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30 Days To Experiencing Spiritual BreakthroughsThirty Leading Christian Authors Share Their Insights
By BRUCE H. WILKINSON
Multnomah Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 1999 Bruce Wilkinson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDay I Experiencing Spiritual Breakthrough
Set Your Heart to Experience Spiritual Breakthroughs
Bruce H. Wilkinson
I was stuck!
I mean really stuck!
Back then I called it my "midlife crisis."
I was nearing forty and nothing was working right. The ministry wasn't satisfying. I wanted everything I didn't have. Even the proverbial red sports car and all that goes with it looked awfully good to this middle-aged married man. So did quitting the ministry. I didn't know what I wanted to do instead-maybe work at a bagel shop or something. Anything else ... but something else.
Eventually, it all came to a head. I knew I had to do something, but no matter what I tried, it didn't work. So I turned to one of my mentors who had been used by the Lord numerous times during the previous twenty or so years, Dr. Howard G. Hendricks, a distinguished professor from Dallas Theological Seminary. I called him and told him I was stuck and that I needed help.
After only two sentences, he told me he was there for me and that I should catch a plane the next day to go see him. He canceled some meetings and set the whole afternoon aside for me. Suchfriendship is a rare treasure.
When I finally sat in his office the next afternoon, I was uncomfortable and distressed. Not because of "Prof," as we affectionately call him, but because of the internal turmoil that was raging in me. He asked me a few questions and listened quietly. He didn't say much. I can remember sweating, just trying to explain for him as best as I could my turmoil and confusion. For as long as I live, I will never forget what he said next.
"Bruce, I can help you. Will you do what I say?"
"Well," I asked, "what do you want me to do?"
He sat quietly for a moment and then said soberly, "Will you do what I say regardless of what I ask?"
I couldn't believe it! He wanted my commitment before telling me what it was going to be! He was keeping me purposely in the dark!
I just sat there. Sweat dripped down my forehead. I couldn't speak. I just looked at the floor.
After a while, he said, "Bruce, do you believe I love you?"
"Yes, Prof, I know you love me."
"Then trust me."
There it was, out in the open. "Trust me." That was the problem.
For the longest time, I sat there considering his words. I knew he loved me. I knew he could be trusted. But could I trust him this far? Could I agree to do whatever he asked, even before he told me what it was? He was asking me to trust him without an answer to the question why.
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally found the words: "Yes, Prof, I know you love me-and I know that I can trust you. I will do anything you ask me to do."
He smiled with affection and gave me two different things to do. Everything in me screamed in opposition. What he was suggesting was the very opposite of what I wanted to do! I told him that I would set aside all of the emotion and arguments in my heart and that I would do exactly what he asked me to. Then I flew home.
I did exactly what he said.
And within three or four weeks, I was set free.
What a breakthrough!
Are You Stuck?
In your spiritual life have you ever been stuck? It's really not too different from getting your car stuck in the mud or snow. You try to go forward, but nothing happens. You try to go in reverse, and still nothing happens. You might even try turning the wheels in different directions. But all the while, you're just digging yourself deeper and deeper.
You may be in this type of situation even as you're reading this. Perhaps you feel like the Israelites did when they were wandering around in the desert: continually going in circles, never really getting anywhere, eating the same spiritual diet day after day, and all you see on the horizon is more sand.
How did the Israelites handle their seemingly desperate situation? For years, they grumbled. They even decided it would be better to go back to Egypt and live in slavery than deal with the responsibilities of their newfound freedom. But that just caused their situation to get worse. They were really stuck! And they remained there for forty years.
Perhaps you don't even realize you're stuck. You may have become so comfortable with your life that you really see no reason to change it. Then you don't even know what you're missing. You've become so content with living in the desert that you may never experience the "Promised Land."
What is it that causes us to get stuck in the first place? Well, for the Israelites, it was unbelief. They were so frightened of the giants living in the Promised Land that they didn't believe God would give them the land as he promised. Once they acted on that unbelief, they were stuck. (The most tragic aspect of the Israelites' unbelief is that they never got unstuck. This generation wandered around in the desert until they died.)
I have a feeling the same could be true for you and me- we simply don't believe God!
The Three Chairs
The whole story of the Israelites and the Exodus can be broken up into three different periods of time: (1) the years of slavery, (2) the years of wandering, and (3) the years of abundance.
