Yesterday I shared some thoughts about how “not being fed spiritually” isn’t why we participate in a church. My primary argument (in case you hate clicking links) is that we weren’t primarily designed be fed by another person, but by the Lord Himself. But I realize that because of the state of the church today, that could leave many of you asking, “How do I do that?”
Because of that, I want to look at four different ways the Bible encourages us to fuel our spiritual man. God actually has ways for you to feed your heart and soul yourself as you encounter Him. My encouragement to you is to look at the four different ways listed below and pick one (or more) that you aren’t doing, but to also do it daily for ninety days before you give up on it. There are many, many days where the disciplines I practice don’t feel like they are accomplishing anything. But the overall effect of doing them consistently over the years has had a tremendous impact on my life.
So, to feed your spiritual man, you should try the following:
- Pray. I know what you’re thinking. You pray. But I’m not talking about the short “Help me, God,” sort of prayers we pray throughout hectic days. I’m talking about a kind of prayer where your mind is focused, your heart is attentive, and you and the Father are dialoguing back and forth. Part of the problem we experience with prayer is much of the church has taught us not to expect God to talk back to us. But prayer is a communion of our spirit with God’s Holy Spirit where real relationship happens. If you have problems praying I have a few suggestions: 1) Get alone. 2) Leave behind all of your electronic devices. 3) Bring a pen and some paper. Write your part of the conversation out on paper and then wait. And as God brings truth to your spirit or brings up a Bible verse, or shows you a picture write those things down. Over time as you practice this, you’ll begin to get good at hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit as you wait for Him.
- Read the Bible. Again, this can seem so elementary, but we so don’t do the simple things and it hurts us. Can we put away our books, our blogs (even this one?), our Christian programs, and truly begin to understand what God is saying? Jesus (and Moses) said “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” (Matthew 4:4). We have to get to our place in our walk where we understand we are dependent on God’s word to feed our spirit on a daily basis. This encounter with the word has to go beyond just dull, repetitive reading, though, to ushering us into an encounter with Jesus (John 5:39). In our network, I encourage believers to get in groups of two or three and read 20 to 30 chapters of the Bible in context every week. Consuming a large amount of Scripture in context has helped us grow in understanding of God’s will for our lives. Not only that, but we’ve met God in the process.
- Do the will of the Father. “I have a kind of food you know nothing about…My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work,” (John 4:32-34). Jesus, as a human being, had learned to become dependent, not on natural food, but a spiritual food that came from the Father. This wasn’t just because Jesus was God. Jesus had to lay aside His divine nature and become like us in all things (Philippians 2:6-8). So His entire life was an example of how redeemed humanity can live in relationship to the Father. Friends, this means you can be fed spiritually when you participate in God’s will! That can be as simple as encouraging someone or responding to a truth from the Bible or as unique as Jesus prophesying to the Samaritan woman about her various scandals and leading her to repentance. Regardless, every time we do God’s will, it strengthens who we are on the inside. Many of my friends who understand spiritual disciplines miss this reality because it can’t be done alone in a closet. But some of my most spiritually dynamic mentors and friends are people who were people who received from God and obeyed when He asked them to act. Don’t miss this powerful step!
- Pray in the Spirit. Paul had a very particular type of prayer that he stressed was important for building up our inner man. This was praying in tongues or praying in the Spirit and it was designed as form of communion between our spirit and God’s Spirit. When Paul talks about this type of prayer, he says that a believer “…will be speaking by the power of the Spirit…[and] is strengthened personally,” (1 Corinthians 14:2-4). And because of this, Paul says about himself “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you,” (1 Corinthians 14:18). I think many times, we under-emphasize the role this gift has in strengthening our spiritual lives. Much could be written about this gift, but let’s start here: If you have this ability, put it into practice daily. If you don’t have this gift, ask the Lord for it. He loves to give more of the Spirit to those who ask.
The Old Testament has a story that we can learn from in regard to these disciplines. During their time in the wilderness, God would rain down manna from heaven for the Israelites to eat and told them to gather what they needed for that day. If they tried to gather more than what they needed for that day, when they went to eat it the next day, what was left over had rotted and was covered in maggots. They couldn’t live off the previous day’s manna.
