A few minutes ago I stepped back into my apartment, took off my coat, and came upstairs to begin this column/broadcast. I take a walk nearly every morning, a long walk, in which I meditate on Scripture and pray. Then I write these explorations of spiritual themes. This has become a firm habit of mine. And throughout I the day I talk off and on with God (out loud if no one else is around).
Why bother with all this? Does it fill me with an ethereal spiritual buzz? Not often. I wish it did, but I don’t usually feel that different after devotional exercises. Nevertheless, I believe these regular times with God and His Word, over the long haul, have made an enormous impact on my spiritual development and consistency. I write this today to you who are tempted to skimp on your time alone with God because it’s not always that exciting and you wonder what it’s accomplishing.
As believers, you and I live in a world that is at war with God. Some of that war is also inside of us; our old sin nature, with its warped attitudes and habits, still fights for control. I find that, left unopposed, the lies and the lusts of sin begin to creep back in, while our sensitivity to God and desire for Him begin to fade. If we’re to win these wars, and grow more like Jesus, we need a daily head and heart tune-up. This tune-up usually involves truths we already know well, but which can easily fade under the pressure and distraction of living on a fallen planet.
What biblical truths need a daily tune-up?
1. God reminds me that He is there
This may sound funny, but what I mean is that I bring God, the real God of Scripture, nearer to the front of my conscious awareness. In the midst of life’s busyness, it’s easy for God to drift into some back room of my subconscious where His impact is minimized.
2. God reminds me that He is actively involved in my life
Sometimes it feels like I’m on my own, hacking a daily trail through life’s jungle. As God and I spend time together I remember that He’s walking by my side and that we’re working together to accomplish his purposes. That’s comforting.
3. God reminds me that His help is essential for me to succeed in life
Busyness, by itself, means little. Even impressive achievements – straight A’s or a job promotion, in themselves, are insignificant. Eternally significant achievements – what the Bible calls “fruit”, can only be accomplished with the help of God’s Spirit. Jesus said: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:5). Time with Him causes me to remember my own insufficiencies, and to rest and rely on His promises and His power.
4. God reminds me that this world is not my true home
Peter tells us that we are “aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Peter 2:11). My time here on earth, important as it is, is only temporary; only transitional; a sort of spiritual half-way house. This helps me, on the one hand, to enjoy life’s pleasures and achievements, but to hold on to them loosely; for they’ll soon be gone. On the other hand, it helps me not to fret over-much about life’s pains and injustices since they too are only temporary. Something far better awaits me and it’s just around the corner.
5. God reminds me that His standards are very different from the world’s
On the surface, especially here in the United States, Christians and non-Christians often share a lot of similar values – honesty, hard-work, concern for the needy, kindness, and so on. This isn’t surprising, considering that we’re all made in God’s image, and that God’s principles are often just common sense. We do reap what we sow. And yet, beneath the surface, the Bible makes it clear that there are profound differences between believers and unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14-16a). It’s one thing to rely on our own goodness to save us and another to rely on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, one thing to run our own lives and another to submit to God’s leadership, one thing to do whatever seems right to us and another to obey biblical standards, one thing to seek God’s glory first and another thing to seek our own. Even as a believer I need to be reminded of these and many other spiritual differences since I easily drift back into worldly thinking and acting.
6. God reminds me that living for Him is totally worth it
Living for Jesus isn’t always easy. It involves resisting sin, being willing to look weird to others, praying prayer which don’t always seem to get answered, and doing ministry for others which frequently seems to have little direct impact. It also involves faith – lots of it. Others around me, without these commitments to Christ, seem to be doing just fine. My time with God reminds me that “at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”(Gal. 6:9). It may not be until Heaven that I realize just how wonderfully worth it living for Christ was.
7. God reminds me that people without Christ live in great peril
Jesus said, in Luke 9:25: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” The people around us may seem just fine, attractive, financially successful, friendly and even loving, but if they have not received salvation through Jesus, they’re dancing on the edge of a bottomless cliff, just a breath away from eternal suffering in Hell. It’s easy to forget this. Their salvation is more important than almost everything that consumes our resources. Time with God reminds us to pray for them; to actively seek to live out the gospel and share it whenever and however we can.
8. God reminds me that He is the great love of my life
While God has given me many others to love and to enjoy, He is meant to be the one whom I love most. Jesus said, in Matthew 10:37: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;” God wants my supreme loyalty to be to Him. He is jealous of anything less. Ironically, though, my capacity to love others is increased when I love God best.
This is not a complete list of the truths that need to be constantly re-iterated and reinforced in my heart, but I’ll stop here. Living in this world of sinful illusion and unreality it’s crucial that my inner being is continually exposed to God’s light and truth; that a true eternal perspective be maintained and restored. When this is done on a daily basis my spiritual vision remains more clear-eyed and wise, my spiritual strength and resilience is renewed, and, most importantly, I become more and more like my wonderful Savior. So I encourage you, dear brother and sister, to build a daily spiritual tune-up into your life. As the years and decades flow by it will make all the difference.