"Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his his spirit." Proverbs 25:18
"Your walk with God is the next 20 seconds." In December 1986, I had been in very long meeting with a former NASA engineer, when I heard him make this statement. It was a life-changing moment. A month later, I met with him for a followup session, and had a chance to thank him for his input. He did not remember saying it to me. Go figure. I believe God used this short, simple phrase from this man to get my attention. He wanted to focus me on the breath in my lungs, before I tried to get a handle on His future plans. Think about it. Without being able to take a deep breath and get out a stop watch, how much breath do you already have in your lungs? Without warning, what do you have at your disposal to do business with God? I know, I know, it is a personal question. For some it may be more, and for others a bit less, but for me, it is 20 seconds.
For the past 25 years I have tried to keep breathing on a regular basis. That is how the system works. I know it is alot more complicated than that, but I can't get into a study of the whole cardio-pulminary connection without getting a bit queasy. So there you have it. Keep breathing on a regular basis and you will live. Use the breath in your lungs to keep walking and talking with God on a regular basis, and you will find it hard to drift into breathless panic or detour from a close walk with Him.
The problem is this. Life has a way of knocking the breath out of us on a regular basis. When Emmit Smith, former running back for the Dallas Cowboys, surpassed Walter Payton's NFL rushing record, someone figured out how many miles he had run. It was not very impressive compared to marathon runners. It takes on a whole new level of achievement when you realize those two guys had to run all those miles getting knocked down and getting back up every 3-5 yards. Looks a little bit like sport imitating life. Can I get a witness?
Proverbs warns us about losing control of our spirit. The Hebrew word means breath, and refers to the content and the character of a person's heart that flows out of person's mouth when they are under pressure. People under great pressure seldom say things under their breath. Crises on their mind or fears in their heart have a tendency to come out of their mouth. The older a person gets, the less control they seem to have over their mouth. Speaking one's mind has sometimes been referred to as the privilege of old age. It can also be a sign of approaching dementia. You are never get too old to watch your mouth.
"He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city." Proverbs 16:32
The Roman army was described as patient, or long-tempered. That would mean that as a military force they were not quick to take an offense, but when they were finally put into the field, there was going to be hell to pay. They were not in the habit of going to war unprepared, unarmed, or unaware of the consequences. The opposite is usually true of the short-tempered. They rush in where angels fear to tread. They speak their own mind before they seek to know God's mind. They bring a knife to a gunfight and end up stabbing themselves. The former description never found its way into active use in contemporary language. The second is alot more familiar to us. Little wonder that the God-breathed Scriptures describe two of the Spirit's characteristics as, "The fruit of the Spirit....is patience...self-control." Galatians 5:22-23
The sad truth is that we often find the fruit of the field to be more reliable than what we try to pass off as the fruit of the Spirit. When you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice. You can wrap a Christian in the latest holy logo wear, but when you squeeze him you don't always get what is on the label. Pressure on a Christian reveals the breath in their lungs and the focus of their lastest conversation. If they have been listening to the fears of their heart, and been intimidated by the things on their mind, it is revealed by the breath of their mouth. When our breath sheds more heat than light on the crisis around us, it is time to let God's light shine on the darker corners of our nature. He always picks up right where we left off in our last conversation with Him.
"The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the innermost parts of his being." Proverbs 20:27
Dr. Bill Hendrick was one of my seminary professors. His sanctified sarcasm speaks to me at this point. He always said this whenever anyone in the class asked permission to ask him a question in the middle of one of his lectures.
"Halitosis is better than no breath at all."
Talk is the bad breath we spew when we panic under the pressure of something we do not understand or cannot control. Prayer puts the same breath to better use, and calls on Jesus to step in and provide life support. When we are under attack by the enemy, talk reveals our vulnerable position and encourages them to keep pouring it on us. Prayer calls on our Champion, Jesus Christ, to take the field. When we pray, we have the courage to stand next to Him. Prayer takes the fright out of us, and the fight out of the enemy. They don't want any part of what Jesus brings to the battle. The enemy does not fear us, but as Sam Chadwick used to say, "... he trembles when we pray."
Jesus approached a down-hearted couple on the road to Emmaus, and found them talking about all the things they had seen happen in Jerusalem. The more they discussed, the more they were depressed by what they had experienced. Jesus stopped them, and asked them what they were talking about. Cleopas responded to His simple request with the bad breath only prolonged panic can put in a person's mouth. He rebuked Jesus for not being aware of all "the things" that had taken place in the last few days. Obviously, it had been over 20 seconds since their last conversation with Jesus. Their absence from Him had not made them more sensistive of His Presence with them. It always happens that way. Jesus spoke two little words that will always turn a panic into a promise.
"What things?" Luke 24:19
Talking results in alot of hot air, but it does not provide the breath of life. Talking about a crisis does not have the power to provide power to move us through the crisis and onto victory. It is bad breath. Talk leaves us stranded, vulnerable, dead in the water and reveals our weakened position to the enemy. Prayer calls for reinforcements, and gives us the courage to take our stand next to our Champion, and face the worst the enemy can throw at us. Prayer is the means by which our breath is put to the best possible use. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
"Prayer is how we set our sails to catch the wind of Heaven." G. Campbell Morgan