As retirement speeches go, it was unequivocal. “Anyone who sees me in a boat has my permission to shoot me”. Olympian Sir Steve Redgrave had just won his fourth consecutive Olympic rowing gold at the Atlanta games in 1996 and his anguished utterance, as he clambered ashore, resulted from having spent half his life rising at the crack of dawn, come rain or shine, sleet or snow, training hour upon hour, day after day, month after month, year after year.
But Steve Redgrave knew that the relentless regime was worth it! You don’t win gold medals by messing about on a river on a lazy summer afternoon. You win the prize through discipline. Not discipline as in punishment. Discipline as in dogged determination and relentless pursuit.
And he did get in a boat again! Four months later. No one shot him (thankfully), and he went on to win his fifth consecutive rowing gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Discipline pays dividends!
It’s the same when it comes to intimacy with God. What I’ve discovered is this: it’s not possible to just suddenly be intimate with God - you need to create the context for intimacy. It takes discipline – dogged determination and relentless pursuit – if you want to win the great prize of His intimate presence.
Moses regularly went to a remote tent of meeting to visit with God (Exodus 33). David was glad when they said to him let us go to the house of the Lord (Psalm 122:1). In fact, he was so fanatical about encountering God that he pitched his very own tent for the ark of God’s Presence in his backyard (1 Chronicles 16). Habakkuk, Daniel, Paul, John – all learned that the secret to life was to relentlessly pursue the Presence of God.
And these guys weren’t monks sitting on mountain tops with nothing else to do. They were busier than you could imagine.
• Moses was so busy governing 2 million people in the wilderness that his father-in-law said to him you’re going to kill yourself if you carry on like this.
• David was not only King of Israel he was also commander in chief of the army and wrote dozens of Psalms.
• Paul was writing what would become the bulk of the New Testament, planting dozens of churches, discovering and describing the gospel of salvation, making tents for a living and in his spare time getting arrested, stoned, beaten, whipped, ship-wrecked and put on trial.
It’s not like these guys were not busy – but they realised that the most important thing in their lives – the secret to life itself - was to enter and abide in the place of intimacy with God. They didn’t FIND time to be with God – they MADE time to be with God. They realised that their primary purpose in life was not to lead a nation, or fight a war, or plant churches or preach great sermons – they discovered their primary purpose was to know God and to abide in intimate friendship with Him.
Everything else was their life’s work – but their life’s purpose was to know God and fellowship with Him, to love Him and be loved by Him.
If you are random in your approach to God, then your intimate encounters with Him will also be random. But if you are disciplined in your approach – careful to create the context for intimacy – then intimacy with Him will be your great and regular reward.
Last year the combination of my sabbatical and the Covid lockdown gave me the perfect opportunity to reassess how disciplined I was (or wasn’t!) in pursuing intimacy with God. I seized that opportunity with both hands!
Rising early in the morning to be with the Lord – not just now and again, but day after day, month after month, without exception – wasn’t easy and required dogged determination. But it was necessary if I was to turn random into regular, to turn haphazard into habit. For me, it also meant getting to bed early, and it’s led to a permanent change in my lifestyle. But the dividend has been a discovery of intimacy with God that has revitalised and rejuvenated me. I feel as if I’ve been born again – again!!
Does it always have to be in the morning? Well, yes. Firstly, it’s the start of your day - you’re saying in so many words “God You are first and of prime importance in my life and I want everything that happens today to be in the aftermath of my having met with You”. Encountering God at the start of the day sets the tone for the rest of the day.
And secondly, keeping the same time makes it easier to stick to. If the time is random, it will be more vulnerable to being shifted, forgotten or squeezed by the mayhem of the day. Also, if your time with God is random then you are fitting God into your life rather than fitting your life around God.
This is not about being legalistic or performance based. It’s about doing what it takes to get the great reward. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:25, 27 “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever……no, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize”. Discipline pays dividends – it’s as simple as that.
More about the disciplines that have helped me in the next blog, but in the meantime, ponder this beautiful verse from Psalm 5:3 in The Passion Translation:
“At each and every sunrise you will hear my voice as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to you. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart.”
A blog by Pastor Brendan munro
Welcome to my blog - thank you for stopping by! I’ve never done this before and I’m only doing it now after friends encouraged me to share more widely of the life-changing journey I’ve been on with God over the past couple of years.