John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, comedian Ken Davis, uh, turns a corner and offers some heartfelt perspective on life.
Ken Davis: Do you know what almost 60 years of living has taught me? Only with God does thrill come to life. Only with God does fulfillment come to life. Everything else leaves you stranded on the beach feeling cheap.
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John: Well, that’s quite a statement from Ken, and God wants to call you to joy and fulfillment, and you’ll hear how on today’s edition of Focus on the Family with your host, Focus president and author, Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: Uh, John, I’ve always enjoyed the messages that we’ve heard from Ken Davis over the years, and this one is no exception. Uh, he really has a gift for sharing great insights on how to work out this thing we call the Christian life, and, uh, what it looks like to include God in your decision making, how being a Christian should influence your character and so on. Um, he combines that wisdom with a great sense of humor, which really makes it fun to listen along. So, lean in a bit. I know you’ll be blessed by what you’ll hear today as Ken shares insights from the book of Jonah about how we should respond when God intervenes in our lives.
John: And Ken Davis is the author of a number of books. He’s a motivational speaker and he also teaches speaking skills to ministry professionals and corporate executives. Here now, our very popular guest, Ken Davis, on today’s Focus on the Family.
Ken: Hello, San Diego.
Ken: For those of you who have never been here, let me just, uh, prepare you a little bit. My name is Ken Davis and I’m not right.
Ken: I am not right. I was thinking yesterday, you know, sometimes when you think back on when you were growing up, it was obvious early in my life, uh, that I wasn’t right. Uh, I grew up on a farm in the country. Uh, the nearest neighbor was about 30 miles away, and when I was a young man, I went through a period of rebellion. Uh, I was in church every time the doors opened, but I had to find some way to rebel. And like I’d go to school and my friends would all talk about sneaking out at night. It sounded like the coolest thing I’d ever heard. So one night I waited till my parents had gone to bed and they had been in bed probably about two hours. I could hear my, uh, my dad, uh, snoring, and my mom had a snore that was kind of a “Phoo um … phoo um phoo, like that.
Ken: A-and I could hear them snoring, so I knew they were sound asleep. So I slowly opened the window, my heart beating. I’m telling you, I was the most compliant kid you ever saw in your life. But my heart is beating 100 miles an hour. This is the scariest thing I have ever done. I opened the window, I crawled outside and I shut the window, (laughs) and then it hit me, “I live on a farm. (laughing) There isn’t anybody around for 30 miles.”
Ken: I snuck out into nothing. (laughing) Yes, so I went out and milked the cows and, uh … (laughing) I’ve changed a little bit. There is much more of me … (laughing) What are you laughing about? What, what did you think that was so funny about? Just … (laughing) Much more of me tonight than there was last time I was here. Uh, last Christmas, I had the most fascinating experience. Between Thanksgiving and about the middle of January, I gained 30 pounds, a-a little, you know, 30 pounds over about a two-month period, 30 pounds. Now here’s the fun part. I had gone on vacation, I had gone through a pretty stressful time, so I didn’t work during that period of time. I just ate. (laughing) And since I didn’t work, I didn’t wear clothes like this, nothing with a belt or anything. I just wore those loose, sloppy gym clothes and I just hung around and did … So I didn’t know that I had gained the weight. Well, the very first job I had was on a ship. I was the entertainer on a cruise ship. And I got onto the ship and my wife didn’t know that I had gained 30 pounds either. So she packed all of the old clothes that I had and we got on the ship. And the night (laughing), the night of the first performance, I will never forget this, I was laying in my little cabin on the cruise ship with a button in this hand and a buttonhole in this hand, praying harder than I had ever prayed in my entire life (laughing), saying, “Lord, please just let these come together.” (laughing) I, I was flopping around on that bed like a trout out of water and I couldn’t get it to happen. Finally, I took a deep breath and I buttoned that thing and then I got on stage and realized, “I don’t think this is gonna hold.”
Ken: And I prayed again, “Dear Lord, please don’t let there be a wardrobe failure tonight.” (laughing) ‘Cause if that button had let go, it’d a killed somebody in the front row. (laughing) So, I’m not right. I, I don’t know how that happened. I’ve lost most of it again, I still have a few pounds to go, but, uh, what-what a, what a weird time that was. A friend sent me a salmon, a smoked salmon, packed in its own oil, and it was about that long. And I sat down at the kitchen table with that thing and box of saltine crackers, and some cream cheese, and some, uh, all those little green things, the, the-
Ken: … capers, thank you, and some onions, and I ate the entire salmon. you’ve never done that?
