About eight years ago, I spent a week with Wayne Cordiero at a leadership practicum. At some point he told the story of a weekend when his church and all the congregations New Hope had started were worshiping together — a large outdoor gathering near Waikiki beach. They hoped to have well over 10,000 people show up with all their friends. It was going to be a great day, one of those “time of your life” kind of days…
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating. (Think Calvary’s Fall Festival :) It was forecast to be one of those rare days in Honolulu…a day filled with rain. The night before Wayne had people praying. Wayne prayed through much of the night; asking God to hold away the rain, send the clouds somewhere else. That morning — in spite of his impassioned prayers — the rain fell.
Wayne went out to the park where the gathering was planned. Watching folks trying to cover up sound equipment, Wayne went to a solitary place in the park. With no one around, he started complaining to God, critiquing God’s plan, asking him why in the world they would plan a day like this day and He couldn’t even keep it dry. He was detailing for God all the problems this was going to cause, the people that would stay away.
If you would have seen Wayne in those moments you would have thought he was a holy man beseeching God to stop the rain. Instead it was just a human man complaining to God about all the problems He was causing.
Then in the breath between two complaints, the Spirit of God convicted Wayne with these words — God spoke to his heart — “Wayne you are more concerned about the absence of your problems than you are concerned with the presence of Jesus.”
Gotta be honest, those words pierced my heart. Too often my prayers are requests for the removal of my problems. Too rare are my prayers request for more of the presence of Jesus. Too often my prayers are requests for God to bless my plans. Too rare are my prayers a request for the blessing of God’s presence. Too often I am looking for God’s power more than I desire God’s presence.
In Exodus 33, Moses is first promised the power of God to fix his problems, but for Moses that wasn’t enough. “Don’t send us up from here without your presence. What will distinguish us from all the other people on the earth if we do not have your presence.” Offered all the power of God, Moses would trade it all the power for all the presence of God.
What’s more important to you? The absence of problems or the Presence of God? The answer to that question will shape your Christmas wish list.
At the very heart of Christmas is the presence of God.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
What is on my Christmas prayer list?
Which gets more of my prayer-energy, prayers for God’s power or prayers for the blessing of God’s presence?
If God offered me the choice right now between his power for my problems or his presence for my life, which would I choose?
Father, this Christmas season, I need your presence even more than I need your power. Help me to desire your presence more than anything. Deepen my hunger. Ignite the fire of my heart. Open my eyes to see you. May we know Immanuel, God with us, this Christmas season. Amen
Take a moment and think of someone who desperately needs God’s power for their problems. Spend time praying that they will experience God’s presence.