Sweet Fellowship with Jesus Requires 3 Areas of Grace
(from Charles Stanley, In Touch devotional, May 3 2017, p. 8; text: Luke 10:38-42)
Do you want to spend more time in the Lord? Great! You should! But just keep in mind a few caveats. You will need to sacrifice a few things. You might be misunderstood by others. But if the goal is to know the Lord more and invite Him into every area of our lives, then these sacrifices don't really matter. They're not worth the sweet fellowship of growing closer and closer to our Savior.
My primary love language is Quality Time (from Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages). That means that spending time with the Lord comes very easily for me. I love to get lost in Bible study and prayer and worship music, to the exclusion of all else. Unfortunately, the more time I spend in fellowship with the Lord, the more other things tend to pile up.
This depends on which stage in my life I'm in at the moment; for example, I couldn't keep up with housecleaning when I had my first baby. I didn't have enough hours in the day to do the detailed Bible studies I usually love to dive into. Now that my boys are old enough to entertain themselves, it's easier to find 45 minutes to an hour that I can study uninterrupted (well, some days easier than others). ;)
For those of you in particularly busy seasons (and very few aren't), and especially for those of you do not speak Quality Time language, there are a few things you need to understand before you try to install a regimented Bible study method. Give yourself some grace. There is no magic formula, no magic amount of time that every “good” Christian should spend. Just because a certain amount works for me doesn't mean it will work for you. I've also recently learned that we all learn in many different ways. Maybe how I learn by writing down and verse mapping and outlining is not the way you learn.
Charles Stanley in his In Touch devotional for May 3, 2017, gave some great advice. Here are three areas to give youselves (and others) grace in:
1. Undone Agenda
Charles Stanley: “There are some important lessons to be learned from this story. First, to have fellowship with Jesus, we may have to leave some things undone.”
For true fellowship in any relationship, you may need to let go of your to-do list or your agenda for the day. You may need to spend time talking with your son about puberty rather than finishing dusting the blinds. You may need to spend extra time praying about a burden on your heart and resort to sandwiches for supper rather than spending four hours on a perfect, gourmet meal. (Can you tell I don't usually like to cook?) :)
The point is priority. If you don't need to do something, spending time with the Lord is almost always a better option. However, there may be a time when someone else needs you, and God knows that your sick baby or your depressed sister or your frantic friend needs you more than you need your Bible study time (or Quiet Time, or Devotional Time, or Tea Time with God, or whatever you call it).
Likewise, if you're a task-oriented person (like me), when someone doesn't fulfill their duties or takes longer than you expect, it's really easy to get annoyed (guilty as charged). But if that person has taken time to help someone else, or spend more time with God, it's almost always a good thing. Relationships trump agendas, nine times out of ten. There of course are those times when something absolutely must be done today or there will be dire consequences (i.e., I must do the dishes today or there will be no silverware to eat with. Yes, this is a continual threat in my household).
2. Lazy Appearance
Charles Stanley: “The second lesson is that our choice to forgo an activity may be misunderstood.”
People may see us as lazy. We have to think about what’s going to matter most. Will Jesus ask us at the Judgment Seat of Christ if we got all our windows washed, all our bushes trimmed, or whether we checked more items off of our to-do list than most people? Or will we have been a good steward of the people He has placed in our lives—especially those in our care?
Yes, we need to be good stewards of our time and not waste it, either. But it’s not wasting it to build up those we care about. What will last into eternity—the number of likes on our Facebook post, the money we make, or the ladder of success we climb? No, but people’s souls will. If we can show God’s love to anyone, it’s not a waste of our time.
Now of coure, there will need to be a priority of people, too. If your child is hungry because you've been talking with needy people for hours, then you probably are going to need to set boundaries. Your children are your responsibility. Responsibilities must come before strangers, unless the circumstances are life and death.
But, in general, we don't spend enough time with the Lord to fuel giving of ourselves to our families, much less anyone else. Who is your top priority?
3. Supposed Unawareness
Charles Stanley: “Even in our daily work, we can learn how to maintain an awareness of Him.”
We might be misunderstood as not aware of our surroundings or current events, because we're spending too much time locked away in our prayer closets or isolating ourselves from frivolous pop culture. However, awareness of those things is not the goal. The goal is to learn how to remain aware of God in all things.
Proverbs 3:5-6: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (American KJV).
How do we “acknowledge Him” in all our ways? We invite Him into every area of our lives: we worship Him while cleaning, we serve our families to show His grace, we thank Him for every person He has given us—even if they’re driving us up the wall right now (this never happens to me, ha). :)
I can't remember now where I heard it, but a great idea is to pray for each member of the family as you're folding their laundry.
Listen to praise music while feeding the baby or doing the dishes.
Recite your favorite Bible verses while rocking the baby to sleep.
While studying for a class, you can ask God, “Is this true, Lord?”
Or whatever you need to do to invite Him into every task, every chore, every area of your life.
If you feel guilty about inviting Him into a specific area, then maybe it's time to reevaluate that area, put off the house-cleaning, and do some heart-cleaning.
Conclusion: If you want to spend more time in the Lord, great! You should! But just keep in mind a few caveats. You might have to leave your agenda undone. You might be misunderstood as lazy. You might be seen as unaware of the world we live in. But the goal is to know the Lord more and invite Him into every area of our life. And we can do that by carving out just a few extra minutes each day to draw close to Him, and then invite Him into more and more of our day.
Join the Conversation: Is there one of these areas that you struggle with more? Is there one that comes more easily for you?