Believing & Expecting
This is the title of the message I am developing to be delivered this month in California. It may be the most important message I have ever assembeled and having come together as a result of my re-reading all of my email updates regarding our struggle with Cindy’s hospitalization. There were no less than 15 lessons I have discovered in this process. I have distilled this large number down to six.
Little did I know when God shared that word with me on December 24, 2008—My people are not prepared—that it was for me. This recent battle has caused me to examine the sometimes pretentious attitude that I am “ok” and just need to communicate what God is saying to them, and look more closely at my own life.
The struggles I have experienced over these past 3-4 years have produced lessons that could fill a book, and seems as though every time I thought I had some new revelation about what God wanted to communicate, He was not willing to let me get away with teaching it until I lived it. Over the next several months I want to share some of these with you in our TargetPoint series. My prayer is that you recognize some of these as precious nuggets God intends for you to have in your journey. I see them as a developing set of armor that will be required in the battle yet to come.
You will never rely upon someone you do not trust…and you will never trust someone you do not know
I want to use the remainder of this TargetPoint to set the overarching idea that will set the stage for the rest of this series. In my Men On Target seminar I say something like this to the men—you will never rely upon someone you do not trust…and you will never trust someone you do not know. The idea here is that many of us do not trust God because we really do not know Him at the depth we need to bring about real faith in His ability to handle all of our cares.
I have discovered that teaching this principle is a lot easier than living it. Early on in my experience with Cindy I had to come to terms with whether I truly believed God was in charge. I had to come to a place where I not only believed but had a sincere sense of expectation as well, i.e. A woman who desires a child can believe she is going to get pregnant—a woman who is expecting buys the furniture for the room.
Of course we know that believing and expecting is no guarantee that it will always turn out the way we want—the results are in God’s capable hands. Our job is to simply trust Him. I am reminded of a powerful story in the Bible I had the occasion of reading this morning. It is found in 2 Kings 19.
Leading up to verse 14, Hezekiah had numerous warnings from Sennacherib that he was about to lose the battle—virtually everything. There was ample evidence in the history record that would indicate he was doomed—Sennacherib did not lose and he reminded Hezekaih of this in a powerful and threatening letter.
For me the letter from this powerful adversary represented the human acknowledgement of the predicament. In our case the doctors, while not the real enemy, were representing what our adversary would want us to believe—there is no chance. Look at what Hezekiah did here beginning in verse 14:
Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD : “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. 2 Kings 19:14-16
Immediately after reading the report he went to the temple and laid it before his God. What a powerful picture for us to consider regarding our battles. I am reminded that under the new covenant we no longer are required to go to the physical temple—you and I are the temple. Hezekiah then acknowledges God for who He is in a very poetic fashion and then asks Him to ponder what this earthly scenario looks like—this man is insulting you Lord—you are my representative.
Shortly after hearing the negative report about Cindy and literally in the heat of this incredible battle I found myself doing the same thing—the only thing we are all called to do—bring our petitions before Him. Winning the battle or suffering loss is not the issue—laying it all before our awesome God who loves us and knows exactly what is in our best interest is.
What is your threatening letter today—could it be a serious illness or the loss of someone dear to you? Perhaps it is the loss of income or the potential of facing bankruptcy. Or maybe you are suffering from a sense of great defeat—everything around you looks bleak. Please consider this story and bring your circumstance before God. You may even want to write it out and find a quite place to kneel before Him and lay it out.
I encourage you to do it—do it with a sense of believing and expecting your precious heavenly Father to respond—just as He has done countless times before. He is truly AMAZING!
It was one of those unforgettable moments. I was driving to the hospital on my way to visit Cindy. Although I had been processing the whole idea of believing and expecting, I never-the-less went into a period of intense whining. I am a good whiner—some might say even a professional. It was during a particularly dark time in this lenghty ordeal with my beautiful wife’s life-threatening illness. In the midst of my complaining He spoke. It was a tender voice that I knew immediately was my precious Lord. He said, Vince do you have anything in your life for which you are thankful?
