I’m seventy years of age and, would you believe it, I’m still learning and relearning.
Some of what I’m learning is first time stuff and some of it is relearning stuff that I have previously known, but allowed to get pushed to the back of my mind (wherever that is) and to my behavior.
One thing I’ve relearned since coming to
South Africa is the importance of spending personal, daily time with the Lord in His Word and in prayer. I’ve relearned how that time with the Lord makes such a difference. I’ve relearned that preparing for messages is not enough. I’ve known that all along and preached it to others, but when we first came to
Africa everything seemed to be up in the air. Our previous routine was exchanged for no routine. We had no settled place; we were living with someone else. We had so many things to do. We faced so much uncertainty about living in this new and different place. We had many teaching and preaching opportunities and so many details that had to be taken care of.
As a result I think my private time with the Lord slipped. Imagine that; after being a Christian for 54 years you'd think I would have known better and I did. But I allowed other things to crowd out my regular, daily personal time with the Lord. Oh it wasn’t that I didn’t study His Word; it wasn’t that I didn’t pray. It wasn’t that I didn’t read the right kind of material. It wasn’t that I wasn’t regularly involved in worship services or in hearing or teaching God’s Word. It wasn’t that I began to give unbiblical counsel to others. I continued to do all these things, but too much of my study time was for teaching preparation, for giving out, not taking in. I say, it wasn’t that I didn’t pray or think about God’s Word. I did and actually I did that many times a day. Nevertheless, I was depending too much on my previous years of study and meditation; I was living too much on left overs – good left overs, but not fresh food.
The result of all this was that I was not developing and maintaining my personal relationship with the Lord as I should have. Yes, I did read, meditate and pray. I could quote and sometimes did quote Philippians 3:10; Psalm 42:1, 2 and 63:1, 2 about wanting to know God more deeply and hungering and thirsting after a fresh and deeper relationship with Him. But still my private time with the Lord was not as consistent as it had been and still should have been. And oh how I have come to realize the impact that had on me, my relationships and my ministry. Oh, our gracious God was still using me. People were still telling me how they were being helped through my teaching, counseling and writing ministries.
But His Holy Spirit would not let me alone. He did His John 16:7 – 10 work in my life. Through His Word and through the impact of that Word on my conscience He wonderfully convicted me of my sin. I've had to confess my sin to the Lord and guess what, he forgave me and now, by His grace, I'm back on track. Now I’m carving out time in my still busy schedule for personal reading and meditation and prayer around God's Word. I’m making that private time a priority in my life and, by His grace, I intend to continue to do so.
While all of this was going on for the last few months, others (except my dear wife) may not have recognized the difference. Most people wouldn’t have known what was going on behind the scenes because I was still living a very moral life; I was still quoting and talking about Scripture; I was still teaching preaching and counseling; I was still lovingly and devotedly committed to ministry as passionately and faithfully as I had previously been.
But, in spite of all that, I began to realize that something was missing in my life and ministry. And, as I thought, prayed and meditated I came to realize that my relationship with the Lord was not as vital, as personal and as deep as it had previously been. So through all of this, I relearned what I should not have had to relearn. I relearned that developing and sustaining this kind of relationship with God requires regular private and personal time with the Lord, not for giving out to others, but for sustaining and deepening and enjoying a deep and vital relationship with God. After all, ultimately Christianity does not consist in just knowing some facts, some theology, some principles, some truths about God; it involves having a personal relationship with the living God through His Son Jesus Christ.
By this time, you may be asking, why did you write this blog? Did you write this post just to tell us something about yourself? Good questions! Actually, as you might suspect, I didn’t write this blog just to tell you about me. I wrote this blog to motivate you to investigate and evaluate your relationship with the Lord by asking yourself some obvious questions such as: What’s happening in your life in terms of your personal, private time with the Lord? Is it consistent? Do you regularly study God’s Word and then respond to Him in prayer? Is your devotional time person focused or principle focused? As you study God’s Word, are you thinking of it as God communicating to you not only His truth, but Himself? As you listen to God’s Word being preached do you listen to it as a personal message to you from God? In other words, how personal is your personal relationship with God? Are there things you need to change to make your relationship with God more vital and deeper?
May God help each of us to develop and sustain a Philippians 3:10 and Psalm 42:1, 2 and Psalm 63:1 – 4 attitude toward God and may God help each of us to remember that the way in which our hunger and thirst for a deeper relationship with God is satisfied and sustained is through regular and focused time with the Lord in meditating on His word and responding to Him in prayer.