Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
- James 4:7-10
“Some of us have tried to have a daily quiet time and have not been successful. Others of us have a hard time concentrating. All of us are busy. So rather than spend time with God, listening for his voice, we’ll let others spend time with him and then benefit from their experience. Let them tell us what God is saying. After all, isn’t that why we pay preachers? …
“If that is your approach, if your spiritual experiences are secondhand and not firsthand, I’d like to challenge you with this thought: Do you do that with other parts of your life? …
“You don’t do that with vacations. … You don’t do that with romance. … You don’t let someone eat on your behalf, do you? [There are] certain things no one can do for you.
“And one of those is spending time with God.”
- Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus
Before I get serious, I must poke fun at Lucado’s first two examples. I cannot tell you how many times that I have watched travelogues on television. Rick Steves is a great vacationer. I will never have the money (probably not) to return to Germany where we lived for three years while I was in the Army. I would love seeing those places again, or discovering new places, but I am content in vacationing on my couch and letting others do that for me, maybe with a tear in my eye. Not the same, but many people, especially those who are infirmed or those who have little financial resources, do it all the time.
As for romance? Peeping Toms have been in our society for a long time. They are just more sophisticated these days in their techniques. I go no further…
As for the eating, I should probably try having someone else eat for me, but alas, I like food too much.
That brings me back to Max Lucado’s serious topic, spending time with God. When I led the Evangelism Team, I accepted whoever would volunteer to be team members. One of my first volunteers, who brought a couple of his friends with him, said, when asked what he believed, “I’d tell the person asking that I don’t know, but I’ll introduce you to the pastor, and he’ll explain it.”
When he left the team, realizing that I was going in a different direction than his preferred method of “evangelism,” one of his friends left also. The other friend became one of my dearest friends. He and I thought alike when it came to sharing the Gospel. Our thought? You must have a clear understanding both in heart and in mind as to what you believe about God. You must also have a burning desire to share that knowledge, from both the head and the heart.
I have written it before, but it bears repeating. God wants a personal relationship with each of us. You cannot get that with an hour per week, half-asleep, in a pew. You don’t do much better by attending Sunday school. You simply learn ‘stuff.’ It needs to be daily, with Sunday being a special day set aside for worship, praise, and getting close to God in a special way. God rested on the seventh day. God commands us to not ‘work,’ but we can interpret that as commerce. Studying God’s Word is a great way to spend Sunday, regardless of the effort required.
But as for a daily dose of being in a relationship, let me give an example.
My wife is the oldest daughter, second oldest, in a family of nine, originally, four boys and five girls. As the family spread out around the US and especially after cellphones went to unlimited minutes, my wife talks to one sister every day, almost. She is the next sister in line, the last four children being girls. This sister texts me when my wife is in the hospital. It is almost as important as breathing to find out how her sister, my wife, is doing. She then texts everyone else with each update. Then, the next phone call, where they can talk, is even a longer call than usual. Another sister talks to my wife once each week. It is a rather lengthy conversation. My wife also talks, at least once each week, with her baby brother, actually the middle child of nine. Those calls have not been happening since his serious illness has unfolded. Part of the aftermath of a diabetic coma and heart attack is his difficulty in communicating. There is no schedule with any of the other siblings, with some, hardly any communication at all.
Being too busy is an excuse. That’s where the humility in the Scripture above comes in. We are not THAT important or busy. I mentioned the fog that I was in from 1996 until mid-2002. I could not concentrate while reading a pleasure book, but I studied the Bible and taught Sunday school most of those years. If you desire God, He can break through that fog. And when it comes to being successful in getting closer to God, I read something in a devotion or a book lately (can’t remember who wrote it).
The author said this. You get as close to God as you desire to be.
In thinking of your relationship with God, are you like the one sister who must hear from her sister every day, or at least hear about her sister every day? Is that contact between siblings as important as breathing?
Are you content to spend a tremendous amount of time once per week, like the other sister?
But think of the other two sisters. If my wife were to not be around, they might mourn for a day. But their lives would continue as if there was no change at all. One sister calls a few times a year, the other sister might call on my wife’s birthday. Between siblings, that happens. I try to call my sister at least once each month. She is eleven years older. We were never bosom buddies growing up as she and my brother had been, less than two years apart in age. But we are all that is left from our family of five, growing up on the turkey farm. We need to talk, even when we have nothing to say.
But if our relationship with God is like my wife’s relationship with the ‘other two’ sisters, is there any relationship at all? When life is the same after they are gone, was there any meaningful relationship when they were around? God never leaves, but we often do not feel His presence. We let those excuses get in the way. We let our lifestyle get in the way. We let this fallen world and all its temptations get in the way.
Look how James uses the word ‘humble’ in the Scripture above. Replace it with ‘empty’ and it says what James is getting at. We must empty ourselves before God so that God can fill us with His Spirit, obtaining His desires on this earth and in the world to come.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.