Talk about a change of thought process and direction. I knew this was from our wonderful Savior—the very Person who holds all of our circumstances in the palm of His hand. I immediately went into a chorus of things I was thankful for—here is a partial list as best as I can remember:
- I thank you Lord for:
- The special relationship Cindy and I along with our extended family have with each other and with you
- For two of the best daughters any dad could ever have
- Son-in-laws that love you and extend that love to our daughters and five very special grandchildren
- How you are watching over us and extending a supernatural sense of peace through this process
- The myriad of friends who have, are, and will continue praying for Cindy through this difficulty
- The unusual sacrificial giving we have experienced and that our future in this area is truly in your hands
- The special future you have already planned for us
- Your incredible outpouring through the ministry you have given Cindy and me and the tens of thousands of lives that have been impacted
- Who you are—the GREAT I AM
I am pursuaded that one of the very special and pleasing things our Lord experiences happens when we thank Him in the midst of our greatest struggles. It is a powerful demonstration of taking our focus off of our own pain and letting Him know how much we love Him. It is not always easy, however. The flesh is very powerful and the enemy of our soul is always right there telling us what a victim we are and how God really isn’t around to help.
Last month I talked about God dealing with me in the area of having a thankful heart. It was not long after that time the news regarding Cindy got worse—one doctor indicated that there was no way she could make it through this. Needless to say, his was the most devastating news we could have imagined.
It was at this critical juncture that the Lord wanted to deal with another issue in my life—the tendency to want to control and a reluctance toward total surrender to Him. I had to ask some pretty tough questions as I found myself living in what I call a Spiritual Tweener; that awkward place where I knew that God was fully in control and at the same time realizing that there were two distinctly different ways He might express His will.
“There is an outcome I am going to like a lot,” I thought, “and there is one that I am going to hate.” I remember thinking that I was afraid but not fearful. I was afraid of what I would have to go through if He took her yet not fearful in the sense that He was not there. I trusted Him completely and do not know how I could have made it without that. The bigger question for me was, is Vince getting out of the way and letting God do His work?
Please understand that I am not suggesting I could interrupt God. However, most of us are pretty capable of hunkering down and not spiritually letting go. I believe there is a spiritual principle at work here and that God is waiting for us to completely abandon to Him before He acts.
It was a few days later that I found myself at Cindy’s bedside doing the most difficult thing I have ever done—letting her go. I was alone with her but she was completely out—no awareness at all of what was happening. I remember holding her arm up with my hand and praying—the following is as close as I can remember uttering to God:
It was the most difficult thing I have ever done
Lord, you love this precious woman way more than any human can imagine—please forgive me for not remembering at times that she belongs to you—not me. Thank you for giving her to me and touching my life through her in ways that are unbelievable. Lord, I now release her to you. I ask you Lord to reach down right now and as I physically let this hand go from mine to yours in the natural—that in the spiritual realm you would have your way. Your destiny for Cindy is not mine to control. Whatever future you have in mind for her I humbly submit to your will.
I do not remember a time throughout this ordeal where I have felt more peace. While not giving up or admitting defeat I had come to terms with leaving everything totally in His capable hands. I also remember Him telling me to get off of that rollercoaster. I, like so many, have a tendency to ride the rollercoaster at times like this. There were plenty of extreme highs and lows to go around. The Lord reminded me of a passage I teach on, one which became the basis for our original ministry name, Path Levelers, Inc. It’s found in Proverbs 4:25-26, Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
You have no business being on that Rollercoaster!
Perhaps you are going through something right now that calls for a sincere reflection on these ideas. Here are some questions for you to ponder and process with the Lord:
- Are you living in that Spiritual Tweener place—knowing that God is there and sensing that confidence mixed with the very real emotion of being afraid? It’s ok—in fact it is very normal but you must resist the tendency to become fearful and doubt that God is there.