Ken: It was a strange experience. I wanted to go up and, uh, get up and go outside, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t, I couldn’t move. I thought, “Well, (laughing) I’m just gonna lay here on the floor for a little while.” (laughing) A-and I was laying on the floor, and then I had this strange desire to swim upstream and lay eggs. Uh, (laughing) none of you have ever had that, huh? (laughing) I am so glad to be back here tonight, and tonight I am talking about second chances. And my message tonight is taken from the book of Jonah. And it fascinates me that we so often easily sing about God of wonders, God of majesty. We easily talk about, “Our God is an awesome God.” Now, I guess my question tonight is, then what do we do when this God moves us, when He speaks to us, when He calls us? What do we do when that God asks us to take action of some kind? The God who created the earth, the God who put the mountains in place, He whispers to us, what should we do? I have a good idea. Let’s run. (laughing) Not a real good idea, is it? But that’s what Jonah did. Now, tonight’s message isn’t about running. It isn’t about running from God. That’s the scene that takes place. But the book of Jonah itself really isn’t about running from God. It is a book that teaches us about this marvelous God, who can do anything He wants and chooses to give us a second chance. I’m not sure in the beginning that Jonah even understood that. The Bible says in the book of Jonah, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of Amittai, and He said, ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’” Friends, if you’re note-takers, I want you to just write this down. I think this is part of the lesson we can learn from Jonah. When this awesome God speaks, listen. We need to listen for God speaking to us. It’s the very first part of this story, that this God who created everything, the God that, that is so amazing, would even choose to communicate to us, it is important that we should listen. We don’t listen for many reasons, and sometimes our response to God is affected by our image of who He is. I’m not sure that we’re always convinced that God has our best interests in mind. We’re willing to give Him Sunday, we’re willing to pray about those things that we trust Him with, but how about the things that are really important to us? I was willing to talk to God about going to church on Sunday and, and little small things, but I was unwilling to trust Him with the important things, things like matters of love. Now, I’m just leveling with you. As a teenager, and I see a lot of teenagers in here, it’s easy maybe to give God, you know, Sunday school and stuff. But how about trusting Him with finding you a life mate, a, a person to love and adore? I had this image that surely God wouldn’t want me to have someone that I would desire. You know, I grew up with this whole idea in my mind that God was not about joy or fulfillment. God was about rules. And if it was fun or there was joy in it, or fulfillment in it, then surely it couldn’t be God. I used to think God’s whole job was to stand up in heaven and He would go, “Behold, Ken Davis haveth fun. No.”
Ken: I didn’t want to listen to Him in matters of life calling. How many of you would be honest enough to admit that you might have been a little afraid to talk to God and say to God, “You can send me anywhere you want to go,” for fear of where He might send you? Can I see your hands? ‘Cause we have in this mind, i-in our mind, the idea that, that God is gonna send us someplace undesirable and we, and we’ll be miserable there. You know where you’ll be miserable? Where God didn’t call you. That’s where you’ll be miserable. I was so encouraged to hear about our friends here who are going to the mission field. I, I can’t tell you what that does to my heart, to see young people who are listening to the voice of God. And I guarantee you, it doesn’t matter how tough it is where they’re going, they will find ultimate joy and fulfillment.
John: We’re listening today on Focus on the Family to Ken Davis. And, uh, there’s a DVD of this entire presentation from Ken, we’re making that available today for a gift of any amount to the ministry of Focus on the Family, and, uh, you can donate and request that DVD when you call 800-A-FAMILY, 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or online at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and return now to more from Ken Davis on Focus on the Family.
Ken: When I was a, a little boy, we went to camp and they told us there was gonna be a missionary speaker, and I went, “Oh, missionary spea- … Oh.” I can just remember my heart going, “Oh, this is gonna be boring.” And a y-, a man, a young man by the name of Virgil Adams came. He was a missionary in New Guinea to a very, very savage group of, uh, people in New Guinea. In fact, I sat there absolutely spellbound as he told about when the warriors took his son one time without him knowing it so that he could go along during one of their little, uh, wars with another village. And they took the son to teach him. They were, it was an, supposed to be an honor, but they prayed and, and these warriors brought his son back. And I, I just couldn’t believe it. This was one of the happiest, most together families I’ve ever seen. And that doesn’t mean there can’t be problems in missionary families. There’s problems everywhere. But this was a family that was fulfilled. They were living an adventure most of us can only dream about. And I laughed so hard. Virgil Adams was not a comedian, but he was living life the way God meant it to be lived. He told about how there was a tendency for him to believe that, that he was smarter and somehow superior to the people he was trying to minister to, and he had to fight that. And then one guy, day, God showed him why he shouldn’t believe that at all. He told us how these particular natives, when they blew their nose, they didn’t blow their nose like we blow our nose. They would hold their hands on their nose like this and blow the entire contents of their nose into their hand. And then on the bare skin of their leg, they would rub that until it turned hard and then they would flick it off their leg. (laughing) And he thought, “Oh, that is the nastiest thing I’ve ever seen.
