A Ministerial Radiator Flush

by Nate Irwin | May 4, 2017 | Articles

Awhile back, my trusty Toyota Corolla traveled its 200,000th mile.  A mechanic said that the engine was running great, but recommended a radiator flush to make sure things kept functioning properly.  Over time, sediment builds up, slowing the flow of cooling water to the engine. A good flush to get the rust out was all it needed.

That’s what our recent sabbatical did for us. Nothing major was wrong with the engine. But, over time, we settle into ruts, both personal and ministry. Some sediment builds up in our habits and patterns, and even in our relationship with God. Some time away, unplugged, with the freedom to read and focus on God, did wonders to help us re-set.

Marty and I began our sabbatical in India, where, after a week of speaking at a pastors conference in the north, we traveled to the southern tip of India to vacation for a week with our ministry partners there, George and Leela Chavanikamannil, in their beautiful home state of Kerala.  We then flew to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where College Park missionaries, the Miyakawas, had arranged a lovely place for us to stay and enjoy the beauty of SE Asia. They had also set up two days of meetings for me with missionaries and national church leaders to discuss the topic of my sabbatical—missionary spiritual vitality.

Back home in the States, we took a 2-week trip out east, to catch up with family, visit some of our nation’s historical sites, and enjoy the wonders of God’s creation in Maine.  In a total of six weeks, we slept in 14 beds, flew all the way around the world, and drove 3500 miles all in the Eastern Time Zone.  By the end of the sabbatical, we were not only ready to be home in our own bed, but I was also ready to get back into the office. I knew then that the sabbatical had done its job.

As I read and talked with missionaries and nationals about spiritual vitality, God impressed these things on my heart:

  1. Spiritual vitality is simply the life of the Lord Jesus in us, filling us up.
  2. In order to be full of His life, we have to spend time with Him.  Significant time.  A day and a half at a spiritual retreat home near Martinsville gave us a taste for how wonderfully renewing extended time with God is. Amy Carmichael said, “So few are willing to pay the price of the knowledge of God.” (A Chance to Die, p. 304) I am working on establishing better rhythms in my life that allow me to nurture the life of God in me.
  3. To spend genuine and renewing time with God, we have to really want to be with Him and not just do it out of duty. Jeremiah said that we will seek God and find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts (29:13).
  4. To find our delight in God, we need to monitor our appetites. The ones we feed are the ones that grow. There is only so much appetite humans have, and we will not have more appetite for God than we currently do if we don’t reduce some of our other appetites.
  5. The way to increase our appetite for God is by meditating on His unending, overwhelming, undeserved love for us. Here is the key! God describes His love for us Isa. 62:4-5, “But you shall be called ‘My Delight is in Her’. . .and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”  The love that caused Jesus to give Himself up for us—in order to present us back to Himself, as a radiant bride, without a single blemish (Eph. 5:26,27). That kind of love, knocking at our door, waiting for us to open up and let Him in for a long meal together?! When we begin to grasp the wonder of that love which is beyond comprehension, we will start to become filled up with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:18-19).

So that’s what I’m doing, now that I’m back from sabbatical.  Soaking in His love, letting His life fill me, and then see how He will pour it out through me to the world.  So that others might enjoy Him as much as I am.