OK, so we’ve considered the need to be confronted by hard truth, the significance of networking and the power of prayer. Today I want to speak about the toughest yet the most character-shaping issue I’ve had to work through at Red Sessions – the call to persevere.
4. the call to persevere
Ours is a generation that wants everything NOW, that gets bored easily and moves on very quickly.
You hate your job?
Get a new one!
Church not meeting your expectations?
Find another one!
Marriage lost its spark?
Move on and try someone else!
Washing machine broken?
Don’t bother getting it fixed, just scrap it and buy a new one!
Need more convincing? Look no further than your mobile phone! How long have you had it? I’d be gob-smacked if it was more than 2 years old. Ours is a superficial and shallow culture that, to varying degrees, we are all influenced by.
With all that in mind, please allow me to share an observation with you:
Most things that are of any value or worth in this life take time, toil and perseverance.
Children enter the world after 9 months of pregnancy followed by the pains of labour (and then the hard work really starts). Top athletes may require a fair share of raw natural talent, but there is no substitute for the dedication of years and years of training, physical conditioning, diet control and disciplined lifestyle. Precious jewels don’t magically appear in the jewellers shop – they need to be painstakingly dug out of the bowels of the earth with sweat and graft. And while I am far from an expert on this matter, I have to say that the best and most beautiful marriages that I have observed have been those that stood the test of time – a couple who have have loved, laughed, wept and worked their way through decades of ups and downs, disasters and delights together. (Like that of my parents!)
So what, you might ask, has all this got to do with Redemption Sessions?
Well in simple terms I have found it REALLY hard to persevere with our monthly prayer meetings this past year. As I mentioned in my introductory post I have wanted to jack it all in and quit several times over the course of the year. Here are 3 reasons why I think that might be
Heart on the sleeve time – I’ve really struggled with disappointment throughout the course of the year. When we launched Red Sessions in January there were maybe 20-30 people in attendance – a good number and perhaps swelled by the huge interest generated in the issue of human trafficking by the Passion conference in America. However, from February onwards numbers dwindled away. I think our lowest number was 4. Now I know that it’s not all about numbers, but the truth is that when your heart is to be gathering like-minded believers together for to pray and to rally around the the issue of eradicating slavery, a dwindling prayer meeting is quite soul-destroying. In fact for most of the latter part of the year I would be sitting in the church hall with a sinking-feeling in the pit of my stomach as I doubted whether anyone else would come. By God’s grace I was NEVER on my own and for the faithful few who more often than not did come to the meetings – I am very grateful to you. Now this genuinely isn’t a finger-pointing exercise. I know that many had very legitimate reasons (not least local church commitments) to not come and join us and I promise that I’m not holding a grudge against anyone. I’m just sharing my heart! Whatever your ministry, your calling or your passion – when it feels like your ploughing something of a lone furrow – it’s hard not to get despondent and discouraged at times. It can make you want to quit.
This is a much more simple point – I found the logistics of organising and promoting a Cardiff-based prayer meeting to be incredibly difficult from 20 miles away in the valleys. I thought our little Twitter account might have been a bit more effective in spreading the word – but it wasn’t. It might sound obvious, but the simple thing of being able to get around churches to put up posters, meeting with church leaders and trying to get them on board, or simply just seeing other believers around and letting them know about the sessions was simply not possible from such a distance. There were certainly Fridays evenings at the end of a long week when the thought of a 40 mile round trip to host a prayer meeting (that I feared no one would come to) wasn’t nearly as pleasant a proposition as cwtching up to watch a film with my wife and a kebab, but that’s not what leadership is about. Redemption Sessions was my idea and as such, it was my responsibility to make the drive and make it happen. But such awkward logistics can make you want to quit.
I guess this one is the most faith-less confession of them all – but I found it very hard to keep praying about something as massive as human trafficking without seeing any tangible results. As I mentioned yesterday, we did eventually start to see some amazing answered prayers (which I thank God for) but certainly for the first 6 months or so it felt like we were praying out of sheer obedience. It was (and still is) a real test of faith. We just kept praying because that’s what God has told us to do. There is no biblical mandate for praying so long as you’re seeing the results. On the contrary “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11 v 1. I’ve had to keep reminding myself of that throughout this year. However, believing without seeing can sometimes make you want to quit.
Now I appreciate that all that night sound a little but negative, but these are my honest reflections. However, it hasn’t all been negative. Far from it! In fact, as is often the case with stuff like this, God has actually taught me a great deal about myself and my faithfulness and Himself and His great faithfulness. Here’s what He’s taught me…
That pretty much covers it!! The temptation to jack it in is never far away for those involved in Christian ministry, and I can safely say that I’m no exception. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is right to end stuff. More often than not, however, the easy option is not the right option. Far from it. Just think what would have happened if the children of Israel had decided to throw in the towel after only completing 6 laps of Jericho – the walls would never have fallen. What if Shammah had decided to flee rather than stand and fight? The Philistines would have robbed his beans (2Samuel 23 v 11-12). Or perhaps most tellingly of all – what if Jesus had allowed the pressure of Gethsemane to drive Him away from His mission to the cross?
There’s something Christlike about refusing to back down!
Here’s a few scriptures that have served me well in working this stuff through:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore…” (Eph 6 v 10-14)
“we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom 5 v 3-5)
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal 6 v 9)
“pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5 v 17)
And here’s a Johnny Cash song that kinda sums it up in a fun way too! (I first came across this song on Barnyard, but since YouTube have banned the Barnyard film clip version, here’s one with loads of Johnny Cash photos).
So there we have it. As I look back over the past 12 months it’s kinda like looking back down the M4 motorway. There are numerous junctions I could have taken to leave the highway, but then I wouldn’t have stayed on course. On course for what I hear you ask? Well, I’m still not entirely sure, but I know He’s leading me somewhere! More about that tomorrow…
Redemption Sessions has taught me to persevere at all costs.