Robert Jeffress - Enjoy Your Intermission
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". If you're like me then chances are you sometimes struggle with impatience. Well, while periods of waiting are rarely fun, sometimes pauses are absolutely essential. Today we're continuing the series called "Second Chance, Second Act". My message is titled "Enjoy Your Intermission" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
In the sports world, it's known as halftime. It's that period of time between the first half of the game and the second half of the game when the teams retreat to readjust their strategy and the fans refresh their supply of cheese nachos and Coca-Cola. But only the most fickle fan would ever leave a game after the first half during halftime because we all know games are not won or lost during that first half of the game but in the second half of the game.
Now I could continue this life is a game analysis ad nauseum, but I'm not going to do that because we're using a different metaphor in this series, and that is life is a performance. God places us on the earth's stage for 70 or 80 years to play the part he's assigned us. And while we play our part not only are we being watched by others on earth but there's a heavenly audience, the Bible says, God and the angels who are watching to see how we perform our part. But some time at some point in our life story we're going to fail. What happens then? Does the divine director pull us off with a hook and say, "Your part is over now"? Does the curtain come down permanently? Or can there be a second act in our life after failure?
Well, today we're going to look at the third important principle for experiencing a great second act, and it's this. We have to learn how to enjoy our intermission. Enjoy our intermission. Now you've never probably thought about this before, but intermissions are very, very real. I'm probably showing my age here when I say this, but many of you remember when those great epic movies like "Ben-Hur" or "The 10 Commandments" they would be so long that the director would put an intermission in the middle. Or you'll hit some climactic scene and then it would fade to black and the word intermission would appear on the screen. You'd get up and it's popcorn time, you know? But you didn't leave during the intermission unless the movie was awful, because if you did so you'd miss the second part of the story which was sometimes crucial.
What is an intermission? Well, by definition, in the theatrical world an intermission is that period of time between the first and second half of the production. But in life, and I want you to write this down, intermission is that period of time between our failure and our future. It's that period of time between our failure and our future. We're all going to fail in life. And many times we fell like the curtain has come down and that our life story is over, but no. It's not over, it is simply an intermission time.
To help you understand this principle further, let me be very specific. An intermission is that period of time between your divorce and the beginning of another relationship. Or that period of time, that pause between termination from one job and the beginning of a new job. It's that period of time between a bankruptcy and financial solvency. It's that period of time between the revelation of your immorality and the restoration of your reputation.
Now, again, in the theatrical world, intermissions can be refreshing. They can be pleasant. But in life, they usually aren't. Many people in their intermission are plagued by guilt over their failure or apprehension about what may or may not be ahead of them. Most of us would choose just to move on with our life instead of going through an intermission time. But as you look through scripture God's plan for his people always includes an intermission after their failure. For example, think about the nation of Israel. They rebelled against God, and because of that God took them captive by the Babylonians. They spent 70 years in Babylonian captivity. That was their intermission before God allowed them to return to the land.
Or thinking about the apostle Peter. His intermission occurred after he failed. He failed miserably. He denied Christ three times in the courtyard of Caiaphas. He had an intermission of seven weeks between that time that he denied Christ and the time he would take a stand on the southern steps of the temple and preach the greatest sermon ever preach at Pentecost with thousands of people being saved. For the apostle Paul, his intermission occurred in the desert for three years, for God would teach him personally the great doctrinal truths he would spend the rest of his life proclaiming. That's what an intermission is. But in the Bible, perhaps the greater illustration of an intermission is the story of Moses.
Now when I say Moses, what comes to your mind besides Charlton Heston? When we think about Moses, we think about what? The parting of the Red Sea, or the receiving of the 10 Commandments at mount Sinai, or the great inspirational speech Moses made before the children of Israel entered the Promised Land. We think of those great moments in Moses' life. Do you realize all of those events occurred after age 80 for Moses? They occurred in his second half of life. I want you to do the math for just a moment. Moses was 40 when he failed. He spent the next 40 years in the wilderness in his intermission. It was at age 80 that God appears to Moses and says, "It's time now for your second act".
Now before we look at how we can profit from this period of intermission, I wanna give you three characteristics of intermission that are crucial to understand. First of all, remember, intermissions are imposed, not chosen. Intermissions are imposed, not chosen. Most of us would never choose an intermission. I mean, after Moses made his big mistake, he killed that Egyptian, did he say to himself, "Wow, just a moment here. I've got some anger issues I've gotta deal with. I think I'll go spend 40 years on a sabbatical in the desert till I can get over this". No, none of us would ever choose an intermission, but God chooses them for us.
