If I look back at the seasons of my life since becoming a Christian, there is an absolute correlation between my closeness with God, and the quality of my relationships, finances, ministry, career path… pretty much everything else in life. I’m pretty sure my hair grew faster. This shouldn’t come as a shock, of course. We all know life improves when we’re in God’s will, because he not only knows what’s best for us, he desires it.
The problem is, even the strongest of Christians can lose sight of the simplest of truths, and fall out of the good habits that ultimately leads to experiencing less God, and a less abundant life. Think about the times when you’ve been happiest, and most peaceful in your life, and the times when you’ve been less than. It’s usually pretty clear how deeply our walk with the Lord affects our thoughts, decisions, and general satisfaction in life. Here are a few solid reminders we all need now and again
Spend Quality Time with God
It’s amazing to me the amount of times I’ve caught myself complaining about a problem, or worrying about a situation and realizing I never even brought my concerns before the Lord. It’s not that I didn’t intend to. It’s just that instead of waking up early to pray, I hit snooze three times and then sprinted to the dryer after remembering the kids’ uniforms were still a’soaking. It sounds awful to say, but it can be so difficult to find daily time for God, especially when living the hectic family schedule we call normal. But we have it all backwards. When we make God our priority, which means finding time for him no matter what…amazing things happen.
Our time somehow increases. Things fall into place, and we receive answers to the problems awaiting us through the day, because we’re connected to the source of life itself. “Seek first the Kingdom,” means putting our relationship with God before all else-the Pilates class, the creative project, even the ministry- and making time for him, no matter what. Starting your day out with God, not only dispels the instant chaos assaulting our brains within a minute of consciousness-finding the school permission forms, impending deadlines- and places everything under God’s authority. Trusting him to see you through every circumstance, celebrating with you through the minor successes of the day – “found matching socks for all THREE kids…holla!!” and letting him know he’s Lord.
I’m a more patient mother, a more positive staff member, more effective ministry leader-heck I’m even nicer to my putrid cats-when I start out with the Lord. All God wants is our hearts. He knows we’ll miss so much guidance, joy, peace and protection, if we think blasting our Hillsong in the car while driving 80 miles per hour to work can replace our quiet time. Set aside time with Him, and prepare to be amazed.
Let Him Love Us
We can only be aligned with God, and really see him move in our lives when we’re in an active love relationship with him. Keyword: active. I think many of us experience that wild and crazy “first love” feeling in the early stages of our relationship with God, and then kind of let things “simmer” later on in life, when families, job obligations and worldly comforts snuff out that desperate need to get away and spend time with Him. We become “mature Christians,” and reassure ourselves that we have a solid understanding of the Word, we know God loves us, and we’re doing just fine. This would be like never spending quality time or talking to our spouse, and reassuring ourselves they love us because he/she told us so at the altar twenty years ago. We’re not built like that, and our relationship with God is no different.
To be our best selves, let alone of any use to our spouses, children or ministries, we have to let him love us…constantly through worship and prayer time with Him, and until that happens, God’s not going to let us settle for less. Make it a point to study and reflect on scripture that relays God’s love toward you. Personalize the verses, and read them aloud to yourself. Zephaniah 3:17 comes to mind, where it describes God “rejoicing over us with singing.” In this chaotic, increasingly-worldly and sometimes terrifying world we live, we need to center ourselves in God’s love in a personal way, in order to retain our peace, joy and ability to love others.
So many of us busy ourselves trying to serve him, evangelize or further a ministry and God’s just wanting the opportunity love us. Don’t let any person, responsibility or activity replace our pursuit of being loved, and loving Him.
Meditate on the Word
I read a quote recently that said it’d be better to study, and really take hold of just a few scriptures in one year, than read hundreds of arbitrary verses without meditating on them. That really hit me. I realize the word of the Lord never returns void, but I’ve since reconsidered how I approach my devotional time. Sadly, I used to be, and sometimes still am, depending on my level of commitment and caffeine consumption, guilty of being a 5 minute man. On the days I commute to work, I’d read a chapter on my YouVersion app while booting my computer, and called it a day. Good stuff, 1 John 5. Let’s get this day started.
And forget about committing scripture to memory. We excuse ourselves from memorizing and intense study of the Word because it’s “in our hearts,” and we “get the gist.” But scripture compels, and even warns us to take up the sword of the spirit, (Ephesians 6:17) which is the word of God, in order to lead victorious lives. No wonder we can’t stop gossiping at the office, let alone perform spiritual warfare through the day. Imagine the power and difference in our lives if we really knew scripture like Jesus did while being tempted by the devil for 40 days in the desert. I’d probably tap out after six hours with what I’ve got. Hmmmm, let me just Google this….
Worship has always been my favorite and best way to connect with God. It doesn’t matter when or where-the car, the gym, running, and even while I’m at work (thank you iphone ear buds) –not a day goes by I don’t have my worship music blaring, thanking him for who he is, and all that he’s done for me. So much scripture is dedicated to God expressing his desire to be worshipped. All of heaven is in a state of perpetual worship, and I think God instructs us to worship for our own good. When we really live out Psalm 100-“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth…worship the LORD with gladness”- our spirit aligns with his. Our stress and worries take their rightful place under his authority, and we’re instantly drawn closer to the Lord.
Maintain a Grateful Heart
God loves a thankful spirit, and I’ve found whenever I’m not feeling especially “spiritual” or just a bit stagnant, I literally just thank God for all he’s doing, and all he’s done. God loves a thankful heart, and when we remember and meditate on who he is, and all he’s done in our lives-the seasons he’s carried us through, the struggles he’s helped us with and all the blessings we most likely didn’t deserve-we naturally come closer to God.
The enemy would love for us to continue believing minimal time spent in the prayer and the Word is enough to keep us connected to God. We might at least live moral, successful lives by the world’s standards this way, but we miss out on the power, adventure and victory found only by being close to Him. This doesn’t mean God becomes a genie in a bottle, granting every wish and squelching every problem coming your way. There will always be troubles, trials and disappointments, but the difference is we’ll have peace, direction and guidance, and He’ll always work things to our greatest good.
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