Ken: That is disgusting. How much more socially aware and developed I am.” And he said one day he was out with some of the proudest warriors there were and they were walking along a trail and he had the urge to blow his nose. So he took out his handkerchief and he blew his nose, and when he finished blowing his nose, he looked and the, the men who were walking with him, the warriors, had stopped, and they were in a small group whispering. And so he went back to them and he said, “Well, why have you stopped? Why are you not walking with me?” And they pointed to his hanky and said, “Are you gonna keep that?”
Ken: Some of the people who have impacted my life the most are people who have listened for God’s voice, and they have responded when God has called them. Listen to me, friends, when this awesome, marvelous God whispers in your ear, it is not to lead you to destruction. It’s to lead you to salvation. Teenager, it isn’t to lead you away from coolness and, and what your heart so desires. It’s to lead you to what your heart so desires. Our culture has it all backwards. I was so afraid as a teenager to really give my life to God, for fear He’d turn me into some weird Hostess Twinkie.
Ken: I was afraid of all the thrill He would take out of my life. Do you know what almost 60 years of living has taught me? Only with God does thrill come to life. Only with God does fulfillment come to life. Everything else leaves you stranded on the beach feeling cheap. God doesn’t call us away from joy and fulfillment. He calls us to joy and fulfillment. Listen for God. Here’s what He may call you to. He may call you to go to another country. He may call you to take the first step to resolve a conflict in your home. God may call you to finally turn over to Him some habit or routine that is systematically destroying your life. He may call you to give beyond your wildest imagination. You gotta listen when He calls. I have wonderful children. I think it’s partly because I’m their father.
Ken: But I have just these marvelous children. (laughs) The truth of the matter is, my children often teach me more about following the Lord and what it means to trust Him than I ever taught them. We were driving from Knoxville back to Nashville, Tennessee, where we live. And we, we pulled into a gas station i-in order to fill up with gas, which is the reasonable thing you, you do. (laughing) And it was my daughter’s car. And so she took the initiative to get out and put her credit card in the machine and begin filling up the gas tank. Parked one spot over from us was another, a young woman and she was dealing with some problems with her car. In fact, it was a van and it had three or four children in it, and she had the hood up, and we found out, I found out by talking to her that her van had been leaking transmission fluid all across the United States. She had started in the north part of the country in Michigan, she was headed for Florida, and she had to stop about every 100 miles to put new transmission fluid in this thing. The car manufacturers make the place that you put the transmission fluid in inaccessible. You cannot get to it. And so I stopped to help her. I went inside and I bought a little funnel and I helped her get this transmission fluid in her car. And then we put the little, the little, uh, rod that you put in there to tell if it’s full or not, and I went back to the car. When I got back to our car, my daughter said, um, “God spoke to me when I watched you helping that woman, and God said, ‘I-I want you to do something. I want you to give her $100.’” Now, we didn’t hear a voice, you know, the, we didn’t turn on the radio and they said, “We interrupt this program for an announcement (laughing), uh, by God. Go ahead, God.” And then God said, “Give her $100.” She said, “Just my spirit was overwhelmingly convinced that I should give this lady $100.” You know why she didn’t do it? She didn’t want to look stupid. It wasn’t that she didn’t wanna part with the $100, but how stupid is that, “Here, 100 …” What if the lady said, “I-I-I-I’m not a charity case.” Th-those are the kind of things that went through her mind, so she didn’t do anything. We got in the car, we pulled away, and my daughter, bless her heart, had forgotten to take the nozzle out of the (laughing), out of the gas tank. So when we pulled away, that hose was like a rubber band, stretched to its limit, it, a-and then it let go and it just flung everywhere. No gas came out, but it made a horrible racket. And she stopped the car, my beautiful daughter, and said, “You know, I think God wants me to do something.”
Ken: I’m convinced that she was right. I don’t think she left it in there by accident. I think it was God saying, “Hey, I spoke to you. Now here’s the second chance.”
Ken: But she said, “I, I think God wants me to do something.” And so she handed me the $100, this is the first that I knew about it, and she said, “Give this to the lady, please.” And I was, this was exciting, because I was gonna get to do a wonderful deed, and of course, the lady would think I did it.
