‘He departed to the mountain to pray.’ Mark 6:46 NKJV
Before Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee, He climbed a mountain to be alone with His Father in prayer. He left the demands of the crowd at sunset, prayed until dawn, then came down the mountain in the power of God’s Spirit and stilled a raging storm. (Wouldn’t you love to know how He prayed that night?) Prayer is a mountain; you have to climb it. ‘Peter and John went up together…at the hour of prayer’ (Acts 3:1 NKJV). If you wait until you feel like it, you won’t pray consistently. It’s a discipline. And the more you pray the more you want to pray, and the more rewarding it becomes. But first you must turn your back on the ‘crowd’. Because Christ knew how to walk away from life’s demands and distractions, He was able to still the storm that threatened His disciples.
So before you get caught up in the daily rat race, go to the mountain of prayer. It’s a place of stability in an uncertain world; a place where the view is unobstructed and the frantic pace of life is left behind. There you gain perspective. There Christ reminds you that there’s nothing you’ll face today that He hasn’t already handled, and He’ll give you grace to do the same. It’s easy to recognise people who’ve been to the mountain of prayer. Their struggles are no different from yours - some are even more challenging. But they’ve an inner peace that transcends family problems, health concerns, budgetary shortfalls, etc. You can endure hard times with grace when you know that the summit is just a prayer away!
‘If we walk in the light…the blood of Jesus…cleanseth us from all sin.’ 1 John 1:7 KJV
Twice in Scripture God spoke into our darkness. In Genesis chapter one He said, ‘Let there be lights’ (v. 14). And in John chapter three Jesus declared, ‘Light [has] come into the world’ (v. 19). To walk with God you must reject the ways of darkness and walk in the light. Fungus grows best in the dark, but when you turn on the light it withers and dies. This is more than a metaphor - it’s a spiritual fact of life! Jesus said, ‘People loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’ (John 3:19 NIV 2011 Edition).
As Ester Nicholson says, ‘Secrets keep us sick. They keep us in shame and uncertainty.’ Secrecy is the ideal environment for sin to grow until ultimately you’re taken captive by thoughts, deeds, and habits. And staying in darkness intensifies your cycle of secrecy and slavery to sin. ‘If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth’ (1 John 1:6 NIV 1984 Edition). Once you step into the light everything changes! So confess your secret sins to God, and, if necessary, to a trusted friend or counsellor who can pray with you. Then through God’s strength reclaim your power to overcome sin and live victoriously. Once you’ve turned on the light, the fungus begins to wither. Its grip loosens, and freedom dawns. Each time sin comes knocking at your door bring it into the light immediately. When you do, cleansing and fellowship with God will be yours. The Bible says, ‘If we walk in the light…we have fellowship…and the blood of Jesus…cleanseth us from all sin.’
‘Though it cost all you have, get understanding.’ Proverbs 4:7 NIV (2011 Edition)
The third thing you must overcome on your way to success is ignorance. As writer Don Wood quipped, ‘Stupid is forever; ignorance can be fixed.’ Far too often we don’t think realistically, or we fail to seek out the information and expertise we need. Edison failed many times, but his eventual success didn’t come from luck - it came from preparation. Many of us undervalue knowledge. For example, because computers allow us to try and to fail so many times, we don’t take time to read the manual. Because we’re so rushed, we’re reluctant to stop and find out what we really need to know. Because young people feel pressured into getting a job, often they fail to see the value of investing time in higher education.
Golf champion Jack Nicklaus said, ‘Learn the fundamentals of the game and stick to them. Band-Aid remedies never last.’ You may be fortunate enough to get promoted beyond your level of competence. But if your knowledge doesn’t keep up with your position, you’re doomed to fail. Here are some scriptural words to live by: ‘You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madam Insight. She’s worth far more than money in the bank; her friendship is better than a big salary. Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth; nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her. With one hand she gives long life, with the other she confers recognition. Her manner is beautiful, her life wonderfully complete. She’s the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her. Hold her tight - and be blessed!’ (Proverbs 3:13-18 MSG).
‘I’m giving it everything I’ve got.’ 1 Corinthians 9:27 MSG
The second issue you’ll have to address is your emotions. While they can be a gauge of how you feel and a clue to what needs to be changed in your life, never let emotion alone dictate your decisions. Ask anyone who has to perform at the top of their game, and you’ll find that much of their time is spent overriding their emotions. However, listening to your emotions to get to the core of what’s bothering you can be a very revealing indicator of your condition. Consider these two statements:
1) I don’t feel like working today. Why not? Did you stay up too late last night? Perhaps you need to change your schedule. Are you eating well? Maybe you need to adjust your diet. Not motivated? Talk to God, read His Word, spend time with an encouraging friend, etc. Don’t just sit there, do something!
2) I’m a little depressed. Are you getting enough relaxation? Have you taken a break lately? Our moods generally swing up after exercise, so start moving and get into shape. You can’t afford to live life based on your emotions. They’ll delay you, stop you, and create detours on your journey to success. You say, ‘I’m waiting for inspiration!’ As novelist Jack London said, ‘You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.’
Follow Paul’s example: ‘I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself’ (vv. 26-27 MSG).
‘Do not turn…to the right or…the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.’ Joshua 1:7 NIV (2011 Edition)
Peter McWilliams said, ‘To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes, may be the biggest mistake of all.’ For the next few days let’s look at some things you must overcome to succeed in life. Situations. Do you feel like you’re mired in a dead-end one? Maybe you’d like to go to college but you can’t afford it. Or change jobs, but you feel trapped by your salary or the fear of forfeiting your retirement pension. Perhaps you feel trapped by a physical handicap or illness. The secret to overcoming is to divide your circumstances into situations you can change and those you can’t. Nearly everything in life can be changed, or approached in a different way. But it can’t always be done right now. Make a list of things you can change.
Too many of us fail - and keep failing - because we persist in trying to change what can’t be altered. Stop banging your head against a wall, and practise realistic thinking. Understand the difference between faith and fantasy. Somebody said, ‘For every problem under the sun, there is a remedy or there is none. If there’s a solution go and find it, and if there isn’t, never mind it.’ God has given you certain gifts. When you discover, develop, and deploy them He’ll give you success in the face of seemingly impossible odds. Ignore what you can’t change, focus on what you can, and opportunities will reveal themselves. As Hannibal said during his famous march across the Alps, ‘We will either find a way, or make one.’ You need that spirit too!