Before you confront, turn your back to pray. Prayer is a form of turning your back, so you can gain the power to overcome what you face when you go back to life.
Huddle with the Lord before you go the line of scrimmage. When the play starts, it’s often too late.
You know what’s really interesting is even though this message is about how to overcome what too often gets the best of us to make things worse for us, the important question isn’t a “how to” question. We don’t do well when we ask how do I do this or that. We won’t do as well asking how do I pray as we would do asking what’s stopping me from praying.
What’s stopping you from doing this or that, going here or there? What’s stopping you from overcoming what you’ve been fighting and struggling against? We don’t need a how-to manual on fixing something. We need a what’s stopping you from fixing someone, namely, ourselves.
Jesus had great power to defeat that boy’s enemy because he had defeated his own enemies. The disciples never had a chance against such a strong enemy because they hadn’t overcome their own strong enemies. They hadn’t spent enough time in prayer, wrestling with what was unhealed and unhealthy in themselves to pull out of another what was hurting and hindering him.
You see, prayer, at least the kind of prayer Jesus was talking about here, isn’t about getting something. It’s about becoming someone. But to become someone you’re going to have to fight for that person. Your old self will put up a fight. Inertia likes things as they are. The new you has to kick out the old you. The better you has to clean house. You can only come out through prayer.
If you want to gain in spiritual strength, you’re going to have to lift spiritual weights and carry spiritual burdens.
I believe there is another power that Jesus prayer gives that his disciples didn’t have. That is the power of compassion. If you want to change the life of others for the good, you’ve got to change your life through compassion. When we pray, really pray Jesus kind of prayer, compassion arises within us. With it comes power for good.
Not long after Rose Espinoza and her husband, Eliasar, moved into their first home in Brea, California in 1991, they started wondering if they’d made a huge mistake. “Boys with baseball bats hung out on the corners and they weren’t looking for a pick-up game,” recalls the 65-year-old electromechanical designer. “After a drive-by shooting on our street, we started to really worry about the safety of our eight-year-old son, Chris. I thought, ‘What had we gotten our family into?’
”The Espinozas initiated a neighborhood watch group, but the morning after the first meeting a clear message was spray-painted on their truck, ‘Don’t finger us, keep your mouth shut.” Rose knew she had to take a different approach to the problem, so she went directly to the root. In September 1991, she transformed her two-car garage into a free after-school K-12 tutoring program, Rosie’s Garage, complete with computers, books, and banners for kids who made the honor roll.
“We started by offering homework help and free lemonade, and 16 kids showed up the very first day,” recalls Espinoza, who recruited high school students with solid grades as tutors. “This was the first tutoring program in the neighborhood, and it was clear that these kids really did want to learn.”
Rosie’s Garage literally transformed the Espinoza’s neighborhood. Within two years, academic scores went up and the crime rate went down. And it’s such a great idea that it’s spreading: there are now four sites, one in Brea and three in the neighboring towns of Santa Ana and La Habra that are serving about 200 children at any given time.
Compassion changes the world. Compassion changes others. The power of prayer arises from the power of compassion to change us.
Christ’s compassion for others came from his prayer life. His power to save that boy and bring healing to that son came from his empathy and his love of compassion. As scripture says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his compassion never comes to an end.”
Let the Lord know what you need. You may have a lot, but you need more. Accept that you need more than you have. Grasp more of what God wants to give. We should pray for God to fill us compassion and power. The Lord richly blesses those who need what only the Lord can give.