Halverson was one of the busiest pastors Iíve ever met, but
one of the most available. When I asked him to speak to a class at my college, he readily agreed. But on the
day when he was scheduled to visit, I discovered that his
availability had an interesting limit.
We had agreed to drive together to the class. But on my way
to the church to meet him, my decrepit Corvair began to
overheat. By the time I arrived, its condition was serious.
Fortunately I was fifteen minutes early for our 9:30 a.m.
appointment. I spied Dr. Halverson sitting in his car reading,
so I pulled alongside. By now the whining from my engine
rivaled an air-raid siren.
To my astonishment, he did not even look up. He must be
asleep, I thought. But then he turned a page in the book
resting on his steering wheel--which I now could see was a
Bible--then turned a page again. By now our vehicles were
engulfed by a cloud of smoke that would have made Moses
jealous. But he never showed the slightest distraction.
Finally, at precisely 9:30, he prayed, shut the Bible and
climbed out of his car. The smoke had now cleared and my
engine had quieted.
After greeting me, he suggested, to my relief, that we go
in his car. During the half-hour drive to the college, we
talked about many things. But he never once suggested that he
had noticed any unusual noises or sights during his devotional
time. And I never mentioned that I had seen anything unusual
One reason this event is so memorable to me is that it
occurred on my first spiritual anniversary. On that date just
one year before (December 6, 1965), I had committed my life to Christ -- and
largely because of Dr. Halversonís radio preaching. I am one
of numerous people who were deeply touched by his ministry.
But that morning, God gave me a priceless insight into why he
was so remarkably effective for Christ. Beyond any gifts for
ministry was the fact that he made it a priority in his
strenuous schedule to spend personal time with the Lord,
regardless of what needed to be cleared away for this to
happen. His attention to the Lord had become so fined-tuned
that even the racket from my car did not distract him.
It might seem that he was indifferent--so bent on following
his religious routine that nothing else mattered. But he was
one of the most people-centered Christian leaders Iíve
known. As pastor of a huge church, president of World Vision,
and then in his later years, Chaplain of the United States
Senate, he gave himself relentlessly to others. But the
wellspring of his life was a commitment to Christ that
surpassed even his commitment to people.
His life mirrors a principle that I once heard Gordon
MacDonald express in an unforgettable sermon. While reflecting
on the life of John the Baptist, he noted that John had a lot
going against him; his social mannerisms were bizarre, for
instance. Yet he spent great periods of time quietly before
the Lord. This reminds us, MacDonald said, that God doesnít
need a member of Congress, a dignitary or a corporation
president to do his work. He will use anyone who is merely
willing to take the time to listen.
After nearly forty years of walking with Christ, I confess
that making time to be still before him still takes effort. It
isnít that praying, Scripture study and being quiet in
Christís presence is hard work per se. Once Iím doing
these things I enjoy them, and almost daily the Lord proves
their benefit to me. What makes it hard is that I have to take
my hands off of other things I could be doing at the time. For
a workaholic, this is always a challenge.
Several years after moving back to
to begin Nehemiah Ministries, Evie and I felt the need for a
new home. Our family was growing, and office space for my
ministry--which was operating out of our home--wasnít
adequate. Yet it was 1981; the real estate market was at its
worst point in decades and interest rates were outlandish. We
couldnít afford to move, and the prospects of selling our
present home were nil.
For several months I spent much time studying the market
and reading real estate brochures, but only became
increasingly discouraged. Finally it dawned on me that I
hadnít spent any serious time praying about the matter. I
set aside two hours to pray and seek the Lordís direction,
even though it seemed an intrusion into my ďbusyĒ
schedule. I decided to take a leisurely drive in the country
as I prayed, a practice Iíve often found helpful.
As I meandered around the rural highways of upper
, I came upon a street I had never noticed before, even though
I thought I knew every nook and cranny of this region where
Iíve spent most of my life. On that street was a house for
sale--a home that immediately seemed right for our needs! But
it would surely be too expensive. Within a week the owner
accepted a contract from us; the price was considerably below
market value. Within another week our townhouse sold, in spite
of the fact that identical homes in our community had been on
the market for months without selling.
The lesson is not that my prayers bent Godís mind and
constrained him to do something he wouldnít otherwise have
wanted to do. This was not the ďhealth and wealth gospelĒ
at work. What happened during those several hours, I believe,
was that God was able to command my attention and show me a
way to solve an ďimpossibleĒ problem. He could just as
well have given me grace to accept things as they were. In
fact that has happened far more frequently than the more
dramatic sort of answer that came on this occasion.
But whatever his solution, I find again and again that it
takes time being still before him to be able to understand it.
Whether you are a student, a homemaker, or involved in a
career, I urge you not to think of time devoted to being alone
with Christ as time taken away from the demands of your work.
View it, rather, as time invested with One who is able to give
you peace and wisdom to carry out your work effectively.
But remember that Satan will do everything possible to make
you regard it as an intrusion on your schedule. If that tactic
doesnít work, then he will bring into your time with Christ
interruptions that seem to demand immediate attention. Keep in
mind that usually the problems can wait a few minutes while
you put first things first.
And when you do, you may just find that
the smoke clears away by itself.