The holidays are always a time of stepping out of the routines of life and enjoying family and friends. This Christmas, I’ve been thinking about my life and how I want to grow during this next year. More than mere resolutions or changes I want to make, I’ve been thinking about the essential elements of the Christian life lived well. What is it to live well with God and how do I set myself on a path where these things increase as the days and years pass by.
I’ve been wrestling with the following valuable aspects of the Christian walk. There are others, but I’d say these must be foundational for me.
1. The value of taking regular times to seek the Lord in prayer.
We live in an age of segmentation. We have our work, our friends, our churches, our roommates, our commitments and all other lifestyle habits which take up our time and energy. In this pattern, its easy to segment our lives down into the things we do at certain times in certain places. Prayer must not be segmented to specific times and places. Prayer must become a continual overflow from our hearts. It is not that we need to squeeze prayer into everything we do. But rather our hearts should run on prayer and therefore, whether aloud or silent, prayer must be a constant engagement of our life before God.
The value of taking daily times to seek the Lord in His Word.
The Word of God is an amazing grace to us, helping us live our lives correctly before God. In His Word, God has provided everything we need for a life of Godliness. There are many very disciplined Christians who have a very difficult time keeping their time in God’s Word regular or profitable. First, many people assume they have a good enough working knowledge because they have been taught the Bible most of their lives. This is a huge error and very costly when it results in a neglect of God’s Word. Second, many Christians don’t engage the Word of God in prayer. The Bible is not merely a book to study or become familiar with. It is a great resource, directing our lives and hearts as we engage God in prayer. As we read the Word, we think about it; we ask God what it means; we ask God to make it true in our lives; we ask God to help us to love and submit ourselves to It. And then we continue to pray for these things throughout our days, whenever God brings it to mind.
The value of knowing what I need from the Lord as I approach.
One of the great needs in churches today is an increased priority on teaching people how to think well. Many great Christian thinkers are pointing out the fact people today don’t need to ever think contemplatively or reflectively and so they’ve lost the ability to. The greatest danger in this is we become unable to assess our soul’s condition before God. We come to God making blanket requests, but are unable to specifically ask God to meet our spiritual, emotional, relational and psychological needs. If God is glorified to act in response to human prayer, then we must learn to ask Him for what we need. Perhaps this starts with the prayer, “Teach us to pray.” Knowing we have needs, drives us to God and breaks us from self-sufficiency.
The value of knowing what hinders my walk with God.
Many people are very articulate when it comes to the goals of the Christian life. We need deeper faith, the eyes of our hearts opened, knowledge of God, freedom from sin, etc. But most of us are perplexed when these things don’t come about. We desire them and even pray about them on a regular basis. When we don’t see them materialize in our lives, we either feel guilty because we aren’t doing enough or we feel angry because God is not doing enough. Either way, there is very real confusion about why we do the things we do and more importantly why we can’t stop. In this, we see how important it is to recognize the things that keep us from growing in God. If we can’t put our finger on things that hinder us, how will be able to deal with them?
The value of working and fighting to keep myself close to God by killing those things which hinder me.
Lastly, we must learn how to fight for growth in God. Not only must I be aware of my hindrances, I must know how to partner with God to fight them. This fighting is not completely of me or completely of God. Scripture tells us to put to death hindrances “by the Spirit”. Do I put them to death or does the Spirit put them to death? The answer must be both. I kill the sin in a way where the Spirit does the work and gets the credit. God gives me everything I need, but I must initiate the assault. Not only do we need to understand this, but we must learn how to put it into practice quickly and effectively. Christians must discipline themselves to be prepared to fight within the first couple seconds of any temptation, anywhere, anytime. As we mature, this becomes more of a habit and sins which once held us lose their power, because we become seasoned in the battle. We recognize temptations and pitfalls sooner and fight them more effectively. Experience is just as important as knowledge in this warfare. Christians not aware of this fight have not matured; but they are so far from God, Satan has stopped messing with them. Christians who don’t ever battle with temptations are no longer threats to the kingdom of darkness. Satan fights against threats and leaves all those who are not threats alone. Therefore, we must prepare for our current battles and the ones which might come along as we grow in Christ.
These are things I’ve been thinking about this holiday season. We must train ourselves to live intentionally for the prize which really matters. We must desire the pleasures of heaven more than the temporal pleasures of this world. Most of all, we must ask God to show us the big deficiencies in our lives. What are the big things we do or neglect to do everyday, which lead to the self-destruction of our souls?? They are there, but only those willing to fight will be able to see and overcome them.