Intermissions are times of waiting, that's why we hate it so much. Waiting and waiting and waiting. Waiting for God to change some attitudes in us. Waiting for God to choose and change the hearts of other people whom we've hurt. Waiting for God to change the circumstances that are necessary for us to have a second act. But if there's one thought I want you to leave with today, it's this. Waiting time doesn't have to be wasted time. While we're waiting, God is working, often in ways we can't possibly understand. That was true for Moses as well.
Principle number two. Intermissions come at various times in our life. Intermissions come at various times in our life. In a church we used to serve out in West Texas, in a little town, they had a phrase they used to describe people who had kinda gone off the rails in their life. They would say, "Oh, he's just suffering from the middle age crazies". Have you ever heard that term? They meant midlife crisis, but they changed it to the middle age crazies. Well, we know what the middle age crazies are, don't we?
It's that period of time, mainly for men, not always, but mainly for men, between the ages of 38 and 50, when people decide, you know what? I've got as many years behind me as I do in front of me, and I don't like the way my life is going, so I'm gonna make some drastic changes. And those changes can be anything from trading in the family SUV for a sports car, to trading in your mate for a younger, more energetic, and usually more synthetic version of what you had. But they're almost always disastrous decisions because they are made from panic rather than from God-laid panic.
Well, I've seen these middle age crazies, these wrong decisions happen at every age. In fact, I'll have to tell you honestly as a pastor, I've seen as many people in their senior adult life and senior adult years make disastrous choices as I have those in their young adult lives. We can fail at any time, that's why we have to be on guard all the time. But because we can fail at any time in life, our intermission can occur at any time in life as well.
Number three, intermissions are of varying lengths. Intermissions are of varying lengths. For Moses it was 40 years, but it's not always 40 years. For the Israelites, it was 70 years in Babylon. For Peter, it was seven weeks between his failure and his preaching at Pentecost. For Paul, it was three years in the desert. For Jonah, it was three days in the belly of a great fish while he reassessed his calling. Intermissions are of varying lengths, but whatever length your intermission is it is important that you learn and profit from it. How can you profit from your intermission? Many of you who are here today or watching or listening to this broadcast, you feel like you're in an intermission. You're waiting and waiting and waiting. Remember, waiting time doesn't have to be wasted time.
Five principles, number one, resist the urge to skip your intermission. Resist the urge to skip your intermission. You know, so many times after we have failed we wanna move immediately into our second act. I see this all the time. People get apprehensive during an intermission. Somebody loses their mate either through death or through divorce, and they are terrified of the prospect of living the rest of their lives alone, so they go out and they make a disastrous choice for a next mate, and they just compound the heartache they've already experienced.
You see, people who skip intermissions become victims of what a friend of mine calls the blizzard effect. Do you know what a blizzard is? Think about it. A blizzard occurs when you have very small particles of frozen precipitation that are harmless in and of themselves, but a storm comes through and starts blowing those frozen particles around where you can't see anything in front of you. Now just as you would never try to drive in a blizzard but would stop until the storm passed through, so after a first-act failure we should never try to make an immediate decision. We need to wait until the storm passes and we can see clearly. Don't skip your intermission.
Number two, during your intermission refresh your physical and emotional batteries. Refresh your physical and your emotional batteries. My old professor, Dr. Howard Hendricks, used to say, "Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to take a nap". And he was right. Failure can take an exacting toll on your life, emotionally as well as physically. And that's why we need to use any intermission we're given to refresh ourselves. You know, for example, let's say you lose your job, you're terminated unexpectedly.
Let me give you this piece of advice. If you know you're about to be fired, bargain, plead, beg with your employer for as much severance pay as you can possibly get. Remember, you don't have anything to lose at that point anyway. Just fall down and beg for as much time as you can have and then use that time wisely. Most of the time, certainly, you would use to find new employment. But use a few days of that time or a week of that time just to refresh yourself. Take a trip, do some projects around the house. There's something about refreshment that gives us a new perspective on life.
Number three, during your intermission reflect on where you've been and visualize where you want to go. Use your intermission to reflect on where you've been and visualize where you want to go. Somebody asked my friend James Dobson one time, "Dr. Dobson, have you ever had a midlife crisis"? He said, "No, but I've had a serious midlife reevaluation".
We all need to have a reevaluation, specially after some first-act failure in our life. We need a time where we pause and reflect on where we've been and where we think God is leading us. Now take a day off. If you are terminated from a job, you've had some days off. But even if you haven't been fired there oughta be a time on a regular basis where you get alone and ask yourself some important questions about where you've been and where you think God might be leading you.
