Recently, I read an article from Kevin DeYoung, from which the following led to more thought, “As a pastor, everything seems more important and more urgent than being in the word and prayer. We must fight to be faithful.”
Indeed, in ministry there is often the tyranny of the urgent and many expect the pastor to be available to them as needed. It is, without a doubt, the pastor who is faithful to cultivate his time in the Word and prayer that best nurtures his congregation, best ministers in his community, and best expounds on the Bible in teaching and preaching.
The same could be said for the believer in every sphere of life. Regardless of the age or level of activity, we often justify our “me” time, our “down” time, but that’s the irony of it all. For the believer, our greatest rest and reward is in His Word. Our best “me” time is nestling up to our Abba Daddy and hearing His heart. We are better equipped for all of life when we listen to our Lord’s heart and let Him hear ours. The opportunity to revitalize, restore, and refresh is found in the presence of our Savior. And yet, we all succumb to satan’s whisper too often flowing from our own bent – “I just don’t have the time.”
I remember being so exhausted when I was the mom of young children, especially once I started homeschooling, that I didn’t think I could wake up early and function. And, if I stayed up late, it was to finish tasks undone during the day. I just needed rest!
Yes, that is legitimate! Jesus rested and called his disciples to do the same, so that is good. But some of my sweetest times were either sitting alone quietly and letting God’s Word be a balm for my weariness or having a little one, even from infancy, snuggle up next to me asleep (or not) and having it open while I held them, sometimes reading aloud so it would also penetrate their head and heart as well. I was always amazed at the refreshment I got from it; so much more so than if, when holding one of my sleepers, I turned on a mindless t.v. show for the noise factor.
And, then the days would get hectic again and I would forget how life giving it was as I got back to the demands that seemed to claw at me.
Today, there may be opportunities for a prolonged time to bask and there may be other times when I have to grab five minutes. But oh the strength gained regardless!
One of the ways I find to hide God’s Word in my heart throughout the day, both now and when I was busy with preschoolers all the way up to my high-schoolers was by way of music. Music that is drawn from God’s Word – all genres from kids’ praise to Christian rap to bold music with solid truth to quiet praise and worship – has always penetrated its way into my heart in a manner that God often brings it back to my mind to refresh and even challenge me at just the right moment. We can be sure of the promise found in Isaiah 55:11: “…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Music has a unique ability to pierce through the noise of life and adhere to our hearts and minds.
Paul reminds believers, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8) Not only does disciplining ourselves to be in God’s word and prayer refresh us, it makes us ready for the inevitable clash; for truly every believer has times when life is fraught with discouragement and pitfalls – times when, in our weariness, we are more vulnerable to temptations and less likely to be “ready to give reason for the hope that we have,” let alone be salt and light. It is the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God that equips us to battle through those things that threaten to unravel our worlds.
The more we are in God’s Word, the Bible, the more we realize that it is our very life and breath. It is His gift of strength for our journey, for our conflicts, and sometimes for the tediousness of the everyday when we fail to see His beauty in the grind, the revelation of His glory in the commonplace, and His call for us to be His ambassadors of grace to the soul thirsty world among whom we live and move. The more we are in His Word, the more effective and content we will be in our individual lives and roles.
In Luke 10:38-42, Martha was busy doing good things; but Jesus said that Mary had chosen what was better and it would not be taken away from her. She was drinking in the Savior while Martha was serving and missing out on the refreshment. Her work of service was good, but Jesus knew that time with Him was better and was what she needed.
Work, service, recreation, and fellowship with others are right and even necessary; we were created for it all! We should nurture our families and enjoy them. We should care for our bodies and enjoy God’s creation. We should foster the talents and gifts God has given us. His Word calls us to be in fellowship with other believers and to be a conduit of God’s mercy and truth to the unbeliever. We can laugh at a funny movie and cry at a sad one. We can wisely tweet and Facebook and Instagram and enjoy it (as long as it does not control us)! We should make an impact in the places we call “our world” and abroad. And, yes, we need time to just be still or even nap. All of this is good!
But, if you are anything like me then or now and if we are honest, though there may be seasons of life where those things are hard to come by, it is often not that we have too little of those opportunities and have to fight for them. Rather, we often have to choose to pull away from some task that must be done “now” or some relaxation into which it is easy to settle and, instead, fight to be soul satisfied; not as a legalistic checklist but to enjoy our Redeemer and to “do” life well!
So we must, as Kevin DeYoung says, “fight to be faithful” – fighting our complacency and self focus. Instead, relying on God’s strength, we choose the self discipline His Spirit provides that leads to fulfilling our true heart’s hunger, comforting our soul with the peace that will come, not from another triviality with which we often fill our time but from the Word that is living and active. It will come from pouring out our hearts to the One who is ready to take our burdens and give us rest. Lifting hands of praise for the goodness He provides. Laying before Him those things from our hands and head that draw us away from Him.
What will satisfy our true thirst? What will be the key to our discernment, to choosing wisely, to loving others well, to enjoying God and His many gifts to us, especially that of our redemption, and to serving, but that the Word of God dwell in us richly?
Like Mary, there are times we need to stop doing “Martha” things and sit at the Savior’s feet, soaking in His truth and basking in His presence. The journey will be sweeter and more delightful with the new perspective and we will be refreshed and ready!