Spiritual Growth

An Ancient and Enduring Discipline

By David Lyons

Photo courtesy of Joel Bengs

Photo courtesy of Joel Bengs

Will The Navigators last 500 years? If so, it will be because we really do live our motto: To Know Christ, to Make Him Known and to Help Others Do the Same.

The Navigators is similar to another Christian organization—the Jesuits—that has lasted nearly 500 years. Although we are fundamentally different than the Jesuits in important ways, we share a passion for spending daily time alone with God.

I became fascinated with this connection a few years ago when our team read Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World, by Chris Lowney. What Navigators often call a “quiet time,” the Jesuits call “The Daily Examen.”

For several years I’ve been practicing The Daily Examen as part of my daily quiet time. I recently noticed how this ancient practice is rooted in an even more ancient set of guidelines for spiritual health: Philippians 4:4-8.

There are five elements to The Daily Examen, as I practice it:

Become aware of God’s presence. Look back on the day’s events in the company of the Holy Spirit. Ask God for eyes to see His fingerprints. Philippians 4:4-5 says to “rejoice in the Lord” because “The Lord is near.” I cultivate awareness of God by journaling sentences that begin with phrases such as, “I see You discipling me,” and, “I see You protecting me,” and, “I see You . . .” As I write, I begin to see the day through His eyes.

Review the day with gratitude. We can walk through each day in the presence of God and focus on its joys, delights and gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? Pay attention to small things, such as the food you ate, the sights you saw and other seemingly small pleasures. Philippians 4:4-6 says to season our prayers with thanksgiving. The weather in my soul is consistently transformed by making a list of things that I’m thankful for.

Pay attention to your emotions. We often detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. What is God saying through these feelings? God may show you some ways that you fell short. Repent of those. But look deeply for other implications. Does frustration mean that God wants you consider a new direction? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to her in some way. This practice has helped me realize how my work is often driven by anxiety. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of Christ which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” I meet with my Wonderful Counselor every day, and He untangles my emotions.

Choose one feature of the day and pray about it. As you review your day, ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something that He thinks is especially important. It may be a significant encounter with another person. Allow prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude. The Message renders Philippians 4:6 as follows: “Instead of worrying, pray!” It will be settling to commit that concern to God.

Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for the next day’s challenges. Pay attention to your feelings as you survey what’s coming. Allow these feelings to turn into “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” as you “let your requests be made known to God” (verses 6-7). As you do, listen for His guidance and write it down. This is crucial for following Jesus through each day as His disciple, as His apprentice.

I’m not too concerned about whether The Navigators (or the Jesuits) are around 500 years from now. But I hope that 500 years from now there will still be “navigators” navigating the seas of life with a passion to know, live and become like Jesus every day. That will last.

David Lyons is an International Vice President of The Navigators. He serves our 5,000 staff in more than 100 countries by coaching leaders and leading change. David is author of Don’t Waste the Pain.

A Hidden Life with God

By Mike Treneer

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Over this last few months, I have had the privilege of meeting and speaking to Navigators in many parts of the world. As we interact, I wonder with joy about the potential of their lives, and about what is going on below the surface.

I know from my own life experience that what is visible about me is often not what is most important! And while we need to stress the importance of community in serving the Lord, we know that life direction and fruitfulness are the result of what’s hidden below the surface.

The secret of a tree is its roots, and roots are hidden. They belong underground! When we see a beautiful, strong, fruitful tree, our attention is not drawn to the roots. But if we stop to think, we know it is the roots that make its strength, health and fruitfulness possible.

As a young Christian, I was deeply impacted by Elizabeth Elliot’s book The Shadow of the Almighty, which is the biography of her missionary husband who was killed taking the Gospel to unreached people in Ecuador. In a chapter titled “Behold Obscurity,” she describes the importance of “hiddenness” in Jim Elliot’s life. This is how Isaiah describes the unseen work of God in Isaiah 49:2-4.

He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.’ But I said, ‘I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.’

It is in hidden times of quiet intimacy that we hear God say, “You are my servant,” and it’s where we can utter our frustration, “I have labored to no purpose” as we battle alone to determine which voice to believe.

It is in the secret place, alone with God, that we are sharpened and polished like David was as he cared for his sheep in the wilderness. He was hidden from the public eye as he meditated on the greatness of God and forged his character in unobserved battles with lions and bears!

Have you ever noticed the brief mention in Luke 24:34 of a very important meeting of which we know nothing, except that it happened? "The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon."

Luke mentions it, almost as an aside, as he more fully reports the encounter Jesus had with the two disciples on the Emmaus road. Paul refers to the same little-known meeting with Simon in 1 Corinthians 15:5, using Simon’s better known nickname: “ . . . he appeared to Peter and then to the twelve . . .”

Of course, in John 21, we are given a full account of a later meeting in Galilee between Peter and the risen Jesus; but of that first meeting, just a few hours after the resurrection, we know nothing except that it happened. I find this deeply meaningful!

We can guess at the significance of that meeting for Peter—the heartache and tears as he poured out the agony of his failure, the words of Jesus as he ministered grace to His broken disciple—but we can only speculate. The truth about this meeting is a secret between Peter and his Lord. And so it should be! I doubt that, even when all is known in heaven, we will ever know what was said. I take heart from this.

I, too, have the incredible privilege of an intimate, personal fellowship with the One who alone knows me utterly and completely.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:6).

Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6, “Your Father sees” and “Your Father knows,” invites us into an intimacy with the Lord of the universe who alone holds our fate and the fate of the world in His unimaginably powerful and unfathomably loving hands. We can pour out our heart to him in absolute confidence, expressing all our longings, all our fears, all our failures, hopes and dreams. We need hold nothing back, for He knows and He sees. This dialogue is only between Jesus and me. There is no other audience to worry about!   