- Have you truly let go? Are you willing to let the knife come down on your Isaac and trust him totally? Take it to Him in prayer and remember that nothing belongs to you—it is all His—your family, possessions, even the clothes on your back are all on loan from God.
- Do you find yourself suffering from intense emotional highs and lows as you navigate your trial? Ask God to help you off the rollercoaster. Fix your gaze directly before you and onto His great vision and purpose and do not let your flesh get the better of you.
As children bring their broke toys with tears for us to mend, I brought my broken dreams to God because He was my friend.
But then instead of leaving Him in peace to work alone, I hung around and tried to help with ways that were my own.
At last I snatched them back and cried, “How can You be so slow?” “My child,” He said, “What could I do? You never did let go. – Author Unknown
Coming To The End Of Yourself
Last month I talked about God dealing with me in the area of letting go. I shared the incredible and difficult experience I had in that ICU as I prayed for Cindy and released her totally to our Lord. Over the next week or so God was slowly dealing with another very important area of my life. In fact, I will never forget His words to me in the car as I was driving home from the hospital—Vince, you are NOT God—I am God!
Wow. It occurs to me that not many of us would ever presume to be God. We would probably not mouth the words, God you are sure blessed to have me to help you or I know you must be pleased with all I am doing for You. Perhaps we would not be that overt but I wonder how often we either believe or act out in ways that would suggest this?
I am pursuaded that one of, if not the most importatant idea God is trying to suggest to us is something that was so powerfully demonstrated in the life of His Son Jesus—HUMILITY. One of the greatest orators of the sixteenth century was a French Catholic, Jacques Benigne Bossuet. He is quoted as saying, Man makes himself God through pride, God makes Himself man through humility. He goes on to say, man falsely attributes to himself what belongs to God; and God, in order to teach him to humble himself, takes what belongs to man. This is the remedy for insolence!
Man makes himself God through pride, God makes Himself man through humility
The more I see God at work in my life, breaking, shaking and taking—the more I am convinced that this is His way of getting our attention and smashing our insolence. For me, I picture God following behind me most of my life with this perplexed look on His face whispering—hey Vince—let me know when you are done. The sad part about this illustration is that I put Him behind me most of the time instead of in front where He really belongs. God will not show up until we are at the end of ourselves.
Nothing in my life has had the impact on me that our recent struggle with Cindy’s health has produced. I was forced to a complete end of Vince. In fact, I remember going to speak at a local men’s event I had on my calendar in the middle of this struggle—I told the men I was excited to come and be with them because I knew Vince would not be coming with me. They knew what I meant—when Vince shows up it is a different deal—it is all about how I can deliver and impress.
I have discovered the incredible freedom that comes when you are completely empty and God can truly flow. I now find myself measuring my worthiness not in terms of my preparation or how much I know, so much as whether I am empty enough for God to fill the void.
Humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit; it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us. –Tyron Edwards
The above quote from Tyrone Edwards is so right on. It is only when we can truly see ourselves as God does that we can become humble—knowing how incredibly awesome He is and how small we are. Our inability to do this stems from a very human nature that demonstrates reluctance toward total surrender. In some ways this is connected to the letting go principle I shared last month.
So, what is the take-away for this TargetPoint? We all need to answer the question—have I come to the end of myself? Do I have a right sense of who I am before my awesome Lord? I think these are hard questions for most of us to answer without help—especially if we are tending to struggle with the very pride which may form our answer in dysfunctional ways.
You may want to ask those who are close to you to help you better understand how you are perceived. Most of us know the difference between relating with someone who is truly humble, and when we are with someone who is not humble and it’s all about them. I do not know what current, and perhaps difficult circumstances you may be facing. But I know this—unless we come to a place where we recognize our absolute need for God we will always struggle in this area with the warped sense that we can do it.
My encouragement to you is to fight through this tendency—recognize you cannot do it without our loving Father God and let Him in—no—ask Him in.