Ken: And so, this is a true story, I took the $100 and I went over to the lady and I said, “We want you to have this. You’re traveling with these children, we know it’s very, very tough. Uh, please, we just want you to have this.” And the lady took the $100 bill and she looked at it like this, and I just turned and walked back to the car and she said, “Wait.” I turned around and that lady said to me, “Are you, are you an angel?” Uh, she didn’t know me, that’s why she-
Ken: …said that. “Are you an angel?” We would have missed out on that entire blessing-
Ken: … unless my daughter had been willing to listen to God’s call. He didn’t call her to go to Nineveh. He didn’t call her to go on a mission trip at that point. All He did was say, “Give this lady $100,” and she got a second chance. Maybe God is calling you to be involved in the church. Maybe you don’t belong to the church. Let me tell you a little story. I have a friend sitting down here, Ken Nichols. And I told a story, uh, Ken a story a couple of years ago about how my heart was just overcome with depression. There had been an attack from a person and I, I just didn’t know how to deal with it. And as a part of the outcome of all of that, I really believe it was God whispering in my ear, “Ken, get involved in the church.” God did not create us to be nomadic. He did not create us to wander the earth without a sense of community. I went home and I told my wife, “You know what? If I died, honey, I think you would adjust quite quickly. You’d be okay.” I said, “But the part that I can’t imagine is you finding five people willing to carry the casket.” (laughing) ‘Cause I figured she could pick up the one side, so it would be six people-
Ken: …including her. You know, and in my brain, I had this mental picture of my wife coming out of the church with the casket going, “Cut-tonk, cut-tonk, cut-tonk,” (laughing) down the steps. I was living without community. When I hurt, there was no one to go to. I needed to hear the Word of God on a regular basis, and I, I heard God. I, I heard Him call and I made a commitment that I was going to be in my church two Sundays a month. That commitment cost me financially, but what I reaped in return in reward of friendship, and relationships, and renewed spiritual vigor, and a community of people who care where I’m going and what I’m doing. Listen for God. He may ask you to take a step, the first step in resolving conflict in your family, or a conflict in the church, or a conflict in your workplace. God may be calling you to turn from sin. Most certainly, He’s calling you to a relationship with Himself.
John: Wise words there from Ken Davis on today’s episode of Focus on the Family, and we’ll hear more from him next time.
Jim: John, this is such a good message, and I really can relate to what Ken is saying about the importance of being plugged in to a local group of believers. If you don’t have family in town, the next best thing is a church family. But if you travel a lot for work, like you and I do, that can be a real challenge too. But I agree with Ken. Uh, men really have to make it a point to build those relationships. Women seem to do that so naturally. And after all, there are groups for Mothers of Preschoolers, we have Moms in Prayer for local schools, we have women’s Bible study classes in churches. And that’s all good, but you really don’t see all of those weekly friendship opportunities for men. And maybe just a, a small men’s group at your churches about that. So going to church on Sunday, or Saturday night, or mid-week is really the best way for a guy to, uh, meet other Christian men. And if your church sponsors a quarterly men’s breakfast or retreat, try to get to, to one of those.
John: Yeah, those usually have some good food as well.
John: So, um, a lot of churches are trying to encourage.
Jim: That’s what all the guys are thinking about.
John: (laughs) a lot of churches are, um, really investing in relationships and providing opportunities like that to help you slow down and have a conversation with other people in your community.
Jim: Yeah, we’ve seen churches that have cafes or full-scale coffee shops with names like Solid Grounds or He Brews (laughing). That’s good. That’s a great opportunity for men to socialize a bit in a neutral place. Now, you know, Ken mentioned that he battled depression. Let me just remind you that we have caring Christian counselors here who can give you a free one-time consultation and then help you find a like-minded counselor in your own area. Uh, that would be someone who participates in out counseling network. Now our counselors routinely deal with issues like depression, infidelity, addictions, uh, plus other marital and parenting problems. We would be honored to help you.
John: And Jim, I’ve mentioned it before, our family has benefited from the counseling team here at Focus on the Family a number of times over the years. Um, we always get really great biblical caring advice. And so, if that’s what you need, call us please. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459, and just request a counseling callback.
Jim: And I’ve said this before, but it bares repeating, our counseling team responds to about 2,000 requests a month. That’s a lot of hurting people who are turning to Focus on the Family for help. So please, if you can donate to support this work, uh, I’d like to ask you to do so today. And when you make a donation of any amount, uh, I’d like to send you Ken Davis’s DVD of this message called Second Chances: Lessons from Jonah, as our way of saying thank you.
John: And you can get that DVD when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459, or donate online and request that DVD at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. If you enjoyed today’s presentation, please, tell a friend to tune in next time as Ken Davis likens God’s power to a vital fuel source.
Ken: Friends, when we get in trouble, the first thing we oughta do is turn the gas tank to where the power is, where the source of hope is.