I recommended a book to a friend to read, and that reading prompted this response. Check it out guys, you won’t want to miss this!
“There is are few things that will make me cringe more than remembering my high school basketball and volleyball coach yell “on the line.” Groans from teammates and squeaks from shoes come flooding back as I remember everyone in that gymnasium trudging over to the sideline, ready for the next painful minutes. “On the line” was coaches starting point for what we called “seven-teens”—a sort of suicide drill that drove you harder for a longer time than the typical suicide drill. Instead of seven alternating short and long relays down a full court, we were given seven-teen half court relays that had to be completed by the entire team in under one minute and five seconds. Failure to complete it in the allotted time meant that the entire team had the privilege of re-doing it until everyone passed. Reading Jim Cymbala’s book, You Were Made for More, reminded me of these drills throughout the time I spent reading it, if not in his own basketball stories then in his own rigorous spiritual exercise. In his book, Cymbala puts forth thirteen thoughts and truths through which he reveals a lot of truth about God and his plan for our lives. I’d like to focus on just three of them that personally spoke to me.
In his chapter “The Forgotten One,” Cymbala points out characteristics of the Holy Spirit that are often overlooked, like the fact that he is a unique part of the Trinity who deserves praise and worship just as the other two do. He calls out the modern Christian, rightfully claiming that we are quick and eager to thank the Son for what he’s done and the Father for his supreme will and plans for our life, but we neglect to praise the Spirit for the everyday movement that he does in us and through us! How many times have we attributed something that the Spirit has done to Jesus? Yes, the two are the same God, but part of who God is to us—part of that unknowable side to him—is that he is also three separate entities, and each of those entities deserves praise and worship for the roles they play. Cymbala lists example after example of the Spirit himself speaking to and moving people (Acts 13:2, 1Tim. 4:1, Rev. 2:7). Understanding that we have forgotten the Spirit’s role in our everyday lives, and subsequently refocusing on it, tuned me back it to God’s radio station. For too long, I’ve struggled to see God’s hand in my life, not realizing it’s been right here with me, waiting to take it. This leads his next point about the Holy Spirit: when we’re holding God’s hand, we aren’t leading him. He’s leading us. One of my favorite quotes from Cymbala’s book says: “When anything happens by God’s grace, the Holy Spirit is the divine agent. If a preacher is effective, it is because the Holy Spirit is working. If any of us are encouraged while reading the Bible, it is because of him who is both author and revealer of Scripture. If someone is convicted of sin, it’s because the Holy Spirit has applied heavenly pressure on that persons’ soul. If someone is comforted in the midst of distress, it is because, in the words of the old song, ‘the Comforter has come.’” How much differently would we live if we understood that at all times, the Holy Spirit is with us? And how much more would we live for him? Sometimes we need to sit back and say “God, I don’t know what your plan is, but I know that the Holy Spirit will move me where you want me.” Cymbala closes this chapter with a comparison of the Holy Spirit to a fire, and I’m not sure there could be a better comparison! The Holy Spirit is uncontrollable. There is no point at which we can put a leash on him and say that we are his master, despite many Christians today wanting to do just that. The Spirit, like a fire, will penetrate to your core and burn away any sin, any secret, and any gunk in our soul that doesn’t belong there. It burns and chars it until the evil falls away like chaff, leaving us pure. Secondly, it serves as a light for our lives, a true compass for where we ought to go. He finishes his chapter by pointing out just how uncontrollable the fire is. Have you ever tried to stop a fire? It’s not easy. In fact, if it grows too big, it’s unstoppable. Such is the fire of God! It jumps and latches onto anyone close enough to it, and soon, the Spirit’s fire is burning within them, too!