Learning My Lessons
On yet another occasion while driving to the hospital I clearly heard God challenging me to consider a different approach to praying through this difficult situation. He said—Vince, I want you to start praying that you do not miss what I am trying to teach you in the midst of this struggle! My immediate reaction was a question—do I stop praying for Cindy, Lord? He then impressed upon me the need to do both—pray for Cindy and not miss the lessons He wanted to teach me.
I am pursuaded that God never wastes a good old struggle to get a powerful life lesson communicated to us. In this case prayer for Cindy was no longer an issue—there were literally tens of thousands of people around the globe holding her up. What God was saying was deeply personal—He wanted me to discover something important. Something fresh and challenging. Something to help me become more of the man He wants me to be.
In James 4 the bible says to consider it pure joy when facing trials. It does not say consider it pure joy once you have been through the trial and look back at what it produced. The consideration often comes in the midst of diffulties. I have pondered this verse and wondered how that is possible—I think I am beginning to understand what God wants me to see here. So, my focus changed and I began to pray, God please do not let me miss what you are trying to teach me in the midst of this current circumstance.
Lord, please do not let me miss the lessons you are trying to
teach me in the midst of this struggle
The next day I received an emergence phone call that Cindy needed a procedure done immediately to remove blood clots from her lungs that were preventing oxygen from getting into her lower chambers—she was dangerously close to suffocating to death. I will never forget this scene. A team of doctors and assistants entered this tiny ICU room with a boatload of equipment and a television screen. They were preparing to go in through her ventilator tube with a camera and wire with a clamp on it to remove the clots.
I do not remember the doctor’s name who did the procedure—I do remember finding out she is one the best in the field and now refer to her affectionately as Doctor Grabber. She must have gone in with that wire 30-40 times. Each time you could see what was happening clearly on the TV. She would grab a clot and begin to pull—it would stretch and then a small chunk would come out. All the people in the room would say ooooh no! Then, she would grab another and a big chunk would come out—they would cheer and applaud.
When it was all over the team gave her an ovation right there in that small room and the whole unit could hear it. It was unbelievable. They succeeded and she was free from danger. Needless to say, I was grateful and worn out. Later that day I was driving home and God whispered something in my ear that jolted me—Vince, you have a lot of clots. I think I said, excuse me. He then said, Oh, I do not mean physical clots, Vince—they are spiritual clots. You have stuff in your life that in the same way that Cindy’s clots were preventing breath from getting into her lower chamber and threatening her life—yours are stopping the breath of My Spirit from flowing through your life in the way I intend. I have been reaching down into your life and trying to get those clots out for a very long time.
I immediately got this picture of God up in heaven with a band of angels (assistants) all around—with a huge widescreen TV hanging in the background. The bystanders are watching God reaching down into Vince D’Acchioli’s life and grabbing hold of those spiritual clots. As He is pulling the are all looking on with great hope that the big one comes out only to be disappointed as that small chunk breaks off. I can hear them saying oooh no! Then, He reaches for another and a huge chunk comes out and all respond, WOW look at that one—that was awesome!
My friend, I want you to know that I am not unaware of my clots—and neither are you. We know the areas of our life that God is wanting to work on. We understand the things we need to get control over in order to please God and became all we can be for Him. The question is, will we let Him help us get un-stuffed? Will we allow our struggles in life to become an opportunity for God to show us what we need to learn and will we get serious enough to commit to change?
My prayer here is that you will take away from this TargetPoint what I did through this experience—the awareness of places in your life that need to be cleaned out so that God can better have His way with you. In 1 Peter 1:22 it says, Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth… Here we see a profound relationship between obedience and purification. If we wonder at times why you do not see God’s hand being extended through our life the way you would like—could it be that we are violating this principle?
HAVE YOU ASKED GOD TO SHOW YOU YOUR LESSON?
