Focus: FAST FORWARD
(Pastor Cameron Beyenberg)
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.” – C.S. Lewis
Adam Sandler starred in a film called Click in the year 2006. The movie follows the journey of Sandler’s character, who is a junior partner in an architecture firm. The story continues throughout the stresses of his work, the troubles of his home life, and how he simply wants to just get past the stage of life he is in, so that he can enjoy the next stage of being a partner, having more time and money to be with family.
The twist in the film is when Sandler stumbles upon a remote that allows him to fast forward past certain things in his life: a fight with his wife, a hard family dinner with in-laws, and finally the time it takes for his promotion. However, once he starts clicking past these life moments, the remote begins to remember things he wants to move past. He ends up missing his children growing up, his daughter’s wedding, and many other important life events, waking up to find himself in the hospital on his death bed, divorced, hurting, and alone. He discovers that although there are some things in life we want to fast forward past for convenience, the key to a better future is through remaining present in hope.
Isn’t this so similar to our lives? Don’t we find ourselves wanting to fast forward through the difficult, the painful, the annoying, the patience-testing, and all the other things of life? Not only this, but we often come to the place where we get caught up only with what will take place in the future, but we miss the present and we disregard the past. We find ourselves feeling anxious, stressed, doubtful, or fearful when we miss the present and live in either the past or the future. But, we are not left alone. God gives us the beautiful gift of resting with Him through Sabbath.
The purpose of Sabbath is to hold the past, present, and future in the Lord’s limitless and abundant love. It is to come to the Father with all things from our past, all things of our present, and all things of our future, handing our lives to His grace and trusting that all things are held together in Him and for Him. When we Sabbath, we come back to a position before the Lord where we are not trying to fast forward, but are reminded that hope gives us the ability to stay present and look forward to what is promised.
When we rest in the Lord each week and each day, we begin to discover that anxiety, stress, doubt, worry, and fear are not our inheritance. We see more clearly that we are covered, filled, and surrounded with the presence of the Holy Spirit. We remember that our Lord already knows what we need, and that He has already been at work, even before we started thinking about whatever it may be. When we Sabbath, we are empowered to remove any temptation to fast forward because we remain present when we rest and abide with our King.
One thing that the Sabbath corrects in us is the thought that the next season is where we should be. This is a common thread through all the dynamics of life: the thought that if I were already in the next job, the married life, or retired that I will be happy. Sabbath reminds us that no matter if we are single or married, unemployed or a CEO, living slowly or living too quickly, that God is present and God is joy. Sabbath centers us in the reality that we can be present, receiving God’s presence and joy, and living from this place.
We no longer have to wish for things to speed up. We no longer have to look elsewhere for our hope or joy. We no longer have to click past certain seasons or relationships in our lives. Rather, we can stay tuned into the greatness of the pace, the vision, the timing, and the clarity of the Prince of Peace. Our perspective is shifted to rest in the present, knowing that in our waiting, God is present, just as much as He will be in the future.
God also offers us through the Sabbath a wonderful gift of recognizing that His redemption covers our past, present, and future. As we rest, we are better able to understand how He has loved us, how He is loving, and how He will love us. As we receive His grace, we are better empowered to receive His grace in the future as well. Our doubts of His promise are not the focus of our lives when we find that our present is held by the One who also holds the future.
And as we fix our attention and hearts upon our Sustainer, we are better able to partner with what He has already been doing and will continue to do. We come to a more clear place of communication with the King who has given us choices, and loves to empower us to choose the ways of His love, grace, and truth.
The thing is that trial and tribulation are promised. When we Sabbath, that doesn’t mean the challenges won’t come, it simply means that we don’t have to face them alone, or from our tired, broken places. Sabbath presents us with the opportunity to partner with the God who calls things that don’t exist, as though they do (Rom. 4:17). We can agree with the Prophetic Voice of our Father who is speaking His good and perfect things over us, through us, around us, and for us.
the question is: are we taking moments or a day, to actually listen or are we fast-forwarding past his voice? are we reminding ourselves in the moments of pain of how much the Father loves us and is there, or are we simply trying to move past these feelings as quickly as possible? are we agreeing with the One who is speaking his best intentions over us or are we more concerned with other intentions and voices in our lives?
Each week, Sabbath is our opportunity to live free from anxiety, stress, doubt, worry, and fear, because when we Sabbath we allow the presence of Peace, Hope, Faithfulness, and Love to enter into not just that time period, but all of our lives. Sabbath gives us the tools to live more abundantly in the Lord’s Goodness, as we get the opportunity to align ourselves with His Goodness each day. Sabbath enlivens our confidence to live from the place of victory already won through Christ Jesus. Our paradigms are changed in Sabbath lifestyle, because we begin thinking from who God was, is, and will be, rather than limiting ourselves to a thought-life restricted by temporary things.
One way to stay present, yet look forward to what is ahead, is through the art of circle prayer. Mark Batterson wrote a book called The Circle Maker in which he tells the story of a Hebrew man named Honi who prayed for rain in the midst of a long drought and famine in Israel. He drew a circle around where he was standing, and told God that he would not move from the circle until it rained on the land. It rained once, but was only a drizzle. Honi prayed again, so it rained once more, but it was coming down very hard. This was unsustainable to the crops, so Honi prayed again for a sustainable rain. The rain started come down in a manner that was good for the people, the crops, and the land.
Batterson tells this story to remind us that we are called to pray big prayers. He says that our small prayers dishonor God because God is able to do so much more than we can imagine. He empowers the reader to be a circle maker: to write those big prayers out and draw circles around them until we see them come to pass. Why? Because God wants to bless His people. The question is: are you willing to receive it? I believe one of the ways we can best slow down to receive the Lord’s blessings is through the gift of Sabbath and circle prayer.
My wife, Abbie, and I implemented this practice into our marriage. We prayed for free rent, and God opened up a wonderful back house for us. We prayed for opportunities for her in the field of psychology, and the Lord has empowered her with amazing internships, published articles in the Journal of Positive Psychology, and many other ways. We prayed for very specific and very vague requests, but we allowed God to be God, and partnered with His grace and love that went ahead of us.
The beauty of circle prayer is that we are able to write down our prayers for future things, but empowered to remain present until those things happen. We don’t try to fast forward, we just simply push play, and open ourselves to the Lord’s leading as His love illuminates our pathways. And the glorious reality is that when we just stay present with the Lord, the end goal may end up changing, but it’s because the journey has produced character in us along the way.
I would encourage you this week, beloved, to implement a practice of circle prayer into your lifestyle. Make a dream jar where you can write down and place your dreams into, trusting God for them. Make a calendar, fill up your journal, read all the breakthrough stories of Scripture and the Church, etc. Just open your heart to be present, trusting that God will lead you into the future through the power of His love.
Sabbath, please Sabbath. Not because you have to, but because you get to. Because the model you set now, is the example your children’s children will see growing up. And that’s a bright future to look ahead to. The good news: we don’t have to fast forward to get there. We can simply be present, push play, and live from the victory and goodness of the One who holds all things together – including the future – and partner with Him as we see great things ahead unfold.