Let me give you five signal questions that you oughta ask during a midlife or any time in life reevaluation.
Number one, what three things would I like to accomplish before I die? That's a great question. What three things would I like to accomplish before I die?
Question number two, am I in the job now that I wanna be doing 10 years from now? Am I in the job that I want to be doing 10 years from now? That doesn't mean necessarily you need to quit your job right now, but if it's not the job you wanna be in you need to ask God for some leadership in how to transition to what you believe he's leading you to do.
Number three, what do I feel passionate about in life? What do I feel passionate about in life? You know, Philippians 2 says, "God is at work within you, giving you both the power and the desire to accomplish his will". God gives all of us different passions in life, and one way to know God's direction for your life is the particular passion he's placed within you.
Number four, what do other people seem to think I'm gifted to do? Now that's one way to know, by the way, if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing. You know, what is it that you do when you do it people come up to you and say, "Man, you are so good at that. You make it seem so effortless. You were born to do this". That's a good way to know the unique gifts that God has given you.
And finally, who is the one person who knows me best and loves me most with whom I could have a heart-to-heart talk about my situation? If you're in an intermission time, you're in that waiting mode, who's somebody who loves you and knows you very well who could give you some wise counsel? Reflect on where you've been and visualize where God wants you to go.
Number four, you're in your intermission, renew your relationship with God. I'll tell you something about myself I bet you don't have a hard time believing. I hate silence. I hate solitude. I hate being by myself. I hate doing nothing. I always want to be doing something. But that's not a good thing. You know, the French philosopher Pascal talked about our natural aversion to silence. He said, "I've often said that the sole cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room". There is a value to silence.
You see, we all, I think, or many of us, have an addiction to busyness, to activity. The problem with that is it's in busyness and activity that we fail to hear the voice of God. You see, God is always speaking to us if we're his children. He's always speaking to us. The problem is we're not always listening to him. And an intermission in life is a great time to stop and to start listening to the voice of God.
Let me encourage you. If you're in an intermission time, and, by the way, you don't have to wait till an intermission to do it, but if you are in an intermission time, spend some time alone with God to allow him to speak to you. If you're not used to doing that, don't think you're gonna go spend a week with God by yourself. That usually doesn't work. You might not even be able to spend a whole day or half a day. But just take one or two hours to spend alone with God, and I wanna give you three suggestions for what to do during your time alone with God.
Number one, during that time, if it's an hour, two hours, however long it is, allow God to speak to you through his word. Allow God to speak to you through his word. Whenever you're reading scripture, you can know for sure you're listening to the voice of God. God speaks through his word. Let me give you a couple of passages that you might use to allow God to speak to you. Psalm 34 which extols the faithfulness of God. Or Psalm 51 that reminds us of the forgiveness of God, specially after a failure. We need to be reminded of that, don't we? This is David's prayer of confession, Psalm 51.
One of my favorites is Romans 8 that reminds us of the love of God from which we can never be separated. Use part of that time to allow God to speak to you through his word. Secondly, during part of that time read a chapter or two from a good Christian book that emphasizes the character of God. Remember, during your intermission, you're trying to reconnect not with a set of ideas but with a person, with God. And number three, during your time with God allow God to speak to your situation by asking him some specific questions.
Now if you wanna hear God speak to your situation, there's some specifics questions you oughta ask him. Fifth principle. Remember, the curtain will rise again. You know our failure in our first act seemed so final. But, ladies and gentlemen, it doesn't have to be final. Your failure doesn't have to be a period, it can be a comma in your life story. A great illustration of that is found in the life of Jesus himself.
Think about Jesus' life. By the time good Friday had rolled around, Jesus was thought to have been a failure by most people. I mean, after all, the movement he started that attracted thousands of people had dwindled to just a handful of followers, and most of those had deserted him. His promise of a kingdom, a new kingdom, that failed to materialize. And instead Jesus Christ was crucified. And when he died, he died alone. He was deserted by his family members, his closest friends, and even by his Heavenly Father. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"?
Jesus was dead. He had failed. Or so it seemed. But that wasn't the end of his story. As one writer says, "And so they put his body in a cave. That was their big mistake. His body was there for three days, but they could not keep him there. They forgot that God does some of his best work in caves. The cave is where God resurrects dead things".
There's some of you right now who feel like you're in a cave. If you don't feel like you're in a cave, trust me, at some point in your life you will. You will have failed. You will think that because of a heartbreaking end of a relationship, a divorce, a bankruptcy, a termination, that your life story is over. But your failure doesn't have to be final. Your pause doesn't have to be permanent. But instead it can be a prelude to a great second act in your life.