I was literally overwhelmed regarding this final principle. While traveling to the hospital I had one of the most tender conversations with God I have ever had. The prognosis for Cindy was still not good and we were not sure if she was going to make it. I remember weeping and crying out to God, I am so weary of not seeing your miracles. I know that you, like me, believe God can perform miracles—and that He does. But if you are like me I am weary of not seeing more of them.
I remember saying that even if He chose to take Cindy home that would be ok—and if this wasn’t going to be a miracle I still desire to see His miracles. I meant that—of course I wanted Cindy to be the miracle but I had also come this far and truly was comfortable that He was in control. I no sooner got those words and subtle complaint out of my mouth than He spoke. He said, Vince, do you remember the other day when you entered that ICU—I remember this vividly—do you remember that Cindy was still in a coma and had not been awake in weeks? Remember when you came around that corner and you saw her face—her eyes popped open and she gazed at you and got that little smile on her face? Choking back the tears I said, yes Lord I do remember.
Then He said, Vince do you remember the other day when you went in to her room and she was completely limp—no ability to move a muscle? Remember when you put your finger into her closed hand and experienced that ever so gentle squeeze and you saw that little tear roll down her cheek? No longer able to control my own tears I said, yes Lord I do.
Well, He went on to remind me of a couple more occasions like these and then He paused—I think to give me time for what He was about to shout in my ear. He said, Vince, those are my miracles. And when you quit looking for Me in the sensational…you’ll find Me in the simple! WOW! This changed my whole focus. In our culture we are prone to discount the simple and only look for the sensational. Everything we do, even in our churches, is built around the idea that bigger is better—or certainly has more credibility. God was saying the opposite. Yes, He is the God of the BIG—but He is equally the God of the simple.
When you quit looking for Me in the sensational…You’ll find Me in the simple
He wants us to look right in front of us—every day—every step-along-the-way for His purpose. He wants us to notice the small things that come our way like that person waiting on you at the restaurant that is not very friendly and consider how God might be viewing them. He wants us to see Him in ALL our circumstances—not just the big or grandiose ones. This idea was huge for me. Now, I get up every morning asking Him to go before me and help me recognize what He may be doing. I ask Him to please not let me miss what He is doing and how I can enter in—all the time.
My friend, in all of this I believe I have discovered the secret to life. It has to do with where I place God in my life. Do I place Him on the other side of my circumstances so that I see Him through the lens of my struggles? Or, have I put Him between me and my circumstances so that I see them through Him. The difference is huge. In the former scenario my circumstances rule me. My vision of God is tainted by life’s struggles. I find it difficult to sense His working in my life as I strain to work out my own resolutions.
Does this sound familiar? If He is between me and those same circumstances, then two things happen. First, I see everything through His eyes and can trust that He is the author of my life and I trust Him completely. Second, those same circumstances have to get through Him in order to impact me. Here is a great truth, loved one; if your circumstances have to go through Him to get to you—then no matter what happens we can glory in the fact that God is in control and His purposes will be realized.
Everything changes when I am able to see life’s struggles through the eyes of my heavenly Father
You might say, that sounds great Vince but how do I get God there—I’ve tried and I can’t seem to see my trials through His eyes—what is the secret? I have discovered that the only way I can get God there is by my deliberately putting him there—daily. I get up every day now asking Him to guide me and help me see today’s challenges through His eyes. I make sure I do not start my day without reading the Word, praying and praising Him. I have spent most of my life looking for short cuts around this—there aren’t any.
So, if you find yourself like me—prone to wandering in the darkness—then place the embodiment of light Himself in front of you. And remember this—the enemy of your soul is relentless. There will continue to be times of darkness and despair as our flesh caves in to his lies. The process of working though that and realizing that I am seeing God now more clearly than my struggles is called spiritual maturity. It will not happen overnight—I am certainly not there yet, but it will happen if we commit to the process.
I have been doing this long enough now to say with boldness, “no matter what happens to me I will not abandon my savior—I love my Jesus more today than ever in my life”.
For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He watches all his paths. Prov. 5:21
ARE YOU WATCHING FOR THE SIMPLE?