Mike Treneer served as International President of The Navigators from 2005 to 2015. He and his wife, Chris, lived in Kenya for 16 years where Mike helped develop our Africa ministries and became our Africa Director. Mike served on the International Executive Team before becoming International President.

Spiritual Prep for Coming Storms

By Alan Ch'ng

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Advanced technology and professional meteorologists can save many lives by predicting hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, and other natural disasters. Having information ahead of time enables us to prepare—to evacuate, to run to storm shelters, to stock up on food and water, to put gasoline in generators, or to board up the windows of our homes.

But do we follow God’s counsel to prepare for the inevitable storms of life? Believers and unbelievers alike go through these storms. The difference is that believers have Jesus in the boat with them! In fact, how we respond to the adverse circumstances in life is a huge witness to the reality of Jesus in our lives.

In recent months, several of our close friends in the Asia-Pacific region of the Navigator Worldwide Partnership have been facing extreme hardship. A friend who worked with us in a campus ministry discovered he has lymphoma. Two others, in their early 40s, recently learned that they have advanced stage cancer and are undergoing treatment. In the past few years we have lost friends to cancer. In a few cases, the surviving spouse was left to care for very young children alone.

I have seen each of my friends weather these storms with tremendous faith and hope. That is not to say that they experience no fear, or that they completely transcend the suffering. They don’t. But despite the hardship, they demonstrate a peace that passes understanding, a hope for the future, and a solid stance in knowing that nothing can separate them from the love of God (Romans 8).

I have asked myself this question: How is it that these men and women have been able to face these challenges with such hope and peace? What have they done to prepare?

A few years ago, a close friend and coworker called to tell me that his wife had been admitted to the hospital and was also found to have cancer. As time passed, I had to ask him what sustained them through a time like this. What had made their faith grow stronger than before? What enabled them to see the eternal, and to gain the peace that comes from knowing that God is in control?

His answer was profound. He said that for many years they chose to live in a close relationship with Jesus, and to stay committed to the spiritual disciplines of being with God in His Word and in times of prayer. They prepared for the storms of life by being anchored in relationship with Jesus.

Paul, writing in Ephesians 1:18-20, calls us to know Jesus deeply. "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead . . ."

And, the writer of Hebrews advises us to follow the model of Jesus as we go through hardships. "And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Jesus, in Matthew 7:24-25 said, "Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."

Preparation for life’s storms, as you can see, is about developing strong foundations in Jesus—our rock. Building that relationship is possible because Jesus, on the cross, opened the possibility for us to anchor our lives in Him. Now it is up to us to respond to Him by entering that relationship fully.   

Alan Ch’ng is an International Vice President. Before joining the International Executive Team, Alan led our Asia-Pacific Region for more than six years. Alan and his wife, Connie, moved to Colorado Springs in April 2013. They have three grown sons.

The Power of Choice

By Jean Fleming

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No choice I’ve made as a follower of Christ has shaped me more profoundly than the choice to keep a daily date with Jesus. Actually, I make two choices. One, to keep the date and, two, to keep it an affair of the heart. I make these choices over and over.

Our choices shape us. It’s in my date with the Lord that I see Him and I hear, “I am yours and you are mine.” He reminds me that I am forgiven and blessed, that He measures success differently, that where I’m weak He’s strong. Transformation begins here, from the inside out. In our date Jesus gives me something fresh to give to the generations behind me. I believe the choice to keep my date with the Lord has kept me from frittering my life away.

Our choices also reveal us. My choices keep me honest. They help me see if I actually value what I say I value. A thousand possibilities compete for my time and affection. What I choose reveals my values and beliefs. Recently, a mother of young children told me that she gets up 30 minutes before her children—to do Pinterest. Although she would not say that Pinterest is among her highest values, it’s Pinterest that gets her up in the morning.

This year my husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in Hawaii on our way to visit our son, who lives in Japan. We’re early risers even on vacation. Even so, surfer boys were straddling their boards when we got up in the morning. One morning before 6 a.m., I counted approximately 30 surfers waiting for the next good wave. What’s going on here? Teens like to sleep late. I assume their mothers aren’t nagging them to get out of bed and go surfing. So what gets them up?

Desire. It’s an affair of the heart. I suspect that surfers never ask themselves if getting up early to surf is legalistic. Surfers know that desire and discipline feed one another. Desire plus discipline equals delight.

I cannot create desire for God. Desire for God is a gift at the new birth. But I can feed it. I can also drain desire’s holy energy from my life by neglecting my dates with God. So when my desire for God is at low tide, I still keep my date with Jesus. Desire’s tide soon rises again.

Andrew Murray wrote, “The desire and the choice prove what a man is already and decide what he is to become.” This means that our desire and our choice are both indicator and prognosticator.

At 74-years old, my physical energy is diminished. The adventure continues. I must choose where I will spend my time and energy. As I approach the finish line, one thing becomes clear to me: I will end up with the life I’ve chosen.

I’ve kept a morning date with Jesus almost every day for 57 years. I believe this choice has given my life a consistent narrative. This is not an achievement. It is a grace.
 
Jean Fleming and her husband, Roger, have served as Navigators for 50 years. Their first assignment was in San Diego, followed by ministry in Korea, Okinawa, Tucson, Seattle and Colorado Springs. Today Jean and Roger are doing volunteer grassroots ministry in Montrose, Colorado. Jean is the author of five books published by NavPress, including A Mother’s Heart and, most recently, Pursue the Intentional Life.