Obviously, the years of slavery refer to the four hundred years the Israelites spent in captivity in Egypt, the years of wandering pertain to the forty years they spent in the desert, and the years of abundance concern the years of plenty in the Promised Land under Joshua's leadership.
Each of these time periods represents a new generation. The generations of Israelites that lived in Egypt were slaves. They lived their lives in complete submission to the Egyptians. They were well taken care of, had plenty of good food and shelter, and lived fairly comfortable lives, but they were still slaves.
The second generation that left Egypt experienced the incredible exuberation of being delivered from slavery. They saw firsthand the miracles of God and experienced the power of His guiding hand. But they didn't know how to handle the responsibilities of freedom. They continually forgot about God's miracles and power, and tried to do things their own way. As we've already seen, the results were not pleasant.
The third generation, though, did things the right way. They remembered the things God did to get their forefathers out of Egypt, and they remembered His promises about the Promised Land. As a result, their belief was greatly rewarded with a land flowing with milk and honey. They saw God destroy their enemies, and they lived a life of abundance and blessing.
To make all of this more visual and practical, I have used three different chairs to represent each of these generations. Picture three chairs in your mind: the First Chair is the one on your right side, the Second Chair is in the middle, and the Third Chair sits on the left.
The First Chair in our metaphor is the godly chair, and those who sit in it remain close to Him. Joshua and the generation of Israelites who went into the Promised Land sat in this chair. They had a deep devotion to God. They trusted Him and knew their lives were firmly in His hand. They had an intimate relationship with the Lord and lived their lives to serve Him.
Joshua once said to this generation: "Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! ... But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:14-15, NKJV). What a testament to their devotion!
Notice how Joshua referred to the other two generations of Israelites? The first group he mentioned was their fathers, who served other gods on the other side of the river. What is the difference between these Israelites and the Israelites in Egypt? The former group had experienced the power of God's salvation in their lives. They had been delivered from the tyranny of other lords. But as Joshua explains, they refused to put away the gods they had served in Egypt. They had come under the blood of the Passover but were not serving the Lord with their whole heart. To put it in modern terms, they were sitting comfortably in the Second Chair.
The Israelites in Egypt, on the other hand, had never experienced God's salvation. They were slaves to a master other than God and worshiped pagan gods. They were firmly seated in the Third Chair.
Are you beginning to understand the progression? God's desire for the life of an unbeliever is that he move from the Third Chair (where there is no relationship with Christ) into the Second Chair (where there is salvation, but a lot of baggage), and then quickly into the First Chair (where the baggage is thrown out).
Unfortunately, many people who move from the Third Chair into the Second get stuck there for far too long, just as the Israelites did in the desert. Or worse, they move on into the First Chair but then slide back into the Second Chair. Both situations are unfortunate. In fact, both are dealt with in Scripture.
If you keep reading the Israelites' story, you'll see that Joshua's descendants and the generation that outlived him (the fourth generation) don't do a very good job of holding on to the First Chair. This generation still believed in the Lord, but there was one significant difference: their faith wasn't original. They hadn't dealt personally with the Lord. Instead, they relied on the faith of their parents and the stories of what God had done in their parents' generation. That alone had been enough to develop faith in God. They believed all the facts about God, but they didn't experience Him personally.
The next generation (the fifth) took an even bigger step backward. Judges 2:10 says this "generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel" (NKJV).
Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs
So the movement can go both ways. Obviously, God wants us moving to the First Chair.
But some of us may be stuck. I was. I needed the help of a good friend to get out of the Second Chair and back into the First Chair. It took a little time, but I finally experienced the spiritual breakthrough I'd been searching for.
That's what this book is about: experiencing spiritual breakthroughs in your life, in your marriage, in your family, and in your walk with God.
I've arranged for some of the strongest leaders in the Christian community to guide you to the First Chair in several areas of your life. That's right! Every area of your life must be moved into the First Chair, and for thirty days these leaders will help you experience the breakthroughs you'll need to get there.
If you follow the steps they've outlined, I promise you'll encounter the abundant life God so desires for you to experience.
Excerpted from 30 Days To Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs by BRUCE H. WILKINSON Copyright © 1999 by Bruce Wilkinson
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.