Chapter seven, “Wholehearted for the Long Haul,” touches a subject that I’m most afraid of: keeping that fire lit. He begins by speaking of Caleb, and how he stood in the face of seemingly impossible odds with boldness for God and declared that the Lord would deliver the land of Canaan to them, despite being infested with giants who “made God’s people look like grasshoppers before them.” Ten of his piers stood before Moses and said that Canaan was a lost cause, yet Caleb, refused to agree. And when Moses decided not to enter the land, even after forty years of wandering through the desert, Caleb was still faithful. Caleb, as an eightyish year old man, stood with Joshua and said he would continue to fight even though nobody would have blamed him for saying “I’m old. I want to rest.” In fact, at eighty-five, the Bible still says he was “wholehearted” while following God (Josh. 14:6-8). It may be one thing to say “there’s the Lord’s will, not let’s go get it right now!” as Caleb did when he was young. I personally do not see the difficulty in following God’s will when it’s staring you right in the face. The true difficulty, and what I’m absolutely terrified of, is not knowing what God’s will is in the first place. That feeling of being in limbo with God, where you’re fully surrendered as an empty vessel and then God telling you “Okay. Now wait.” “Wait? But God… here I am! Use me! I’m here! God!” is what I’ve found myself saying. I’m scared that I won’t be the empty vessel he needs when he’s ready for me. Cymbala regards this thought, though, and quotes Psalm 130:5-6 for reassurance of times like those: “I will wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the LORD more than watchmen wait for the morning.” It is important to never rush God. His timing is perfect and absolute, and in the meantime, he will provide us with the strength and the perseverance to keep on, waiting wholeheartedly for the word to go out and do what he wants us to, like a dog waiting for his master to say “Come” after a period of saying “Stay.”
Oh boy. “Objection Overruled” hit me in a way I wasn’t expecting in a place that I didn’t want anyone to touch. Cymbala uses this chapter to relate our walk with God to a courtroom case, where God is the prosecution and we’re the defense attorney who calls out “Objection!” every once in a while. God has such an amazing plan for each and every one of our lives, but sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel fair, and in those times we’re calling out “Objection! God, this is too much!” and God simply says “Objection overruled.” His will is ultimate. His will is perfect. His will is exactly how he wants it. While sometimes, he may grant that objection, it’s never our place to question him in the days where he does decide to overrule it. It doesn’t matter what the reason is. God has allowed it to happen for a purpose, and our shortsighted, narrow minds can’t fully comprehend what he’s doing in us and through us until he’s completed it… and sometimes, not even then. God never said that we would be able to handle everything alone, but he has declared that we don’t have to be alone through trials. James 5:16 commands us to pray for each other, and Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to encourage each other. We aren’t alone. We have God, and we have our brothers and sisters in Christ to help us as we sometimes stumble through God’s trials. I’m currently going through more than I’ve ever been through in my life. My dad doesn’t recognize me. One brother is the leader of one of the biggest hate groups in America. My other brother has cut himself off from my family. My grandparents’ health is rapidly declining. My mom is stressed out beyond anything she’s experienced. But God is here with us. God is here, giving us his inexplicable peace through it all, and we have the support of our local churches and the people there helping us and praying for us. God has not abandoned us! God, as Cymbala puts it, is exercising us. No true growth comes without resistance. He’s teaching us to trust and rely on him, much like he’s teaching us to wait on him when we’re waiting for his commands.
In short, you could say that this book has been my realization of the Holy Spirit in my life. The Forgotten One, no longer forgotten. Wholehearted servitude made certain. Overruled objections now accepted. This book was the final step to me fully understanding God’s will for my life. It’s the hump I’ve never crossed. Just like my high school coach drilled us with seven-teens every other day until we were the most fit team in our league. Yes, our entire team loathed every aching second of those drills, but we also understood that they were there to make us better. Every muscle ache was us growing fitter, faster, and readier for the next game than the other teams. In the same way, Jim Cymbala perfectly captured that feeling of intense exercise with You Were Made for More. I can hand this book back firmly secure in the fact that even though it hurt to read sometimes, that feeling has left me spiritually stronger and healthier than I was before and has paved the way for a stronger walk with God in the future.”