Today's lunch was very special to me. I got to listen to my friend, Jeff, tell me about his experience on a spiritual retreat recently. A little background information is that Jeff and I met in college and he married one of my suite mates! Jeff and I have been going to church together for years and have been in SS together. The story of his weekend, in a nutshell, is “he is a new creation!” 2 Corinthians 5: 17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
The weekend is a time of Christian spiritual renewal and formation over 72 hours. It is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ in a new way as God’s grace and love is revealed to you through other believers. God can do amazing things with us when we spend time with Him! Not many times, maybe never, will we spend 72 hours with God, without the outside world (phones, social media, etc). Luke 24: 32, “They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” I believe Jeff’s open and honest feelings show how his eyes were opened and how we should be spending quality time with God! John 9: 25, "...I was blind, now I see."
Even though Jeff was not raised in the church he did believe in God and Jesus. While Jeff knew he was not an expert in the Bible he thought he knew enough. Now he knows he doesn’t know enough. He says that Proverbs 16: 9 is him in a nutshell. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
In Sunday school, Jeff always felt inadequate but now feels that was his fault for not putting in the effort. Jeff began to come to church with his family because “he was expected to.” A few years back he began to come to Sunday school and then went out and bought a Bible! We both agree that our church has made a huge impact on our spiritual lives.
Jeff learned a lot like turning things over to God and not stressing out about things. He was reminded that God doesn’t call the qualified but qualifies the called. He also brought home the quote, “Christ has no hands but yours.” He feels he was fed enough that he wants to do more. He was helped in prioritizing his life and seeing what he needs to work on. He never thought much about what communion means, and he treated it like a ritual. Learning about communion was powerful as now he can lay his burdens down and be renewed! Galatians 5: 22-23 came alive for him. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Jeff's time with God turned his need for spiritual growth into a want for spiritual growth. He wants to grow through prayer, study, service and doing devotions with his wife. He realizes that generosity is his responsibility and he has to trust the church to make the right decisions of where to put it. He says, “I can’t control what the person does with it. I just have to be responsible for my part.” This is not always easy for someone who works in the finance world! Jeff said he learned a lot about idols and realized there are a lot more idols than alcohol and drug. Everyone has an idol and he realized wanting various material things is an idol.
God has given the inspiration to move forward, not doing what is expected of him but doing what he is excited about doing. Another special thing about a retreat is the fellowship with other men. “Adult men rarely get an opportunity to fellowship for three and a half days with other men. We built new friendships.” Matthew 18: 20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Jeff was inspired, challenged and equipped for Christian action!
When he thinks about the time he gave up, to go, he thinks of the team and the other behind the scenes people who gave up even more time to make the weekend possible. And they did that because they were so excited for him to go! He had never experienced Christian love like that. Jeff said, “72 hours is a big commitment but it is nothing compared to what you get out of it. What you get out of it is worth a lifetime!”
When you get an opportunity to spend time with God and other believers, pray about going and/or serving. For you or someone else, it can be life changing - both in this life and the one to come - for all eternity! 1 Thessalonians 5: 11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”