The Christian life is often very busy, isn’t it? Activity after activity fills the calendars of churches and the agendas of our lives. It can sometimes seem to gravitate to more and more doing, serving and doing some more.
Even our times of prayer–whether together or alone–can veer off from proper focus. For example, instead of first asking the Lord what He might want us to pray, we launch straight away into prayer based on what comes to our minds or is gnawing at our hearts.
Our activities are not necessarily bad in and of themselves. They can, however, help or hinder our Christian life.
The key to knowing whether they are helping or hindering is what or who are we connected to as we do these activities. Are we engaging in activities that truly build our relationship with Jesus and living for His glory?
Everything in our lives as Christians should flow from the intimate place of partnership and communion with Jesus, not the other way around. He is not only our Savior but our Lord and we want to seek His heart and thoughts rather than doing our own thing. We can’t come to know Him or His will if we do not make time to know and hear His voice, being in His Word and allowing His Spirit to lead all of our lives.
Relationship with God and loving Him must be first place in our lives, even when it comes to all else that relates to our sanctification and furthering His Kingdom.
We want to make our first aim to build friendship with Jesus above all. God alone is the source from which everything else in our life as a Christian flows. Without Him, we cannot truly bear good fruit or choose to live out godliness to the full. In John 15:4-5, Jesus says:
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (NASB)
Imagine this: You’re married. You love your spouse and do lots and lots of stuff for them; however, you never stop and ask them what they actually would like or you don’t actually do life together in partnership as one. You would both be living your lives, but not in a very connected way like a branch would be connected to its vine. How would that work for years of marriage? You probably get the picture now.
Friendship with God is far more than simply checking things off our “good Christian” list. He is our Creator who is Father, Savior and the Lover of our souls. We are called children of God, the Bride of Christ, not workers but lovers. In this, we are invited to learn from Him. He invites us to walk out our lives in partnership with Him as our Head or Leader, teaching us in His ways of life and love.
“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:38-42 NASB, emphasis added)
As those who have taken His name–Christian–when we made Him our personal Savior and Lord, we should desire to know Him more and do life His way. We need this time to learn how to live in step with His Spirit in our day-to-day lives. This is the “good part” that Jesus speaks of to Mary.
Without attempting to cause you confusion: Mary actually was doing an activity. However, this activity was one of relationship-building and discipleship. She was investing in her relationship with Jesus, to know Him and His ways as she took time away from other activities to listen to His Word.
Like Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, there are certain activities we can engage in to help build our relationship with Jesus. Just as a husband and wife would talk together to grow closer and know what is on each others’ hearts, we are called to know our King. We are called to be disciples of Christ, positioned just as Mary was to partake of His instructions in the context of relationship with Him. (Is this new to you? For more on what it means to be a disciple of Christ, read this excellent article by Phylicia Masonheimer.)
Several of these relationship-building activities include spiritual disciplines such as:
Solitude: We draw near to Him by drawing away from other people and activities for a time to be alone with Him and engage in one of the other spiritual disciplines outlined below.
Silence, Listening and Prayer: We quiet our hearts in a time of silence to seek what He would say. We put our own requests aside to first start by asking Him what is on His heart for us or others, whether for us to rest in His love, to pray for ourselves or others as He leads, or repent for something His Spirit convicts us of.
Worship: We speak or sing to Him our “thank You’s” for giving His life for us, for caring for us, providing for us, healing us, etc. We sing praises and sing His Word to Him, as prayers or over ourselves to help our minds be renewed to think like He thinks.
Bible Study: We read our Bibles and ask the Holy Spirit to grow our relationship with God as we read His words to us. We ask Him questions about His Word and journal the impressions we receive from Him. We ask Him to use the Scriptures to renew our minds and show us the heart and character of Jesus so we can be transformed into His image.
Fasting: We fast a meal and instead use the extra time to spend with Him. Or we take a break from entertainment, social media or our phones and dedicate that time to Him.
Obedience and Service: We respond to the things He has spoken to us through His Word and by His Spirit–not because we have to but because of His love for us and ours for Him, obeying as He leads and serving others in partnership with Him.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How much of a priority do I give knowing Jesus in my daily life?
- When was the last time I pulled away from all the “stuff” and simply loved on Him with no other agenda?
- When was the last time I set aside my own requests, quieted my thoughts (even moving my phone to another room on silent) to see what He wanted to speak?
- When was the last time I read my Bible and studied Jesus’ words with the help of His Holy Spirit?
Make it your aim to grow your relationship with Jesus as your first goal in this life, growing in intimacy with Him and learning to walk in His ways. From that place alone, let all other activity flow.