There are times I just wish I could start over; I wish things went differently. No one hopes for a bad ending. This may sound strange, yet could really pay off in the long run — before starting, try stopping. That sounds counterintuitive. What runner would stop after the gun is fired? When the proctor says, “It is time to begin the exam,” who would stop when the clock is ticking? We know stop means to halt, or cease from what you are doing. It also can imply a pause or a wait. Sometimes the beginning can be the most challenging time, but challenges also come along the way as difficulties arise, tiredness sets in, and perseverance is hard to come by. Stopping first, can give us an invaluable start.
As I reflect on people in the Bible, some of them had incredible things to accomplish or trust God with. In the Old Testament, Ezra had a temple to rebuild and worship to restore (after all had been destroyed and the people had been scattered). Nehemiah had a city wall to build alongside great opposition and an enemy ready to strike. Esther had a people to save who were about to be attacked and killed.
In the New Testament, Paul went from persecutor of Christians to follower of Christ and Apostle to the Gentiles. He was to be sent to unknown places, for unknown periods of time, with the uncertainty of his safety or welfare. Jesus, the Son of God, had a relatively short time on earth to proclaim and demonstrate the kingdom of God, before giving His life as a ransom for many.
All of these people faced, from an earthly perspective, an impossible task before them. All of them also stopped. They stopped and paused. They stopped and prayed. They stopped and asked. They stopped and fasted. Their beginnings began with stopping.
Nehemiah stopped like this:
“When I heard these words (that Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were in great distress), I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I said, “I beseech You, O Lord of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and loving-kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before you now, day and night…” (Nehemiah 1:4-6).
Stopping seems like it will slow me down. My tendency is to “hurry up” and get going. I am ready to get things done! I want to start accomplishing things and be in control of what is next. Yet stopping recognizes who is in control over my circumstances.
Paul and Barnabas stopped like this:
There was much to do. They had been seeing God’s work growing and multiplying in different places. There was much happening where they were and much to accomplish locally. But while in a town called Antioch, they gathered together and a new course was set.
“They were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabus and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.’ Then when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2,3).
Stopping does not seem productive. Yet, it actually can make us more productive, because it can give us clarity. It may give us new direction or confirm what we are doing.
Jesus stopped like this:
Before he began his short ministry on earth, he took time out for 40 days to be alone, to pray and fast. Forty days is a significant amount of time, when you think he had maybe, 3 years after that on earth. Why would the Son of God take time out to stop? He stopped and then began His work. Right before this, God the Father calls Jesus His Son before everyone. The Father says, “This is my beloved Son, in Him I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). When Jesus stopped, He stopped as One loved by the Father, in whom He could depend. Jesus trusted His Father and depended on Him for all that He needed for what was to be accomplished.
Stopping places our dependence on the One who is trustworthy and dependable. It is not easy to take time out when we feel we should be busy. When we stop, we are showing trust on the Father, like Jesus did, and demonstrating dependence on Him for all that is ahead. Try starting with stopping. You might find in the future you want to always stop at the start.
Next post: What if we did not begin so well? – “The writing is in the sky.”
*Where is a place you can go to get alone? Take some time out to pray. Maybe try somewhere new.
*Why do you think you can trust God with taking time out to stop?.
*What is a step of faith you can take in the area of prayer, fasting or in getting alone with God?