Halverson was one of the busiest pastors I've ever met, but one
of the most available. When I asked him to speak to a class at
my college, he readily agreed. But on the day when he was
scheduled to visit, I discovered that his availability had an
We had agreed to drive together to the class. But on my way
to the church to meet him, my decrepit Corvair began to
overheat. By the time I arrived, its condition was serious.
Fortunately I was fifteen minutes early for our 9:30 a.m.
appointment. I spied Dr. Halverson sitting in his car reading,
so I pulled alongside. By now the whining from my engine rivaled
an air-raid siren.
To my astonishment, he did not even look up. He must be
asleep, I thought. But then he turned a page in the book resting
on his steering wheel--which I now could see was a Bible--then
turned a page again. By now our vehicles were engulfed by a
cloud of smoke that would have made Moses jealous. But he never
showed the slightest distraction. Finally, at precisely 9:30, he
prayed, shut the Bible and climbed out of his car. The smoke had
now cleared and my engine had quieted.
After greeting me, he suggested, to my relief, that we go in
his car. During the half-hour drive to the college, we talked
about many things. But he never once suggested that he had
noticed any unusual noises or sights during his devotional time.
And I never mentioned that I had seen anything unusual either.
One reason the event is so memorable is that it occurred on
my first spiritual anniversary. On that date just one year
before, I had committed my life to Christ, largely because of
Dr. Halverson's radio preaching. I am one of numerous people who
have been touched by his ministry. But that morning, God gave me
a priceless insight into why he was so remarkably effective for
Christ. Beyond any gifts for ministry was the fact that he made
it a priority in his strenuous schedule to spend personal time
with the Lord, regardless of what needed to be cleared away for
this to happen. His attention to the Lord had become so
fined-tuned that even the racket from my car did not distract
It might seem that he was indifferent--so bent on following
his religious routine that nothing else mattered. But he was one
of the most people-centered Christian leaders I've known. As
pastor of a huge church, president of World Vision, and Chaplain
of the United States Senate, he gave himself relentlessly to
others. But the wellspring of his life was a commitment to
Christ that surpassed even his commitment to people.
His life mirrors a principle that I once heard Gordon
MacDonald express in an unforgettable sermon. While reflecting
on the life of John the Baptist, he noted that John had a lot
going against him; his social mannerisms were bizarre, for
instance. Yet he spent great periods of time quietly before the
Lord. This reminds us, MacDonald said, that God doesn't need a
member of Congress, a dignitary or a corporation president to do
his work. He will use anyone who is merely willing to take the
time to listen.
After nearly forty years of walking with Christ, I confess
that making time to be still before him still takes effort. It
isn't that praying, Scripture study and being quiet in Christ's
presence is hard work per se. Once I'm doing these things I
enjoy them, and almost daily the Lord proves their benefit to
me. What makes it hard is that I have to take my hands off of
other things I could be doing at the time. For a workaholic,
this is always a challenge.
Several years after moving back to Washington to begin
Nehemiah Ministries, Evie and I felt the need for a new home.
Our family was growing, and office space for my ministry--which
was operating out of our home--wasn't adequate. Yet it was 1981;
the real estate market was at its worst point in decades and
interest rates were outlandish. We couldn't afford to move, and
the prospects of selling our present home were nil.
For several months I spent much time studying the market and
reading real estate brochures, but only became increasingly
discouraged. Finally it dawned on me that I hadn't spent any
serious time praying about the matter. I set aside two hours to
pray and seek the Lord's direction, even though it seemed an
intrusion into my "busy" schedule. I decided to take a leisurely
drive in the country as I prayed, a practice I've often found
As I meandered around the rural highways of upper Montgomery
County, I came upon a street I had never noticed before, even
though I thought I knew every nook and cranny of this region
where I've spent most of my life. On that street was a house for
sale--a home that immediately seemed right for our needs! But it
would surely be too expensive. Within a week the owner accepted
a contract from us; the price was considerably below market
value. Within another week our townhouse sold, in spite of the
fact that identical homes in our community had been on the
market for months without selling.
The lesson is not that my prayers bent God's mind and
constrained him to do something he wouldn't otherwise have
wanted to do. This was not the "health and wealth gospel" at
work. What happened during those several hours, I believe, was
that God was able to command my attention and show me a way to
solve an "impossible" problem. He could just as well have given
me grace to accept things as they were. In fact that has
happened far more frequently than the more dramatic sort of
answer that came on this occasion.
But whatever his solution, I find again and again that it
takes time being still before him to be able to understand it.
Whether you are a student, a homemaker or someone involved in
a career, I urge you not to think of time devoted to being alone
with Christ as time taken away from the demands of your work.
View it, rather, as time invested with One who is able to give
you peace and wisdom to carry out your work effectively.
But remember that Satan will do everything possible to make
you regard it as an intrusion on your schedule. If that tactic
doesn't work, then he will bring into your time with Christ
interruptions that seem to demand immediate attention. Keep in
mind that usually the problems can wait a few minutes while you
put first things first.
And when you do, you may just find that the smoke clears away