So too, we can’t live off of one good day with the Lord or three good days in a week, let alone one day a week when we gather as a church. Again, much of the church is weaker than it needs to be because they aren’t daily engaging the Lord in these ways.
My encouragement to you if you read yesterday’s post and didn’t know where to start is to pick one of these disciplines that you aren’t strong in and practice it for the next seven days. Take stock on what you’ve noticed as far as a change in your walk. I want you to spend 90 days trying a discipline, but even at one solid week, my guess is you will start to see a dynamic change in your walk with the Lord.
Remember, this is important. You were created for relationship with God. Don’t miss these avenues to encountering Him and growing by feeding yourself on God and His word.
Have you noticed it? Selfies. Selfies everywhere. Selfies on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve even taken a few. Selfie sticks, which were once thought ridiculous, are now common and acceptable. And it’s affecting everything we do, including how we relate to God.
Whether you instagrammed the last time you went out for coffee to read your Bible, pinned the latest margin that you colored in in your Bible, or hashtagged yourself doing something noble for the world to see, we have a ton of new ways to let people know we’re being spiritual. But our hearts haven’t caught up with our technology.
Jesus said, “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in Heaven,” (Matthew 6:2). He goes on to talk about three different areas where this applies: giving, praying, and fasting. I’m sure there are tons of other sacrifices and disciplines He could have mentioned. But the principle is this: If you try and get recognition for what you do, you can have it, but that will be your only reward.
Instead, Jesus offers us rewards in Heaven for the things we do that no one else know about. I’ve gone too far with this. I’ve shut people out of my life in weird ways so they don’t know the good I’ve done. But it’s the heart that Jesus is going after: Are you doing what you’re doing to be admired by others?
If you’ve hung around this long, there’s a secret I want to share: There is an intimacy with God that comes from sacrifice that no one sees and its worth more than all the likes and retweets this world has to offer. Begin a secret life with God. Not a fake life, but do things that only He can see. Start asking Him for things that benefit the world, but only you and He know about. Give to someone who could never repay without being linked to the giving. And all the while, talk to Jesus about it and get His heart.
And if you get His heart, you will never, ever want to trade it for another like again.
One of the realities I struggle with many days in my walk with God is “How far is too far?” I know that seems like a weird question to ask when I’m talking about God. But the question is never, “Have I gone after Jesus too hard in a way that makes me unrelatable to the rest of the world?” More often the question is, “I sure feel like I’ve gone a long ways, but maybe there’s more of God and I’ve settled for too little. Could I have not gone far enough?”
Maybe you can relate.
But the mystery of God is this: God is unknowable and yet He invites us to know Him.
God is unknowable: He’s God because He is bigger and more complex than you. He measures out the universe in span of His hand. We’re talking about the God who laid the foundations of the world and taught the stars how to shine. He created the star and created the atom and everything in between and holds it all together through the word of His power. He knows you and your ways far better than you know Him. If you could fully understand God, if you could get your tiny human mind around Him and His ways, if you could know Him fully, He would cease to be God. You want a God that’s bigger than you.
God wants to be known: We first see Him creating a world where He can relate to people. Then people break that special bond they have with Him and hide and He goes to find them. He spends thousands of years beckoning and whispering to people that He will come and break the curse that we’ve put on ourselves only to finally end up shouting in fragile form of His Son, Jesus Christ. And with the final act of laying down His life Jesus atones for our sins against Him and the veil that separated God from man is torn in two, signaling an end to us being shut out from His presence.
So, yes, God is unknowable. But He wants to be known.
Which is why Paul prays in Ephesians 3 this prayer:
I pray that…you have the power to understand…how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is….though it is too great to understand fully.
Friends, God knows He’s too big for us. He knows we will never fully comprehend Him and His love for us. He knows that He is an ocean of love and our small, frail hearts are the size of a thimble. We can never fully hold the vastness of who He is.
But this, I think is a secret to God’s heart, that if you understand, will help you grow in Him:
He invites us to try anyways.
Friends, I don’t think the issue is to get a certain amount of God. That would be impossible. I think the answer is to keep opening your heart to receive more of Him, knowing that you will never be able to comprehend it all. Be okay with the God who is bigger than you. Who has more love than you. And keep opening your heart knowing it will never be able to hold everything God has to give.
Today, I pray that you would have the power to understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep the love of Christ is, though it’s too big for you anyways.