Many years ago, I was in the midst of the season of 3 kids under 4, when time alone was at a premium. I sacrificed sleep to get it. I woke up earlier and earlier each morning in an effort to get my alone time with God. It wasn’t working. The earlier I woke up, the earlier my son woke up. One morning, I really got frustrated with him. I lost my patience and sent him back to his room unkindly.
Feeling like I was FINALLY on the right track, I walked back to my Bible, and guess what the first thing was that my eyes fell upon… 1 CORINTHIANS 13! AH! I was so convicted!
If I have the perfect alone time with God, but don’t live it out/don’t walk in love with my kids, I’ve accomplished NOTHING! That was a turning point in my life. I learned to hold my desires for the “perfect” devotional life or the “perfect” teaching moments with an open hand, because I realized that God wants to speak to me and grow in relationship with me and my kids through those messy and mundane, everyday moments of real life.
Very recently, I was in a season where my time with the Lord didn’t look the way I like it to look. My favorite thing in the world is to sit in my chair with my Bible and dig into God’s Word and pour my heart out to Him in prayer for hours. I feel it’s what keeps me sane. But He called me to love and support my family for a season by working more hours at a job that was an answer to prayer. My job is also a ministry He has called me to.
So living out my faith didn’t look very spiritual at that point. It looked like work! I had to limit my “chair time” and I had to go to work each day, trusting Him to provide all that I need for life and godliness in that challenging season.
This is obedience to Him. It’s holding my own desires with an open hand. It’s living by faith. (That said, I’m so grateful for the times He DID give me to dig into His Word deeply and to fill up my heart with the truths that keep me going on those challenging/messy days!)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how so many dedicated lovers of Jesus through the centuries did not have a Bible. They did not have the privilege of limitless time to read it and study it. Yet they loved Him with all their hearts and were commended for their faithfulness to Him. David is an example. All throughout the Psalms he talks about how he loves God’s Word and how he meditates on it day and night. David was called a man after God’s own heart, and yet he never read the Bible we have today!
Today, in the Western World, there is this idea that, to really be a committed Christian, you need to read through the whole Bible in a year EVERY year, or you need to follow a Bible-reading plan, or you need to be involved in an inductive Bible study, etc. But I’ve been really slowing down in my Bible reading. I’ve been sticking to one passage – sometimes not even a whole chapter – for weeks and even months at a time. Mulling it over, chewing on it, praying through it, really allowing it to penetrate my heart and change me from the inside out. And it’s wonderful! Those passages are becoming part of who I am. I feel like David – “How I love Your law. I meditate on it day and night.”
Beyond The To-Do List
To love God’s Word is a good thing. To know it is a good thing. But to live it out is the ultimate goal. To allow it to change us and affect who we are and how we live – that is the point. I’ve gone months – maybe even years – at a time, diligently and faithfully having my devotions, reading my Bible reading plans, but not really seeing any fruit in my life from it. It was something to check off my list. It was a formula I thought I could follow to achieve “spiritual success”. But I was deceived, sucked in by our worldly mindset of productivity brought about by following instructions, checking all the boxes, doing what everyone else does, etc.
Relationships are not built and strengthened and deepened according to a formula or checklist. There is no curriculum to guarantee heart change. Relationships require time, effort, sacrifice. Deep relationships require a selfless approach to understanding the other person, going through some tough stuff together, walking alongside each other and serving each other in ways that are not always comfortable.
And so it is in my relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, reading my Bible helps because it is His Word to me, to us. It is how He speaks to me. The more I know His Word, the more I know His heart. But I also need to show Him my love for Him by living out His Word, living according to His will, living in a way that demonstrates my understanding of His heart, living in a way that displays my belief in the truth of what He has said.
Authentic Faith Lived Out
And much to the dismay of my fleshly nature, more often than not, that does not look like me being curled up in my chair with my Bible… it looks like getting out there, loving others by serving them, working with or for them, feeding them, listening to them, ministering to them.
Don’t get me wrong – God loves it when we choose to spend time with Him. But we exist for His glory. And we glorify Him by living life His way. And sometimes that’s uncomfortable and looks different from our own way. (Isaiah 55:8) But if we truly desire to go deeper in our walk with Him, if we truly desire to worship Him in how we live our lives, we will learn to live out our faith. (John 14:15) We must be doers of His Word, not hearers only. (James 1:22-25)