When we’re first saved, we usually experience a surge of zeal and passion for our God and what He’s done for us. After a while, however, this initial energy wears off and we find ourselves a bit lost as to what to do next. Some of us stop reading our Bible because it doesn’t make us feel as good as it did before. Some stop praying every day because they’re “busy.” Still others try to fill the gap with church activities, spiritual highs, and religion. But none of these actions will give us joy because they don’t strive after Jesus. Jesus is the point of salvation, and it’s time we realize that.
So how do we strive after Jesus instead of distractions? Well, to be perfectly honest, the answer to this rather difficult issue is simple. Read the Bible and pray daily. That’s what will change your life. Of course, most of us know we should be doing these things. But do we know why they’re so important, and what they truly are?
To read the Bible is not just to read words on a page, and it would be tragic for us to think of it as such. For the Christian, reading the Bible should be the desperate analyzing of the raw truth of God, which speaks back to us, healing our innermost being and giving us the most valuable knowledge one can fill one’s mind with. The Bible is the very words of the Most High God. It’s life-changing and alive. It cuts into our souls and convicts us of our wrongs. It’s a torch to illuminate the darkest night.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
The Bible is not just a book, and it should not hold a place in our lives alongside other books. We should read it first and foremost everyday, for it sustains our spiritual well-being more than almost anything else we can put time into, provided we understand what it is and treat it as such.
Then there’s prayer. When asked to describe prayer, most people say that it’s talking to God. That’s true, but there’s far more to it than that. Prayer has power. It’s not just a religious sacrament we perform in order to please God. It’s one of God’s most used means of changing the world.
Near the end of 1 Kings 18, Elijah prays for rain to fall upon the earth. But before he does, he tells Ahab that there is a sound of the rushing of rain. Now keep in mind that it has been three years and six months since it last rained. That was when Elijah said that there would be a drought until he gave the word. Well, now he’s giving the word. But he doesn’t command God to make it rain. Instead, he prays, just like you and me (James 5:17-18).
“And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.” So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times.” 1 Kings 18:41-43
Ok, let’s pause here just for a second. Seven times?! Now that’s perseverance. Elijah knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that his God would answer him. He knew that no matter how many times his prayer didn’t produce a visible result, God was still working. And He was.
“And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.'” And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.” 1 Kings 18:44-45
As soon as God showed Elijah’s servant just a minuscule cloud, Elijah hurried Ahab on his way, lest the rains stop him! Not only did Elijah have immense faith that God would send the rain, but he knew the cloud was the beginning of a storm. He knew God would answer abundantly. This is, in my opinion, one of the clearest examples in the Bible of how prayer changes things if we only have faith in our God. Now, don’t misunderstand my point here. I’m not saying you can ask God for whatever you want and have it granted. James 4:3 tells us otherwise. I’m saying that when you pray–when you truly pray and have faith–God works. See my post, “Prayer: Nakedness Before God” for more on prayer.
That’s it, right? Prayer and study of the Bible is all you need to become sanctified in Christ, right? Well, sort of, but not really. Here’s the thing: if your spiritual life is confined to 15 minutes of prayer and Bible study in the morning, you’ve got it wrong. Your spiritual life shouldn’t just be your devotions; your entire life is your spiritual life! Devotions are an essential part of following God, but they only help us be more like Jesus in the real world. Don’t pretend to love God for a few minutes every morning (and a bit longer on Sundays), and then go off and allow yourself to be completely overcome by sin for the rest of the day. If that’s how you’re living your life, you don’t yet know what true fellowship with Jesus is. We all sin. But those who are God’s children will know their sin and repent. Those who don’t even understand that what they do constantly is sin are only fooling themselves when they walk into church with a smile on their face.
So many worship songs nowadays speak of our longing to tell the world about Jesus. But how many of us actually go out and tell the world about Jesus? In practice, few of us even take the time to tell our neighbors or co-workers about the Gospel. It’s the same with our personal sanctification. We don’t really want to grow in Christ, because if we did, we’d do something about it. Instead of singing all the time about how much we want to be like Jesus, why don’t we go out and be like Jesus? We’re putting it off. “Tomorrow I’ll be spiritual” our flesh says time and time again. “Today is for me” it says. Today is not for you. Today is for God, and you are His. Stop pretending to love God and show that you truly do love Him by bowing before Him, repenting of your sin and blindness, and asking for a blazing passion to pursue His ways.
Let me tell you, this message is as much to me as it is to you. I put off God’s work far too much myself. But today I invite you to join me in taking to the narrow path once more. Get out of the bog and march, soldier! There is a war to be fought, and not only are you a bond-servant to your King, but He just so happens to be the most amazing, true, glorious King anyone is fighting for. He’s not up in His castle sitting pretty while your feet get more blisters by the hour. He’s out on the battlefield with you, healing you when you fall and strengthening you for the next skirmish. He leads the charge, and He is worthy to be fought for. He’s God. He made you, and He loves you. In fact, He loves you so much that instead of sentencing you to capital punishment for your continual rebellion against the kingdom, He died in your place, justly taking your penalty for high treason against the Most High God so that you could live with Him in harmony, serving Him all your days and beyond. He did this for all who come to Him. He’s saved the world. You could say He’s already won the war. Now it’s your job to fight it. Fight hard, soldier.