This past weekend, I went to a men’s retreat for the first time and learned a lot about who I am, where I am, and where I need to be.  I thought I would take some time to reflect and share my experiences because there was just so much symbolism that took place over the weekend.  The original start time for the retreat was 9:30 pm Friday.  According to GPS systems, the drive was calculated anywhere from 2 ½ to 3 hours.  I joined a carpool with two other guys and that is where the fun began.  There were times of immense traffic as well as bridges being out and road construction galore.  All three of us had our GPS systems on and it still took a few stops asking for directions (Yes, men do sometimes ask for directions) and a few calls to find out how to get to where we need to be.  When we finally got to the destination that only took a little over 4 hours, we discovered that we were not alone.  People were still on their way, going around similar if not the same detours we had to go.  Once the majority of the group arrived, we officially began the retreat around 11:30 pm.  The irony of all this was that the main topic of the retreat was “how to be a wise man.”  The truth of the matter is that life rarely goes the way we plan it, hence the reason for my title of this blog.  Everyone’s life is a journey and there is a journey within that journey.  One of the many quotes mentioned at the retreat was, “When I am alone, I am dead.”  This comes from:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.  Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm?  And if somebody overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”  AND 1 John 3:14-18:  “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death.   Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.  This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.   If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?  Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.”

The problem is that I am so accustomed to being independent taking heart to the adage phrase, “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.”  It is my desire to live a life that is completely devoted to God and to only think, speak, and act in ways that are pleasing to Him alone.  My major struggle is the application of this.  HOW DO I LIVE A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD????  Regular evangelism or missionary work?  More involvement in Church?  More time in prayer and Bible reading?  All of the above are great in and of themselves, but what specifically do I need to do?  The answer is surprisingly simple.  Keep focused on Jesus Christ and walk by faith.  Everything else will follow as long as we do not force ourselves to do things we were not meant to do at a certain time.  Two quotes I got from the retreat are worth mentioning here, first, “It is easy for our heart to lead us, however, we need to lead our heart.”  Second, “Self-control consists of behavior habits that build intimacy with God.”  Whether we like it or not, we are on God’s time and He will get His way and will put us on detours in life when we start going on our own and will continue to work on us, in us, and through us.  Philippians 1:6-7 says, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in youwill carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.   It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart,and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel.”  We read in 1 John 4:4, “You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

Faith does not mean staying positive, it means holding on to your trust in God.  Our lives reflect on our trusts, what and/or who we depend on a daily basis.  A belief without trust is just a wish.  One of the activities we did on the retreat was split up in small groups and hiked through a 7 mile path that consisted of various levels of terrain, taking turns carrying a 30 pound rock in a backpack.  The group I was in decided that we will trade off the rock every 20 minutes.  At the halfway point of the walk, that was reduced to 10 minute intervals because that is where the exhaustion was kicking in.  Personally, at the halfway point, not only was I tired and sore, but also felt nauseous and faint.  Because I was part of a team, I still took my share of carrying the rock indicating to the group that I was fine because I knew that the experience was well worth it.  Every time our turn ended and we placed the backpack with the rock down on the ground for our team mate to pick up, there was a great feeling of freedom.  What was the message from this?  Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.   For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  We find in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” Galatians 6:1-5, “Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted.  Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.   But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else.  For each person will have to carry his own load.”

God created us and knows our hearts, but we still need to be real in our prayer lives and be completely honest and open towards Him, we also need to be real with ourselves and know who we are and finally we need to be real with each other.  Who are we?  Children of God living in a world full of sin that requires constant war of our minds, hearts, and spirits.  As long as we are still living in this world, we will make some mistakes, fall down and lose some battles.  As believers in Christ, we can have assurance that the war has already been won.

1 Timothy 6:11-12 declares, “But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.  Fight the good fight for the faith; take hold of eternal life that you were called to and have made a good confession about in the presence of many witnesses.”  We cannot survive this world on our own, which is why God established the Church for people to come together and share their lives with one another as Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another.”  We find in 2 Corinthians 5:7-21, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.  Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.”   He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

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