Running on Empty: Hearing the Voice of God

Fil Anderson November 1, 2015

Last Sunday we began a 10 week series by Fil Anderson called “Running on Empty.” If you’re tired and need encouragement, these posts are for you.

If you missed part 1, read it here:

The Condition of Your Soul

Hearing the Voice of God

Sometimes the only way to get a new life is by running your
old one completely into the ground. I learned that lesson in the most costly
way: personal experience.

Reflecting on my life fifteen years after my Young Life
career began I’m reminded of the tragic death of professional golfer Payne
Stewart. Departing central Florida, the Learjet in which he traveled flew a
ghostly journey halfway across the country. Anyone watching the jet overhead
would’ve been unaware that something was tragically wrong on the inside. Apparently
set on autopilot, its windows iced over and its occupants incapacitated, the
aircraft presumably ran out of fuel and crashed nose-first into a grassy field.
Everyone aboard was killed.

This tragic image serves well as a metaphor of my life back
then. To the casual onlooker, my life appeared quite good. I was flying high.
My Young Life work was effective and highly praised. And it wasn’t all for
show. God was working; people’s lives were changing.

But something was wrong inside me. My life was on a deadly
course with an incapacitated soul. My ability to see clearly was nil, outside
efforts to get me to change course were refused, and my last bit of fuel was
being depleted.

While in this desperate state I began reading The Ragamuffin
by Brennan Manning. This powerful book turned my world upside down. It
was as though Jesus was whispering to me from every page, “I’m not playing
games. Fil, I really, really love you.”

With the cheese sliding off my cracker, I finally reached
out for help. I went on a guided silent retreat, a kind of detox center for the
soul. For the next four days a spiritual guide prayerfully companioned me into
the hidden harbors of my heart where fear, loneliness and resentment had
dropped anchor. His unconditional acceptance infused me with courage to imagine
that God accepted me too. His persistent emphasis on God’s relentless love was
the flint and steel that enlightened my vision to begin to see and believe that
God “loves me as I am, not as I should be, since I’ll never be the person I
should be.”

I came away from those four days with a profoundly new
orientation that continues to frame my life: Until the unlimited, unbridled and
unrelenting love of God takes root in our life, until God’s reckless pursuit of
us captures our imagination, until our head knowledge of God settles into our
heart through pure grace, nothing really changes.

Recently I’ve been riveted by the story about Jesus’
baptism, when the audible voice of God was heard to say, “You are my Son, the
Beloved; with you I am well pleased
” (Luke 3:22 NRSV). As I’ve pondered
this declaration, I find God’s timing its most intriguing aspect. How much more
sensible and appropriate it would’ve been for God to affirm His delight following
the Sermon on the Mount or another extraordinary moment in Jesus’ ministry
that’d left the crowds reeling with astonishment! However, God deliberately
chose to declare His pleasure when Jesus had yet to preach a sermon, heal
anyone or walk on water! How much clearer could it be that God’s love for us
isn’t contingent on our performance?

Nothing has been more effective in slowing the relentless,
deadly pace of my driven life than a clearer picture of God as revealed in
Jesus Christ. Hearing God affirm to me that I’m truly loved saved me from the
consequences of busyness. Now I know that nothing I do will ever cause God to
love me more or to love me less.

When was the last time you heard God speak to you? Perhaps
now would be a good time to stop and listen. 

Hear what Jesus says:

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how
I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or
ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and
” (MT 11:28-30 MSG)

  • What words best describe the pace of your life?
  • Do you believe God loves you as you are, not as you should
    be, since you’ll never be the person you should be?
  • What would help you to “keep company with” Jesus today?

Fil Anderson is a spiritual director, conference speaker, writer and retreat leader. He served on the Young Life staff for 25 years. Fil and his wife Lucie live in Greensboro, NC and are parents of 3 adult children. He is the author of Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers and Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God. 

“Running on Empty: Part 3” will be posted next Sunday. 

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